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to photoshop or not

To Photoshop or not !

A few days back, I met a photographer who hated photoshop more than corruption. She believes that the digital darkroom is completely ruining the art of photography; and that while we all can do anything in photoshop, she would never process her photographs because the result won’t be as cool. Ma’am, as I told you on your face, you are wrong in saying all of that. I think the reason why you don’t photoshop is because you can’t.

How much of an image has to be created in-camera and what all has to be photoshopped is as important a creative call as is the choice of lens and lighting. Plus, why would anyone want to write a book on a typewriter even when he has a computer to his disposal? Would you suggest a vocalist to sit with all other musicians and record the entire song in one go when you have the luxury of recording every instrument on multiple tracks and takes?

Here’s a photograph that I created last year-

the twin sisters photograph by new delhi based photographer vivek kunwar 1

Okay, now would you like to see how the image looked like in camera? Here it is-

vivek kunwar raw photograph

What do you think now? How difficult would it have been to find a house with no windows, and with a fan with just the right separation. And yes, with no wires to the fans, for they are distracting. I thought it was easier to shoot in the best location that I could practically get and take care of the rest in post -processing. I think the altered composition looks better with a landscape orientation, the two subjects far apart make viewing easy, there are no distractions in the frame and the texture goes well with the idea of the image. There are things in this photograph that I was able to achieve only because of digital manipulation. For instance, the use of a wide-angle lens was my conscious call, but the trade-off of using a wide-angle lens was that the beam on the ceiling looked distorted and bent. That did not bother me for a second, because I knew that we would correct that in a matter of minutes.

Having said that, does that mean I would be able to rescue any composition using photoshop? Hell, no ! Crap-in, crap-out it would be. Would I have achieved this perspective in post production had I not composed the image the way it is? Could I have achieved the shadows in the right places in this photograph had I not placed the strobes in the right places with the right modifiers? No way !

The question of whether to photoshop or not can’t be answered in isolation from all other variables. I would say, if you are a photo-journalist shooting a political event for a newspaper, it makes total sense to publish the photographs just like they were captured, but if you are a commercial and fashion photographer shooting for advertisements and you didn’t zoom-in to 500% and correct everything to that one strand of hair going haywire, I would call you a criminal (because your client deserved better) !

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