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Cheating In Photoshop

This weekend I co-presented at the Society for Photographic Education (SPE) National Conference in Dallas. During our presentation we offered advice to educators for helping themselves and their students adapt to, and take advantage of, changes in technology and the economic landscape.

During the Q&A session, two educators talked about students “cheating in Photoshop” by lighting their studio photos during post-processing instead of in the studio. Certainly, this would be madding for an instructor teaching proper studio lighting techniques. Taken from a broader perspective, I have to disagree with the assertion of “cheating.”

As cameras and software improves, the quality differences between adding a shadow in the studio or adding it in Photoshop will disappear. Instead, the photographer will need to ask which is more efficient? Or, which best suits my artistic needs? There may well be a day when the ideal light for digital photography will be a flat, overcast day. Using 3-D rendering techniques light and shadows can be added to suit the needs of the assignment.

Even though this technology exists today, photographers still get up early and skip dinner for the “golden hour”. This is one part tradition, one part laziness. Anyone who works extensively in Photoshop usually finds it much quicker to fix problems before pressing the shutter.

As digital photography continues to evolve, a versatile photographer will understand how to achieve their desired result in-camera and in-Photoshop, selecting the best and most efficiently option accordingly. Playing by these rules, assertions of “cheating” will disappear.

Do you think correcting problems in Photoshop is cheating? Why?

Discussion

3 comments for “Cheating In Photoshop”

  1. I guess I have ambivalent feelings about this. If one is doing editorial photography I feel there should be a minimal amount of PS work that would be acceptable, adjustments in contrast color adjustment (to match the scene) etc.
    For advertising it would depend on what the client/photographer wants to accomplish and considers acceptable.

    If a student is given an assignment to light a scene in a certain manner as an exercise in lighting (studio, natural whatever)then the assignment should be completed as assigned and not photoshopped to achieve the results: that would be a PS assignment John

    Posted by John Rossi | March 30, 2009, 3:29 pm
  2. I completely agree, for editorial and photojournalistic work there shouldn’t be any work done that would mislead the viewer.

    As to the commercial aspect, and this particular assignment, technique is easy to learn, seeing is the hard part. This student saw what needed to be done to convey their story. To me, that is the important part.

    Posted by jay | March 30, 2009, 6:14 pm
  3. From the perspective of the teacher, yes, it IS cheating if the point of the assignment is to learn how to manipulate light in the studio. From the perspective of a photographer, no, it is NOT cheating when the “assignment” is to create a great-looking image.

    Posted by Jennifer Lee | April 9, 2009, 10:08 pm

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