Photoshop – Noun & Verb
What was created as the name of a software program, has evolved in it’s meaning. This is obviously not news to anyone, but can be frustrating to photographers. I have family members showing me 4×6 inch prints, poorly photographed, lacking image definition and detail, poor color, etc. and they’ll ask, “You can photoshop this, right?” In other words, “make it look absolutely perfect”. When I say no, they give me that quizzical look, “Why not? You know photoshop.” I’ll be polite and ask to see the film negative thinking, maybe there’s more detail there. “I don’t have the negative. It’s lost. Why should that matter?” Yikes, I’m dealing with amateurs. Yes, I realize that photos from 1920 are “restored”, but these 1960 images don’t fall into that category for me. I’m not going to spend hours “creating and filling in” to make it look wonderful.
Which brings me back to my use of Photoshop. I used to have a B&W darkroom. (I left color processing and printing to the labs.) I had a print processing setup purchased from Spiratone (remember them?) for making quickie 5×7 prints for clients. (If anyone remembers what the process was called, let me know.) And I also made prints with equipment I purchased from Zone VI -for images that were important to me personally. I used my darkroom in the manner that was typical – dodging/burning/setting up contrast via filter or paper/processing time, etc. And this is how I essentially use Photoshop, as an electronic darkroom, dodging, burning, contrast, etc. Yes, I employ some tricks of the trade as any photographer would do for clients, but for personal work, I generally like to keep it simple.
The image above is an example of that process. It was shot quickly, before my kids had a chance to move. The place is Monument Valley and the sun was rising. Dodging, burning, creating masks, adjusting contrast were my tools to create the image. Just like in a darkroom, but I admit, more convenient because I could turn my computer off when I was tired, save everything and return the next day when I had time to reflect on my work. That, for me, is the real advantage Photoshop has that a darkroom doesn’t.