Do You Want to be a Better Photographer, Stop Using Photoshop!

As a child, when you were crawling around on the floor and making your first attempts to walk would you ever been able to someday run if you parents would have given you crutches to easy the burden of you learning to walk?  Of course not, you would have learned to walked with crutches and never gotten to a point that you could run on your own.  As humans the struggle of learning is what makes us stronger in the end.

Younger photographers today face the same choices, they can lessen the burden of learning photography by fixing everything they missed while taking the picture in Photoshop.  The photographer that really wants to learn photography captures an image and prints it out.  He or she looks at it and learn from their mistakes, not covering them up to save your ego.

Only when a young photographers confronts the disappointment of learning can the learning begin.  The best advice I can give anyone for a true measure of their “talent” is to take an image straight from the camera and print it out.  Show this image to your family and friends and tell them that a friend of yours took the image (so they will actually tell you truth).  Then ask if they would buy this photograph if it was a photo of them?  Listen to their response without trying to justify what they say.  This is honest feedback of your photographic ability.  If they say, YES, that is a nice photograph I would buy it, then you can say you have talent and toot your own horn, but if they say, “there is no way I would pay money for that….I could take a snapshot like that!”  You have just had the greatest learning experience in your life, the TRUTH!

Photoshop fills the gab between reality and denial.  When I hear of people in denial I think of young photographers and unattractive, overweight women that have the word “Diva” plastered on everything they own.  Photographers that haven’t taken the time to learn photography look just as foolish when they talk about “their art” and “their vision” and they show photographs that look like snapshots.

From my books, videos and posts I get emails and messages from photographers that are upset or angry because they feel I am picking on them, telling them they should learn photography.  I spend a good portion of my life helping young photographers become better photographers so they can make a career out of professional photography and not just make a few bucks until they get tired of the grind. I spend time each day answer questions from those photographers that are trying to learn more about portraiture and I am always willing to help.

Love me or hate me, the truth is the truth and that is until you can produce a portrait that someone would buy, without using Photoshop, you probably shouldn’t be talking about your photography skills,  your vision or your art, because like the Diva, ‘just because you say it don’t make it so!’

As a final comment or thought, I am sure I am going to get comments, messages and emails with young photographers saying that they like Photoshop and it’s an integrated part of their style.  What this means is that Photoshop is a crutch that a person has adapted well to.  A photographer creates his art in the camera and enhances on the computer, a graphic designer takes what he is given and creates his art in the computer.  Different career paths, different training.


~ by jeffsmithbooks on May 30, 2010.

6 Responses to “Do You Want to be a Better Photographer, Stop Using Photoshop!”

  1. While your point about learning how to capture the image as best as possible is a good and valuable one, I’m afraid that some might take your “Stop Using Photoshop” advice literally. I can’t tell you the number of people who assume that “real photographers just get it right in the camera” and do no work in post.

    This is, of course, pretty much completely not the case.

    Not to diminish the importance of developing great shooting skills, but many of the greatest photographers, artists we hold up as models of “how to do it,” relied greatly on work done in the darkroom. In fact, in many cases the original negative really looks pretty awful without careful and skillful darkroom post-processing.

    It isn’t that these photographers were not capable of correctly operating the camera. Rather, they recognized that in order to produce the best possible print that they envisioned, it was necessary to create an initial exposure with the intended post-processing in mind.

    So, yes, it is important to understand and master the process of getting good captures. But Photoshop is no more a crutch than the darkroom was.

    Take care,


    • I think it is very clear in the post that we all use Photoshop, but professional photographers don’t use as a crutch to save bad photography. In learning photography Photoshop should be the last thing taught to student photographers. Bottom line, if a photographer can’t produce a salable portrait in the camera, he or she needs to learn more about photography. And I don’t think you can compare the huge manipulations that young photographers make today in Photoshop to salvage poor images with the dodging and burning we used in the darkroom. I don’t remember the first day of photo class, them teaching us about doing artwork on a print to hide our lack of photographic skill!

  2. I was shocked when my daughter took her first photography class in high school when the first thing they covered was Photoshop. When I asked the teacher about it she said “that it was a basic part of photography”. So I asked when she would be covering ‘getting the exposure right in the camera’ and she looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language!

  3. Can I say “Amen”.

  4. Uh back in the film days we used to dodger and burn. There was a lot going on in the dark room. Good photos can always be improved. Bad photos remain bad no matter how much post processing.

  5. I love it, great way to approach being a better photographer, I am going to add a link on my blog to yours if you don’t mind. Also You might want to take at my most recent post and a fun offering on FB.

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