You’re good with Photoshop?

I’ve just completed a semi-technical article for Professional Photographer magazine which recounts in part my experience of ‘growing up with Photoshop.’ I’ll be the first to admit that my actual understanding, and definitely desire, to embrace every last page of a technical manual does not top my daily agenda of must complete items. Some folk consume tech data in a fashion that’s frankly bewildering. I have friends in this business that lose me within half a paragraph when they start waxing lyrical about masking their images or the inner workings of an action they’ve just created to crush the blacks whilst maintaining detail in the shadows.

Despite this, I’d like to think I have a reasonably thorough working knowledge of what I need to know on Photoshop’s dashboard, despite not being completely aware of just how powerful the engine could be if I just dared to open the bonnet and get my hands a little dirtier from time to time. I remember early editions of the program and I certainly recall getting excited by how a user could manipulate an image in layers. That seemed a revelation to someone who had trained in a darkroom under a tutor that spoke very little about digital imaging and when he did, it was usually with disparaging asides.

This week I received a call that’s inspired me to put ‘pen to paper’ on the subject of digital manipulation albeit briefly once again and I’m hoping the caller won’t mind me recounting our chat.

“Hello? I’ve been looking at your website and your pictures. You look like you know how to use Photoshop.”

There’s a quip in our industry about guests with cameras at weddings who have modest kit envy and offer up an indiscretionate conversation opener which goes something like this; “That’s a nice camera, I bet it takes good pictures.” To which supposedly the reply goes; “Yes and the photographer behind it can as well.”

A couple gently embrace during their first dance

It did however underline for me that some casual observers now most certainly see image manipulation as the creator behind a picture and not the composition itself, or indeed even the photographer! I don’t want to overdramatise the event, God knows we’re only taking pictures (as one attendee at a wedding fayre recently commented when faced with the prospect of having to spend more than a pint or three on wedding photography; the amount he was intending to gift his mate, who, “Got a camera for Christmas and likes to snap away.”) But I’d like to think there is more to this ‘gig’ than simply ‘snapping’ away at everything you can possibly see in daylight, then making that dog’s dinner of an image look like something you’d hope to find in a photographic gastropub.

For fear of firing up the rant engine usually reserved for private chats in a bar with like minded pros, (I can hear the artistic whining; “Oh Jeremy, they simply don’t understand us!”) let me just close by suggesting that the photograph that follows, and all those I intend to capture in the future are taken hopefully with purpose. I don’t always scratch the creative itch with every frame, of course I don’t, but I’m constantly tuning my compositional radar, watching, observing, listening even, because what I’m hoping to capture forms the narrative for a story. And until the day I can send my Photoshop program to a wedding to do the job for me, I guess the old fashioned way of working will just have to do.


  • Spot on Neale and nicely written too. For far too long the skill of good photographers has been overlooked by people thinking its the camera or photoshop that does the hard work. They are merely the tools of our trade. Good tools help us, but they won't in themselves make us a better photographer. That's an innate skill that you either have or you don't (imho)

    Lovely image btw.

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