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You’re Not a Photographer If You Don’t Learn Photoshop

There’s this belief going around that being a photographer doesn’t go hand in hand with knowing how to correctly use photoshop. I see it stated in photo critiques and comments in online photography groups almost daily. A “photographer” will release an image that could’ve been solid but they’ve ruined it through bad post-work, and when someone calls them out on it they’ll say things like “I’m a photographer, not a photoshop person.” or “I don’t get why you’re criticizing my photo, I’m a photographer, not a retoucher!” Statements like that are ridiculous, especially in 2017.

If you’re a photographer, and you think spending the time and effort it takes to be proficient with Photoshop isn’t important, you’re wrong. And, as far as this article goes, when I say photoshop I’m talking about any software or darkroom techniques that people use to develop photos and enhance their photographs. You could be the best at taking photos with a camera, the best on the planet, but if you ruin them with your development techniques you’re not doing your job correctly. Now, of course there’s a huge learning curve for this. If you’re just starting out as a photographer it can take a long time, even years, before you master your development and post-work techniques, I understand that. What I don’t understand is why people, who’ve been calling themselves professional photographers for an extended period of time while consistently destroying their photos by smudging, blurring, and cutting them into oblivion, often claim their lack of post-work skills doesn’t warrant criticism because it doesn’t have anything to do with them as a photographer. That’s ridiculous. The only thing that matters in the world of photography is the final images, and the photographer is responsible for every aspect of them. If you slide the highlights booster all the way to the right in Photoshop, it creates a gross distortion on the hard edges of your photos, and that’s what people see. If you use a darkroom to develop your photos and leave an image in developer for too long, your contrasts will be through the roof, and that’s what people will see. What people see is what matters, and photographers should be judged accordingly. Yes, photographers are subject to judgement based on what they produce. Period. Even if you don’t like that fact, they are. Whether you’re using software or a darkroom, it’s your process of choice that determines the quality and professionalism of your final images. Yet photographers are constantly butt-hurt when people point out their post-work deficiencies, and claim that it has nothing to do with their photography skills. How does that make any sense?

If you’re a photographer, or an aspiring photographer, you are not above Photoshop. Turning your nose up to sitting in front of your computer and learning how to make your images be the best they can be is your job. Taking photos with a camera and developing them correctly absolutely go hand in hand. The only exception to this is shelling out the cash it takes to pay a professional Photoshop/retouch artist to develop your work for you, and even then it’s the photographers responsibility to make sure they hire the right person. If you have your spouse cranking out your photos using Microsoft Paint or whatever, it reflects in your final work. That being said, it’s definitely ok to want nothing to do with the processing on your photos. Focusing on camera work instead of staring at a soul-sucking monitor is totally understandable. If that’s how you roll, it’s not hard to take the steps needed to ensure your images end up being high quality. However, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of photographers out there either want to process their images themselves, don’t have the money to pay to have it done, or foolishly think digital processing is a skill not worth paying for.

When all is said and done, photographers need to stop making excuses for their lack of processing skills. Developing and enhancing is a crucial aspect of the job, and software is now the industry standard to do so. Convincing yourself otherwise is illogical, and your images will only suffer for it on the way to you being left behind. Oh, and if you consistently add graphics to your images, it’s also your job to study and learn graphic design and typography. Yes, I said it. The modern day “Professional Photographer”, especially one in the commercial space, should be learned in photography, processing software, graphic design, and typography. It’s the nature of the job, and it isn’t going to change any time soon. Even if you close your eyes really tight and try to wish it all away, all of those pesky programs will still be there, haunting your photos.

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