Just Photoshop it!

My husband is a Linguist.  Speaking two languages fluently, having a degree in Linguistics, and having worked for a Translation company, makes him somewhat fascinated with languages and words.  Particularly the evolution of language.

A few months back, after accompanying me on a photo shoot he made a particular “linguist” comment in reference to this conversation while photographing my client:

ME:  Let’s have you pull back that one strand of hair that has come loose.

CLIENTS MOTHER (observing the shoot):  Oh, just photoshop it!

Ben later says, “Did you hear how the word photoshop has now become a verb?  It is no longer in reference to the software, it now implies the action verb of editing a picture!”  He of course was fascinated by the lingual aspects of the conversation, I on the other hand, was fascinated by the social aspects of the conversation.

Just photoshop it!

Using the word photoshop as  a verb, shows how culturally we have begun to look at the art of photography.  It has become more and more affordable for anyone to be able to purchase a professional quality camera, digital makes photography seem absolutely easy, and with the advent of digital editing, you can instantly fix a horrible picture into something incredible!  Right?

I admit that I own and operate and absolutely love Photoshop and other photo editing programs.  I enhance contrast/brightness/color on all my images in Adobe Lightroom, and send many of my blog/website images for a few quick fine tuning tweaks to Photoshop before they go online.

I also remember the days that I didn’t have a clue about photography, shot everything in automatic mode, and would spend HOURS fixing things in photoshop.

At first I was fascinated by the power and control.  I was completely taken by being able to clone and remove obstructive things out of the background.  Every picture must be photoshopped!

And then one day I had a realization.

Just do it right the first time!

Photoshop takes a lot of time.  Regardless of how well you know the program, it still takes time.  And sometimes, after all the work, you find that you either aren’t knowledgeable enough to know how to do what you want the program to do, or it isn’t worth it in the end.

I have found, that if I take the extra time while shooting an image to ensure a good picture, I end up saving TONS of time later in editing things.

Things to do while you’re shooting:

1-Take the time to judge the light.  Are you using it correctly, or is there a better direction you or your subject could be shot from?

2-Survey the background. Is there something obtrusive that you don’t want in the picture?  What  happens if you move?  If your subject moves?  Can you make it disappear just by changing positions or angels?  Can you just plain move it out of the picture?  Do it!

3-Learn to shoot confidently in manual mode. As you gain a working knowledge of manual settings and their functions, you can approach nearly any picture with your desired results and make it work, as far as exposure/motion/depth of field are concerned.  Sure, some of these things can be altered in photoshop or have effects applied, but how much time do you save by doing it before you take the picture?  How much more realistic is it going to look done in camera rather than in post production? How much more control do you have over your image by understanding what you want and making your camera work for you, instead of making you work for your camera?  When you shoot in automatic mode on your camera, your camera is making an educated guess on what you want.  More specifically, its just making an educated guess on exposure and adjusting all settings in that direction.  It doesn’t really care about what you might want.  I’ll say it once more, make your camera work for you, instead of making you work for your camera.  Don’t know where to begin on learning manual?  Take our  Mastering Manual course! Or read a great book, or look for tips online.  Whatever works best for your learning style.

My first wedding I spent nearly 30 hours editing.  I shot the whole thing in automatic (didn’t know any different back then).  I knew the pictures needed some help to look better, so every image was photoshopped.

After lots of practice with light, learning what to look for in an image, and most of all–learning to shoot in manual, I have cut my workload significantly–all while surprisingly increasing the number of images that I take during a shoot.  What used to take me over 30 hours, now takes about 1-2.  Learn to do it right the first time and use the the editing tools mainly for enhancement.  You’ll end up with more time to shoot, and understand how to go back and get great results every time!

What are your thoughts?

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Brooke Snow

Brooke Snow


As a photographer, she’s been published in Where Women Create and Where Women Cook magazines, featured on the Huffington Post, The $100 Startup, and is a regular contributor to her local NBC lifestyle show Studio 5. A sought after instructor and speaker, when she’s not putting the magic into her next presentation, you can find her drooling over organic recipes, hiking with a mountain buggy carrying precious cargo, and hanging out in her Farm House with her fabulous little clan in Northern Utah.

Her free course Living a Thriving Life is the perfect anecdote for those seeking balance in the midst of chaos. Discover how to create meaning in both your photos and your life at brookesnow.com.
Brooke Snow

Latest posts by Brooke Snow (see all)

  • Gayle Vehar - “Photoshopping” pictures used to be standard operating procedure for me, but NOW I am a total believer in getting it right the first time. I love shooting in manual mode and the control it gives to get it right without the help of Photoshop. I just wish I could shout it from the roof-tops. Since I am somewhat afraid of heights, I have been doing the next best thing and writing about manual mode on my blog (http://www.momandcamera.com/tag/dslr-camera/ .) I absolutely love your Magic Monday posts–even if they are from the archives!!!

  • Christina - I totally agree! I’ve been using Photoshop professionally as a designer for over five years. When I first started using the program and learning how to edit photos, I saw it as a magic tool to make any picture a masterpiece. I quickly learned that while Photoshop can make a bad picture better and a decent photo into a good photo, it takes a good eye and a practiced hand to make a great photo and then Photoshop can do some fine-tuning to make it a masterpiece. No matter how good Photoshop is, a great photo is always the place to start.

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