Most experienced photographers will tell you to “get it right in the camera”. By that they mean know your camera well enough, and understand the concepts of aperture, shutter speed, ISO and your lens to be able to get the best capture possible in your camera. The other side to that concept is the implication that you should not rely on Photoshop to get a great image, that you should get it right only with your camera. In fact some “get it right in the camera” folks go as far to suggest that using Photoshop is like cheating.
As a photographer I absolutely try to get the best possible image in camera that I possibly can – every time. I agree 110% that we should understand the theory of exposing properly and know how to use our camera settings to the best advantage. At the same time, my philosophy is very simple: I want to create the most wonderful image that I possibly can for me or my clients, and sometimes that means using Photoshop.
Here’s just a few examples of when I use Photoshop.
- I’m faced with a challenging photographic situation such as a bright, back lit sky behind a subject. Ideally I would have some off-camera flash to fill in the subject while exposing for the sky, but what if I don’t? Or set my camera on a tripod and take multiple exposures – but I don’t have my tripod. My instant thought is to expose for the sky, knowing that I can use Photoshop/Camera Raw to add the “fill light” after the fact.
- With camera in hand, I suddenly see a great photographic opportunity – for example, two deer on the side of the road in gorgeous light. Option one would be to spend a few precious moments making sure all my settings were correct, and risk missing the shot as they suddenly ran away. Option two (and the one I always use) is to first grab some shots with whatever settings I currently have, while trying to change settings on the fly so I at least have something to work with. Then, and only then, after I’ve got something in my camera, I do a more detailed check of my settings to get a better “in camera” shot. In other words, I would hate to miss a great opportunity because I was taking the time to get it “just right” in my camera.
- I’m composing a shot through my viewfinder and everything looks amazing except for two people walking slowly through the frame. When I attempt to recompose the shot to “remove” the people, the shot just doesn’t look as good. In a case like this, I have no problem whatsoever thinking, I’ll “fix that later” in Photoshop.
I know that last statement (“I’ll fix that later in Photoshop”) just made some veteran photographers cringe. So be it. As I said before, to me it’s all about the image, so if that means a little Photoshop work, I am completely at peace with that.
To me there is nothing wrong with including Photoshop in the equation. Learn how your camera works, understand the functions of exposure, shutter speed and ISO, but don’t ever feel like you are “cheating” if you need to add in some Photoshop to create a finished product that makes you happy.