The Moment I Realized Editing is Not Cheating... it's a Part of my Art

September 13, 2014  •  Leave a Comment


"Photography, as we all know, isn't real at all. It's an illusion of reality with which we create our own private world."

- Arnold Newman



I remember when I was just starting out on my photography journey, how I would drool over other photographer's photos. One day, I asked my new photographer friend (who taught me to use my camera) how this particular photographer had achieved this particular look.


See, I was disheartened that my new (to me) DSLR camera and kit lens couldn't seem to recreate those creamy-dreamy images I longed for. What was I doing wrong? 


I was shocked and slightly disappointed when Jen examined the image and said, "Oh, it's some filter or something she used in her post-processing." I was frustrated to know that what I thought was in-camera-art was actually carefully done editing. And I didn't know the first thing about editing at the time. Really, the idea of one more thing to learn scared me. 


I was also anti-editing cause I hate the way the media warps our perception of beauty through over-the-top Photoshop use in photos of women. What woman hasn't felt the sting of not being able to measure up to the "magazine perfection" all around us? So I was also afraid that if I edited pimples off of my client's skin that I would be feeding into that warped perception. 


Fast forward two years later and I am now using Photoshop at a proficient level. I use Photoshop to re-touch all of my client photos and most of my personal photos. I'm learning to be comfortable with the fact that I'm using post-processing to create a certain mood or feeling in my images. And also to minimize distractions. 


It's taken me a little while to feel like that's not "cheating", but actually a part of my art! 


I recently heard Kellie Bieser of Shutter & Glass Photography describe editing perfectly. She said that post-processing is where we, as the artist, get to make our original vision come to life. It's where we get to paint and play and create and break the rules if we want to. 


I just love that!


The photo at the beginning of this post obviously has a significant amount of editing. But adding that radial blur just worked so well with the fun, crazy moment of a little girl singing songs and twirling ribbons! And THAT photo was actually the version her mom wanted to purchase, rather than the clean edit! Of course it's not "real"... but it's not supposed to be! 


Here are some more examples... 



Surprise! It's a cloudy day in Germany! (okay, no real surprise there) BUT I have seen sunlight pour gloriously through this window in my village's church. And I wanted Ashley and Wayne to have that! Some might call it cheating, but I call it magical... thanks to Jessica Drossin's Force of Nature Light Effects.  




Distracting fan and cord in the background? Not anymore! Yes, I could have moved it before shooting... but it was a really hot day in the studio and these amazing gals really needed the breeze!




These are both examples of when I use Photoshop to bring out the vibrant colors that I saw. Sometimes that just doesn't record well in the camera! Editing to the rescue. The bright buildings in Rothenburg become truly bright. The contrast between the Ferris Wheel and the stormy sky really pop. 





Here's another example of artistic color changes. The lighting in this room wasn't actually so pink. But making it so added to the romantic feel of the shot. Which better reflects how I was feeling when I looked at these Christmas roses from My Love. 




So maybe these coins are ACTUALLY sitting on my super dirty not-really-white patio table. But that's not part of the story of this shot. So those distracting elements? Poof, gone. 


Life's all about balance. Anything can be overdone. But I am comfortable using Photoshop to bring my images to life. Not only can I fix most anything (busy mom forgets to re-paint her nails? No problem!) but I can make magic on the dreariest of days. I can crop and clone and change things around. I notice the sparkly, shiny, bright parts of life. I want those things to really stand out in my images. 


A part of what you pay for when you hire a professional photographer is the time and talent it takes to create art. I've always been able to snap a picture. But now I can bring a creative dream to life!


What do you think about some of those images? Check out Jessica Drossin for an extreme example of artistic editing. Do you agree with the Arnold Newman quote that photographers create an illusion of reality? Let me know in the comments!




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