That is the question facing the hobby photographer. Do I need Photoshop? Truth be told, cell phones and point and shoot cameras have very sophisticated image processing built right in. My Android, a Samsung Note 4 as of now, has a surprising array of photo effects and capabilities. For documentation or a quick post to Facebook on your latest activity, that cell phone will often do the trick.
In fact, some professional landscape photographers take a cell phone picture in every setting in which they shoot. Know why? The cell phone can capture GPS data on location and when the photographer gets home, he or she transfers the location data into the metadata of the photographs using Photoshop. Cool idea.
But as a hobbyist, what can Photoshop do for you? Do you really need a head on the body that belongs to someone else? Do you need colors of the rainbow that just don’t exist in nature? Unfortunately, that’s how many people perceive the use of Photoshop. If someone asks a photographer “Did you Photoshop it?” it is typically an accusation of unreality.
Photoshop can do special effects. It’s a powerful program, capable of pixel by pixel control. The colored smoke photo above is made possible with the use of overlay blending, filters and such.
If you want to be serious about your hobby, or call yourself a photographer, you must acquire Photoshop. There is no substitute. Perhaps 95% of users will be quite satisfied with the lesser version, Photoshop Elements. It has many of the same features as the original. Lightroom is also a less expensive alternative from Adobe, and can do some very sophisticated image processing and organization. But now the real program is much less expensive, and Lightroom is included (keep reading….)
Virtually every photo you see from a pro has been through Photoshop, so don’t bother asking if we “Photoshopped it”. Our cameras are able to shoot in raw. They get all the data in the scene, but don’t process the image into a jpeg like your cell phone or point and shoot. Your cameras are all “Photoshopping” images with every snapshot, just to the presets that the manufacturer has determined. Professional images are raw, and then in post (post processing) we “develop” them.
Digital retouching is in many ways the same as with film post processing. Just better. Professionals have retouched portraits taken with film cameras for decades, but that retouching was done by working on small negative images with tiny paint brushes in the darkroom. Ansel Adams was famous for his images, but in a real sense he was a master of the darkroom as much as a master of composition. He spent weeks completing the developing process in painstaking detail. Now, we have better control, and it is quicker digitally. A dramatic image such as the one to the right is possible using Photoshop or regular developing, but it is much easier digitally.
It used to be a substantial outlay of around $700 for just the one program, Photoshop. Now, Adobe has introduced the Creative Cloud and its cost is only $9.99 per month for both Photoshop and Lightroom with an annual plan. That is the price of just a couple cups of coffee at the espresso stand, so perhaps you too can afford to play. Interested? Click here or just visit the Adobe website:
You’ll be amazed at the capacity of the program and the number of YouTube tutorials you can spend time watching. It will take you time to master it. But my first tip related to Photoshop is not to enter the fray without it. I’ll be passing on my tips for processing images and some basics as well, but you’ll find a wealth of information already out there. If you can invest ten bucks a month and a few hours a week, you’ll learn and your pictures will prosper.
I need not worry, you still need all the other gear to really get that professional portrait, so I’ll still be here for you. But you’ll like your pictures better. That’s a sure bet.