The Difference between Very Little Photoshop and No Photoshop

Today, much like with taking pictures, pretty much anybody can do a little Photoshop. There has always been artifice in photography, there has always been deceit. In fact, all art is lies. Art is just made up. Novels aren't true, paintings aren't true. Photographs aren't true. They may lead one to conclude something that is true, but they are not true themselves.

We've come to be believe that they're true because, in addition to making art, we use them to document our lives, and so we trust that they depict things accurately. They don't. People blink. People in photographs do not blink.

The difference now is that people think they know what's going on. And at the same time, some people are frustrated, because everything is retouched so much that even the things that aren't retouched are suspect, and one can't even trust that the things in the photograph ever existed at all.

And essentially, I share their sentiments, even if my objections are about aesthetics rather than integrity. Much of my photography process is a reaction to the prevalence of retouching in contemporary photography, and all that entails.

All that said, here's what I do, and here are some pictures that show it.

This is the finished photograph.

This is the finished photograph.

The first image is the finished photograph.

As in camera.

As in camera.

The second image is as it looked in camera. The darkness on the left of the frame is the shadow of a tree falling on the white foam core background that I set up. The slightly darker streaks are because the reflectors that I'm using to bounce sunlight onto the background are made of aluminum foil glued to foam core, and the surface is irregular.

You can see a lot more in the third and fourth images. In the lower left, you can see my hand with the spray bottle (that's right, one hand on the sprayer, one on the shutter release), the nozzle of the propane torch above that, and the A clamp holding the foam core to the light stand - which also tells you that I rotated the image 90 degrees left. In the right-hand image, also rotated, you can see the square reflection of the large, glass mirror I used to bounce light, as well as the split between pieces of foam core, and more shadows from the tree.

There is a distinct difference between very little Photoshop and no Photoshop. Of course, it's a fools errand to try to convince anybody, because we're ever closer to the point where using a photograph as proof of anything at all is ridiculous.