Street photographers are very lucky that street photography is possibly the photographic genre requiring the least image editing, the aim being to capture life as it is.
I taught myself Photoshop as a teenager before I even got my first digital camera or started photography as a whole. My mother had one of the first Photoshop versions (if not the first) and, living in rural France with nothing else to do, I'd spend hours playing with scanned images from magazines, editing them, changing colours or making collages similar to the image below.
So after moving to London and deciding to take photography a little more seriously I had that tendency to naturally import all my best photographs in Photoshop and edit them. It was a logical step for me, like being on auto-pilot.
Photoshop or mastering any other editing software (there are many) takes skills unlike what many people think. I hate hearing “Oh but it’s Photoshopped” almost like “Well anyone can do that”… Pardon my French but that's rubbish. It’s a very complex tool and like any other tool it’s only as good as the person using it.
There is no magic button to make a photo good in one click.
Just look at the thousands of badly processed photos on the internet, over the top HDRs with crazy halos, uber saturated skies and the list goes on… If you don’t have a good eye to start with, well it’ll only get worse if you edit badly.
Either the photo is good to start with or you have an average shot and it’ll take a lot of knowledge and skill as well as a trained eye to make it great through careful editing.
The question is: Is this photography?
Long before Photoshop and other software, photographers edited their work in the dark room and used their ingenuity to create effects. This is nothing new. So I do believe it’s fine to use it, it's just a progression, an evolution. Even if you replace some part of the photo or add something, if you’re honest about it, well what’s the big deal?
Since London street photography has become my main focus, my approach has changed entirely without changing my mind about the above.
I have really taken a big interest in getting the shot as right as possible straight out of the camera.
- Street photography should to look natural
- It forces you to be thorough and learn all the settings available in your camera. That’s never a bad thing. I now realize that knowing I could edit later, made me lazy and happy to not always get it right as I knew I could fix it.
- It saves quite a lot of time and hassle not spending time editing so you can focus more on other things.
- It makes you feel a lot more honest and capable. Let’s face it, we all know that many phone apps, the most basic, easy and popular form of editing can make a turd look good. So as a photographer how do you distance yourself from that?
By proving your ability to take great honest shots, ones that don’t lie.
I do not turn my back on the work I have edited, Photoshopped or collaged… I just take more satisfaction when I can avoid it.
And if I still have to edit a shot, so be it, I know I've tried really hard to get it as good as I could to start with and I'm careful to keep it natural looking.
How much do you rely on editing? Share your views, leave a comment!
Read this related article: Street Photography Technique: Get it quick, get it right!