When is it Photography and When is it Photoshop?

Last week in the NY Times, David Pogue posed the question that, for purposes of a contest, where does the line get drawn between a photograph and “photoshopping”.
A subject I’ve mused about before…

I’ve been recently reading Michael Frye’s book: Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Masters.
I’ve been dying to try out some of the ideas here, but I discovered aspects to Adams’ process which has made me re-evaluate what exactly allows a photograph to be still considered a photograph rather than digital art. Certainly his ability to expose and overexpose to highlight things in his pictures is well known. (And that was a motivation for
me reading the book).
But did you know he did extensive dodging and burning during the development process? (The photoshop techniques come from photography, not the other way around). Even more interesting is the fact that Adams did photographic retouching that is common and easier in photoshop.

It turns out that local teenagers had painted white rocks to spell out “LP” in the mountains in this photograph. Adams used a technique on his negative to blot out those letters from the final image.
Is Ansel Adams’ work art (and NOT) photography, then?
Me, I think that photography ends and digital art begins when you start adding elements not present in the original scene. For example, if I took a picture of President Obama, and digitally added my mother to the scene, that would be photoshopping. A little dodging and burning, or even combining a couple of images to get high dynamic contrast (which I haven’t managed it–no good copy of photoshop) isn’t *quite* photoshopping, in my book.

One thought on “When is it Photography and When is it Photoshop?”

  1. The problem is that you have created “either-or” and with only two categories have to try to force things into either.
    What about double-exposure? Re-exposing the film to take a picture of two people at separate times to make a photo that never happened? Or a night sky re-exposed to a inside photo?
    Yes PhotoShop came from techniques and tricks that would take specialized equipment, training and expertise to do
    I think you can have Photography, Photographic Art, and Photoshop
    You can do anything and everything to a scene and still call it a Photograph. Once you take one, and alter the process manually, it becomes Photographic art. And of course Digitally becomes Photoshop.
    Actually, by definition Brother of mine You don’t take Photographs.
    photograph N.(plural photographs)
    A picture created by projecting an image onto a photosensitive surface such as a chemically treated plate or film

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