Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Real" versus "Photoshopped"

Sometimes people ask me if my underwater photos are "real" or photoshopped. The truth is that I photoshop almost all my photos including snapshots of family, vacations, celebrations or whatever. A lot of times, the photoshopping consists of simple cropping and sharpening. But underwater photography presents unique challenges, not the least of which is backscatter. Backscatter occurs when light from the camera's strobe strikes suspended material in the water and is reflected back to the lens of the camera. The result is a snowy effect that varies depending on how poor the water quality is. Photoshop is very useful in correcting this problem. 

I took the above photo a couple of weeks ago on a day when the water was fairly stirred-up. It's a pretty good action shot of an octopus "jetting" from one coral head to another. This is a hard shot to get as it's impossible to anticipate when the octo is going to demonstrate this behavior. So, I have a decent shot of an animal doing something that is difficult to capture. But the photo is seriously compromised by all the white blobs of backscatter. Plus, there is quite a bit of "dead" space above the octopus.

Now here is the photoshopped version after tediously removing the backscatter as well as cropping, sharpening and adjusting contrast. I think it's a big improvement. Some people would argue the "integrity" of using a computer program to enhance a photo. But, back in the days of film, photographers would regularly employ darkroom techniques to manipulate their images for more pleasing outcomes. I see no difference except photoshop is easier and produces better results. Also, I don't use photoshop to add things that weren't there or to give a false or exaggerated impression of the marine life I see. I merely use it to "clean-up" a messy image. It's been said that photoshop can make a good photo better but it can't make a bad photo good. I agree. 

No comments:

Post a Comment