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Is every professional photographer a “Photoshopper”? Well…it’s complicated…..{Northern Virginia High Senior Portraits}

I get asked all the time if I use Photoshop. And the answer is yes. Do I create my images there? The answer is no. I’m a photographer – a professional portrait photographer. I specialize in high school senior portraits, business and corporate portraits, family portraits, and wedding photography. I create images that are intended for PRINT and I create them with my CAMERA.

Why do I use Photoshop? Well, every image has to be converted to .jpeg before I print it – I shoot in RAW file format. So first step for every image you see in your gallery, I convert to .jpeg. Then, EVERY image that is ordered for print is sharpened – a process of pulling the pixels in the image together. (I have a specific way I do this, there are many different ways.) And of course, EVERY image printed as a portrait is retouched for any skin blemishes, etc. Final result – an image that is print worthy without being created in Photoshop.

So do I need Photoshop as a professional photographer? Absolutely. In combination with Lightroom, another Adobe product, where I sort and store my images – do initial work on them, etc. And in combination with some specific “plug ins” or add ons to Photoshop, it is the only way I could be a portrait photographer in the digital world. But I don’t create my images in photoshop – nor do I “rescue” them, or try to “fix” them in Photoshop. If they aren’t right in the camera, I toss them.

I will enhance them, and I will even play with them at times with some additional plug ins – like the one sample below. But I will NOT detract from the reason I am doing this – to take a PORTRAIT. So I don’t try to change the person I’m photographing – I want them recognizable – and at the same time, I want the image to be printable. Some of the actions, options, sliders and buttons can create some pretty interesting PHOTOSHOPPED results of your portraits. But some of them, as a word of caution, will NOT print the way you see them on your screen. They are interesting, fun, creative and yes, even ART. But there is a line between what starts as a portrait of someone and ends up as a piece of created ART.

If your client is wanting the art effects, then great. (I do believe every portrait I create is “art”, by the way) But if the client is wanting, and paying for a portrait, then a portrait should be provided – in my opinion. There is time for play, and time for creative. And creative can be beautiful, don’t get me wrong. But most of the images my clients see are portraits, not photoshopped composites with lots of artistic effects. I will occasionally play with an image and use it in my marketing – add textures, borders, even an extreme action at times – but this is NOT my norm. Pick your “photographer” wisely – if they are primarily an artist using Photoshop with digital images be sure this is the result you are looking for in the end.

So yes, I think every digital photographer is a “Photoshopper”. But not every “Photoshopper” is a professional photographer.

Here is a sample of what I will occasionally do with images – this is a side by side comparison of a finished image, and then the same image using a plug in called “Topaz” in Adobe Photoshop CS5. I’ve used Topaz to enhance the details – the brick and concrete – but I kept the effects off the skin tones so the image could be enhanced, but still portray the individual.

Photoshop CS5, Topaz Results, Portrait comparison

And that folks is how I “roll”. I’m a Professional Photographer and a “straight forward Photoshopper”, LOL…

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