Stuff I think about

I’ve a feeling that this will be a long post

Posted in Uncategorized by Billy Soh on March 20, 2010

I’ve very interesting responses from the talk at NAFA on 19th March. A student asked me if a good retoucher could be a good photographer as well. Fundamentally speaking a good retoucher would be the equivalent of a good painter in the good old days before photography existed. Though as photography started its existence, paintings and drawings have since lost their placings in imaging as photography provided a faster means of producing an image. That being said the fundamentals of seeing and perceiving light, shadows and perspectives for composition for painters and photographers still remain the same.

It is important that the retoucher/photoshop wizards have a correct grasp of fundamentals before breaking any rules, as the fundamentals are the rules and they provide the avenue for solving the issues that may present themselves in the picture making process.

Hence the answer to that question would be yes and no together for a good retoucher/photoshop wizard to be a good photographer. Photography itself is fundamentally the click of the shutter; a culmination of decision making and aesthetic skills in composition and lighting. Only with constant exercise will you be able to decide how the shot will be made, and only with constant practice will you know how to make the exposure on film. Once the light and shadows are captured, there is only a little way to alter the character of image; though perspectives now may be tweaked, the technology for changing lighting directions on photographs (not the kind in 3d softwares) hasn’t exactly been developed. This has been observed in the tonally flat and even lighting that’s present in many commercially produced images, so that it is easy to make the images into comps.

Why retouch? It feels like the human quest for perfection have driven the media to create the impossible. It may not be totally positive for that to happen, (take for example, fashion imagery, stick thin models, health implications that arose from the desires stirred up from that kind of images, people desiring to have that kind of physique turning bulimic and/or anorexic.) on a brighter side of that, the technologies have provided a solution to get a lot of work done in a shorter time, correct errors or imperfections not seen when making the shot, and I can only say, exercise your decisions as image makers carefully, as implications may not arise from a short term; be responsible with your images.

As a parting note to this, I end off with this quote:

A knowledge of photography is just as important as that of the alphabet. The illiterate of the future will be ignorant of the use of camera and pen alike. —  Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, in 1923

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