Viewpoint, Why Do I Use PhotoShop and Other Tools?, posted 2012-09-27

Earlier today I saw a cute post on Facebook.  The title was similar to the one above but it showed a small boy running down a path being chased by a some sort of dinosaur.  It was worth a good laugh but it also brought up the question of why I use PhotoShop (and other tools like Lightroom, OnOne Perfect Suite, Nik plugins, etc.).  Let me start by saying that I that photographs for enjoyment and don’t pretend to be a photojournalist (different standards would apply there).  Even so, most of the time I do only limited image manipulation.

First, I normally shoot in RAW format.  This means that I must use some photo processing software on the image to either display it on the web or to print the image, saving the file as a .jpg for the web or .tiff for printing.  This is one of the primary uses I have for PhotoShop or Lightroom.  Also, when I open the RAW images, my files are 11.52″ X 17.28″ at 300 dpi.  Most images I put on the web are either resized to 6″ X 9″ or 11″ X 14″ at 72 dpi.  Almost all images I print are printed 11″ X 14″ at either 150 or 300 dpi.  Again this is an adjustment in my photo processing software.

The third change that is fairly common for me is some minor tweaking of either the exposure or white balance of my original digital file.  In most cases, these three things are all that I change in when processing an image.

At the same time, I like the flexibility that these tools offer me for less than optimal conditions.  Earlier this month, I attended an air show at Scott Air Force Base.  For most visitors, the weather conditions were ideal – cool and mostly overcast.  For photographers, the cool temperatures were appreciated but the gray skies left much to be desired.  The three photos below reflect the weather conditions.  The only processing done on these images was resizing.

While my normal processing could result in some images that are acceptable at some level (see album at, I really wanted to determine if I could improve the appearance of the images in some way.  Luckily, that morning I was able to grab a photo of the sky during a brief period when there was a break in the clouds and I had another photo of a partly cloudy sky from another photo session.  By adjusting the exposure in the photos above and combining them with the photos of the sky, I was able to achieve the following results:

I think most people would agree that these images are much more aesthetically pleasing than the originals (but if you disagree, that’s okay).

Another option that processing tools offer is the ability to emphasize certain areas of a photo by framing, vignetting, or other techniques.  For example, I might want to emphasize just the pilot and crew chief in the first photo in this series.  Here is one way that might be done:

These are some of the ways that I might use PhotoShop or other photo processing tools.  (Tools used for these photos were Adobe PhotoShop CS6, OnOne Perfect Mask, OnOne Perfect Frame, and Adobe Lightroom 4.)

(Clicking on any image will display a set of larger images with better color rendering.)

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