Software (Photoshop, Corel)---a blessing or curse?

"Photoshop, photoshop. We will correct it in Photoshop". That seems to be the mantra of today's creative generation. Photoshop--an elixir for all ills. A crutch to save the spineless. On the other hand it can do what is not physically possible by conventional methods. Is software a blessing or a curse?

For the first 8 years of my career there was no Photoshop. You screwed up and you dumped your work in the dust bin. One had to very particular about various things. From ensuring that the set was clean, that everything was in the right place in frame and that the exposure was bang on too. If not, it was ready for the trash can.

One fine day a wonderful software came along. If you had left dirt on the background a press of a button would erase it. If the exposure was over or under, press another button and bingo everything was normal. If the perspective was wrong while shooting there was a button to cure that too.

So what happened? Creative people have become lazy and complacent. There is no need to pay attention to detail. After all there is the magic potion called Photoshop that will save their backsides. Once a person gets into this mode there is no way he/she is going to be a perfectionist (as one needed to be in the good old days)and this leads to being careless in all aspects of creative work.

When a creative person is preparing a design for an Ad, Brochure, etc; he/she has to mentally compose the visuals that will be finally printed. In the old days nothing could be moved or corrected in the final image as it was shot on a Transparency and there was no Software to do it. In today's scenario, the creative person does not take this seriously. The layout is kept floating. Why? Because "we can always change it later in Photoshop" So if an object happens to be a few mm to the left or right while shooting, and needs to be corrected later, Photoshop can be used to alter it later on.

In the past we (client and photographer) had to precisely compose all the elements in the frame to get a perfect image. Now we are often asked to shoot the elements separately so that they can be composited in Photoshop at a later stage.

This gives rise to laziness in thought and execution and it becomes obvious in all aspects of creativity.

In the past a creative person sitting down to design anything, would first 'visualise' what concept they had in mind. They would visualise the colours to be used, the fonts and their sizes, etc. They would then take a pencil and paper and scribble a layout. They would do a few variations. Once they were happy with it they would do a final layout. In the past it was done by hand, now by using software. However the new generation skips the visualising bit. It is straight to the computer. Designing by computer. Add a few colours here and there. Then use the Software to give various combinations of colours. Problem deciding on a font? No problem. Write down a few words. Highlight them and scroll the whole list of fonts, watch the sentence change on screen till they get one thats looks good.

After all this exercise, the design looks good on the computer but that does not mean it is going to look good in print. The simple reason is that they are designing on a backlit screen which when translated into print, tells a different story (or sometimes no story at all). Hence you see Ads or Brochures today, where the fine print is not visible because the font is a bit small and, in most cases, the choice of colour of the font is wrong.

I am often asked "shoot first and then we will do the layout" or "shoot the object we will compose later" A) it means the designer/client lacks self confidence. He is not from the old school where you made up your mind and did something, in life or your profession, and lived with the consequences.

When a person is cooking, getting an outfit stitched, designing an interior or erecting a building, it is imperative that the basic recipe or blue print has to be produced and followed. It is mandatory that all parties involved in the final product are happy with the outcome. So everyone follows the procedure. But when it comes to photography... no recipe or blue print. 'Just shoot, we will see later"

Do you build a house and after it is complete or nearing completion, start making massive alterations? Do you get a carpenter to build you a cupboard with 3 shelves and 4 drawers and after it is made, change the size of the drawers and the height of the shelves? Definitely not. So why is it done while designing or with photography. Because there is software to fall back on.

Software can be a curse if used unwisely. A design or an image should be brought to the highest level possible by using conventional methods, i.e without use of software. The software should be used to enhance it. Software is not meant for correcting mistakes or making up for the shortcomings of the designer and photographer.

Software can also be a blessing. When a design has been done using the conventional methods and then produced on the computer for presentation to the client, it helps in that any changes required can be done in a jiffy. The client may ask for changes and this can be done and sent for approval.

When models or products are photographed there is no way that either is going to be perfect. As far as the model/s are concerned there are bound to be flaws on the skin, extra bulges somewhere or hair sticking out awkwardly. This is where the software becomes a blessing if used correctly to improve the look of the model.

When products, interiors, food, etc are photographed there is no way that any of these are going to be perfect. There is bound to be a scratch on the bottle, on a perfect sprig of mint on the food there is a black spot or there is a stain on the paint of the interior. That is where software is a blessing and if used sparingly and wisely can make a world of difference to the shoot.

With today's digital photography we get great images in a jiffy but all of these have to be enhanced digitally. The contrast, density, colour balance and sharpness have to be tweaked (I stress on 'tweaked and not resurrected) to get a fantastic looking image.

The moral here is that whether we are designers or photographers we should first go back to the basics. Use the conventional methods of working to get the best results. In photography the best image possible should be achieved on camera, with proper composition and lighting. Once you have got the best possible output from the camera, then allow the software to help you achieve something even better.