Photoshop or Make Up?

Possibly in an effort to woo the fickle public interest, a previously little known Liberal Democrat front bench MP Jo Swinson has called for an end to airbrushing pictures used in magazines and on advertisements (etc.). From the BBC News:

Airbrushing should be banned in advertisements aimed at children to tackle “body image pressure”, say the Liberal Democrats.

Altering photos to make them look better means children are subjected to “completely unattainable images”, said front-bencher Jo Swinson.

Ms Swinson was even on BBC breakfast news today putting forward her points about the evils of Photoshop and Portrait Professional. This was supplemented by a short video showing the amazing changes that can be implemented in the hands of a skilled professional. Ironically she was supported by a professional make up artist who basically agreed that there is too much airbrushing going on in the media.

I say ironically, because this was a make up artist. He speciality is to turn plain, dowdy looking people into something “unattainable” for photographs and the TV. The irony was compounded by Ms Swinson, the make up artist and the BBC news presenters all being plastered with make up for television. Even in HD you couldn’t see blocked pores, blemishes or even sweat (and they are under some intense lighting). Obviously the make up artist has an issue with Photoshop stealing her work, but that is not good grounds for an unenforceable law.

There is little doubt that the media portrays unrealistic body images but this is nothing new, and it is certainly not because it is “easy” to Photoshop (it isnt). The whole culture of celebrity we seem to have built in the west is based upon the said celebs appearing “perfect” at all times. The appearance of perfection on a red carpet is not achieved by airbrushing, it is through expensive and skilled make up along with the wonders of well tailored clothing, and where necessary plastic surgery. Unless we force all celebs to carry a placard saying “I am wearing make up, underwent plastic surgery and had this outfit specially tailored to hide my flaws” we wont achieve anything. (Note: Ms Swinson, if you are reading, I actually think this would be a good idea …)

The truth of the matter is that the airbrush is last stage in a long process which turns the “normal” looking person (such as you see in the “caught” pages of trashy magazines) into a celebrity. If pictures are forced to label edits (although proving it may be hard), then all that will happen is an upsurge in make up, plastic surgery and other cosmetic trickery. It will not be the catalyst which turns a celeb-beauty obsessed nation into one which glories in the normal appearance.  It may mean some celebrities lose their status for a while, but soon they will recover from the plastic surgery and be back on the front pages. Is this really what Ms Swinson wants? More surgery? More cosmetic use?

The final irony is a more personal one. Ms Swinson states “The focus on women’s appearance has got out of hand” and I couldnt agree more. Despite this, some people think that our obsession with womens appearance in public is an example of how much freedom they have and that any ideas they have of not dressing to reveal as much as possible is simple oppression…

Gorgeous Photo Effect



,
originally uploaded by Vicky ta.

I love this effect on photographs. From what I can see it is cross processing mixed with a heavy vignette. If any one has a better insight into this technique, please let me know.

Pinhole Tutorial

Aside

For people interested in recreating the sometimes stunning effects of pinhole cameras, there is a tutorial on the Ogum blog looking at how this can be done in photoshop.

Boer War Effect

One of my favourite recent photos (has to be recent as my favourites change daily) is this one; taken at the Festival of History and then given an antique look in photoshop.

Boer War Photograph

It was, in all, a great weekend and I would strongly recommend any one in the UK around this time next year go along – even if you aren’t (yet) a history buff you’ll enjoy it.

Faking everything

Photoshop is so much of a celeb product this week that it may now only appear in public in an airbrushed slimline version of its own packaging.

The big Photoshop story was the picture of an Iranian missile firing that had been digitally enhanced to look like more of an explosive occasion. The BBC editors blog had to admit to having failed to spot the fakery.

The great Photoshop Disasterssite got lots of submissions of this image:

Not only do Iran’s missile pictures reveal a shocking gap in that nation’s ability to use the clone tool, our patented Extra-Contrast-O-Vision shows how clumsy they are at comping (from Photoshop Disasters)

Aleisha Dixon made a BBC3 programme about how all magazine pictures are Photoshopped to within an inch of their lives. (No, I don’t know who she is, either, sorry.) The objective was to get a picture of her on the cover of a magazine without enhancement. The idea behind the programme was to show the credulous public that these images of perfection aren’t real and, especially, to convince young girls that they aren’t hideous if they are just human.

However, this was a bit of an unfair test. She is (a) extremely good-looking and (b) was wearing about 5 kilos of makeup when they finally persuaded a magazine to agree to shoot au naturel. So, she was basically already greatly advantaged as well as airbrushed at source. But still, respect for trying.

I hope it was TV fakery when she told school girls that every magazine photo is retouched and they all acted astonished. I’d sort of assumed that everybody already knew that anything that can be retouched will be retouched.

Partly, it’s obvious because the digitally-enhanced world is often so much uglier than the real world. My favourite misuse of Photoshop is this picture of Clive Owen, advertising an anti-ageing cream for men. We don’t normally see this sort of Xtreem- Airbrushing done to men. In the effort to improve him, it manages to make an averagely good-looking man look even more alien than most of the women’s images that we see every day. Clive Owen on photoshop disasters (Pinched from Photoshop disasters)

Obviously, it doesn’t have the same global significance as Photoshopped missile tests.

But, I’m sticking with the comedy Photoshop angle on the missile portrait, because I don’t want to have to think about:

  • What these images mean in terms of a potential war against Iran
  • Whether they are even genuine Iranian productions
  • Why the Iranians would feel obliged to airbrush their missile-testing programme, when you’d think that down-playing any such activity might be the safer course
  • If there is any chance of avoiding another insane and suicidal/homicidal war about oil and Israel

Time to lighten the mood

I will applogise for the last few posts here being a bit morose and screaming about the doom and gloom of our crazy world. To try and make things better (and to shamelessly get more hits on my flickr stream 🙂 ) I want you to have a look at these four castle pictures and let me know which one you think is the best – comments on flickr would be preferred but here will do 🙂

Chirk Castle Tower Scrabo Tower Killyleagh Castle Clouds over Hillsborough Fort

Thanks for your patience and the normal miserable service will resume tomorrow.

Scrabo Tower – Pinhole Effect

Scrabo Tower - Pinhole Effect

Scrabo Tower – Pinhole Effect,
originally uploaded by etrusia_uk.

This blog has been a bit text-heavy of late. Heather has posted some excellent, thought provoking articles (example, example and example) and I have been slack – spending most of my time working or travelling.

In an effort to try and lighten up the blog, I am going to (irregularly) post images here – hopefully to get some feedback and constructive criticism, but if not it will cheer me up 🙂

My first choice is “Scrabo Tower” from just outside Newtownards, Northern Ireland. This is an odd little tower and I am not really sure about its history, however it is picturesque and the views around it are amazing. As this is a fake-pinhole (a picture edited to look like it was taken on an old-fashioned pinhole camera), it doesn’t really add much in the way of “colour” to the blog – but it looks nice! 🙂

[tags]Pictures, Flickr, Pinhole, Photography, WhyDontYou, Photoshop, Scrabo Tower, Digital Photography, Photo Editing, Black and White, Photos[/tags]

SAN BORJA – HDR on Flickr

SAN BORJA

SAN BORJA,
originally uploaded by werdugo.

This is a fantastic example of the good quality pictures HDR processing can produce – sadly, it is not a picture I took!

It captures a wide range of colours and light, making the picture stand out against the normal “digital” photography people have become used to.

The best bit is this picture does this without creating the strange, otherworldly impression that some HDR pictures have. While I am actually a fan of the hyper-real tone mapping effects on HDR pictures, they can be overused. For me, when a photo has lots of vegetation the HDR looks better if it is more natural.

If you have a flickr account, drop by this guy and tell him what you think of his pictures.

[tags]Flickr, HDR, Photos, Pictures, Photographs, Photography, High Dynamic Range, Photoshop, Photomatix, Picture Editing, Digital Photography, Photo Editing[/tags]

Pinhole Camera Photography

chijmes01.jpg

chijmes01.jpg,
originally uploaded by Jeff @ 8Banner Cams.

My recent visits to flickr have uncovered another new (to me anyway) source of some fantastic photography.

This time is in the “Pinhole Photography” section and by the looks of things this is legitimately pinhole – rather than the poor by comparison ones I tried with the help of photoshop.

This photo was taken with a large format (4×5″) camera and a six second exposure. The quality and effect of the photo are amazing. One of the main advantages of pinhole cameras is the massive depth of field, and here it is shown to great effect.

One day, if I win the lottery for example, I may be tempted into actually buying a pinhole camera but until then, I think I will have to make do with photoshop. Either way, if I could produce pictures like this I would be proud.

[tags]Photoshop, Pictures, Flickr, Pinhole, Pinhole Cameras, Cameras, Photos, Photography, Digital Cameras, Photo editing, Pinhole Photography, Singapore[/tags]

lewes street

lewes street

lewes street,
originally uploaded by djsosumi.

Again, continuing my wander through Flickr, I came across a thread which was discussing “your most popular HDR image.”

In this discussion people were posting HDR images which flickr had rated as their most “interesting” – this is something Flickr works out by how many page views a picture gets, how many comments and how many times it is tagged as a favourite by some one.

Oddly, some of the pictures are pretty tame – especially when compared to some of the fantastic HDR ones. This picture (oddly the first one in the thread) is probably the one “I” think is the best HDR picture but some of the others are amazing as well.

It seems that with HDR some subjects are more suited than others – brightly coloured cars produce some amazing effects as do boats and Gothic architecture, but fruit (apples) seems to end up pretty pedestrian. Oddly, I am not sold on the HDR elephants either, but I like pictures of elephants in general.

Anyway, now it is time to work on my HDRs and see what I can produce.

New Photo Collection

I have been editing some more photographs to within an inch of their lives recently and trying out a few new effects. The wonders of things you can do with Photoshop may never amaze me and, as I have said in the past, you would be mad to think the camera never lies…

[piflasa]http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/data/feed/base/user/tas.spaceholder/albumid/5095261742046817249?kind=photo&alt=rss&hl=en_US|400[/piflasa]

I will upload more to this collection as I get the chance.

Is this fine art?

Short one – I am curious about the concept of “fine art” and how it relates to photography.

Now as “disclosure” I am as artistic as a box of elephants and can barely comprehend what “art” is, let alone what would count as “fine art.” However, looking around a bit, it strikes me that any old tosh, turned black and white with the contrast upped a bit seems to count.

In that vein, can I ask for some feedback regarding these two pictures. Do they count as fine art?

Fine Art or not? Picture one.Fine Art or not? Picture two.

All comments welcomed!

EDIT: I should update this to clarify, I am not asking if you think the pictures are “good” or not, I am trying to work out what “fine art” means. I still haven’t managed this…

HDR Photographs

Still in a holiday mood, I have been playing with Photomatix trying to convert “normal” pictures into high dynamic range pictures (HDR – read more here and here). At the moment, I am certainly not even up to the beginner standard but I have learned a few things in the last couple of hours. Simply put, HDR is taking multiple pictures of the same scene at different exposures, then combining these exposures to make a single image.

For simple HDR type images, the most common methods (on windows, Linux users get a different set of joy and I have no idea about Macs) are to use Photoshop or Photomatix. In newer versions of Photoshop you have the option to either play with layers and blend your images (can get fantastic results but can also be very hit and miss) or use the Merge to HDR option (File -> Automate -> Merge to HDR in CS3). Sadly, personally, I have never had much success with the automatic option but you might manage it.

Alternatively there is a bit of software called Photomatix (Pro costs $99, Basic is Free) which does a similar job but includes “Tone Mapping.” Peter Hasitschka’s page gives more details (along with some fantastic images) so I wont go into detail here. Needless to say, the tone mapping can give you some amazing results, although I have only been playing with this for the last 30 minutes or so. So far it is worth every penny. Continue reading

Frosty Stonehenge

Thanks to a generous employer, I am now the proud owner of Adobe Creative Studio CS 3. If I am honest, the photoshop bit is not a massive improvement over the previous two CS versions so if you have Photoshop CS or CS2 I dont think it is worth paying for the upgrade. That said, it does have some “workflow” improvements and, as a result, I was able to churn this image of Stonehenge in the winter out in a few minutes.

Frosty Stonehenge - Image retouched in Photoshop CS3

Personally, I like it. The source image was quite poor and badly exposed. This is a lot, lot better 🙂 (But then I am biased!).

[tags]Photos, Pictures, Photoshop, Stonehenge, Wiltshire, Landscapes, Digital Photography, Photo Editing, Photo Effects, Photo Software, Raves, Technology[/tags]

Pictures and Prints

It has been a while since I posted some photos here for you to, err, enjoy so it is about time the blog got livened up a little. I am planning to run off quite a few photos into real world prints using Snapfish (which is, by the way, excellent), but some of the source photos felt like they could do with the Photoshop Goodness.

I am aware of how often I say this, but it never ceases to amaze me that ten minutes spent in Photoshop can turn average pictures into wonderful creations. Now, I am not arrogant enough to say these examples are wonderful (although I think they are…) but they are certainly more eye catching than the originals.

As with most of my pictures they are taken from either National Trust or English Heritage sites. These have been resized in Advance Batch Converter, which sadly reduces the quality a little. On the off chance you would like a larger original (up to around 2760x1840px) then let me know – they are free 🙂 . As you can see, I have a tendency to get enamoured with “Lomo-Style” effects – mainly on the pictures of Stonehenge and Lulworth Cove.

castle ward - path photo Lanercost Priory Lulworth Cove Stonehenge - Lomo version

Although some people may feel that “retouching” the photo after it has been taken is cheating, I disagree, it is all part of the digital imaging process (IMHO of course). Seriously, although I have neither shares in Adobe, nor do I get advertising kickbacks from them, I honestly think anyone who has a digital camera really should get some form of image processing software and learn to use it. The great thing about photoshop is that even after two years, I am still finding new (and sometimes interesting) things you can do to spruce up a picture.

[tags]Pictures, photos, landscapes, Dorset, Lulworth Cove, Stonehenge, English Heritage, National Trust, Photographs, Photoshop, Photography, Photo Software, Photo Editing, Digital Camera, Digital Photography, Lomo, Photo Effects, Lomography[/tags]