Photoshop—the program that can turn your cat into a giant beast who terrorizes small French towns or, even worse, your 300 pound cousin Larry into a young Brad Pitt. Of course both of these are extreme examples of people using technology irresponsibly but they happen more often than you think. How far is too far with photo editing and how much photo editing, if any, is acceptable?
I have an aunt who always chops off people’s heads or limbs in photos. A few years ago we thought she had broken this habit when she presented a photo of three of our family members sitting on a bench at some theme park.
“Alyse, you took a picture without chopping anybody’s head or limbs off,” my uncle noted, holding up the picture with pride.
My aunt frowned and snatched the picture back. “You don’t understand, there were actually four people sitting on the bench,” she replied.
Years ago people like my aunt would have to live with their poor photography skills and miss out on some pretty cool moments in family history, however, now they can simply Photoshop their pictures. Instead of standing next to her headless husband at her daughter’s wedding, my aunt could crop his head out of a different photo and smack it on to her new photo in a little under five minutes with Photoshop. But is this ethical?
A picture is a collection of memories. Sometimes the memories are your aunt’s horrible photo skills rather than the memory itself, but still, it’s a memory. Photoshop is not there to alter bad days like the time it rained the entire time you were at the beach, but rather to enhance those photos with better quality. It may have been a rainy day at the beach but with Photoshop, it could have been a perfectly color balanced photo of a horrible day.
Young professionals in many industries could benefit from basic Photoshop knowledge. Many companies, especially newspapers, are into consolidation. Why hire three people to do one job each when you could hire one person to do three different jobs? Any type of technological knowledge makes your value as a hire or an employee, go up.
With that being said, having knowledge of how to use Photoshop does not give you permission to put cat ears and a cat tail on your boss but it does give you permission to use this knowledge to make small edits to your own work in order to make your pictures look more professional. I recommend sticking to manipulating colors and removing small blemishes from subjects’ faces to enhance pictures but not to distort.