in defense of photoshop (or the pursuit of truth)

Yesterday, as I was on a long, morning hike, I found this little black and white feather in my path.  I'd never seen one like it before, so I picked it up, and brought it home with me.  After a cool shower (becauseohmygoshHoustonsummers), I grabbed my camera, and went into my entryway and took the shot above.

Save for a little bit of sharpening, the image above is directly out of the camera.  The one below, however, has been full-on Photoshopped.

Totally different, right?  But you know what's odd about this second image?  

If you came to my front door right now, you'd see that the paint colour on my entryway walls is actually the colour of this second photograph, not the first.  In the top image, where the white balance was set to auto on the camera, the camera read the light falsely, making the wall look charcoal grey.

As I mentioned on Facebook when I shared these two images yesterday, I use Photoshop with a pretty light touch: it generally takes me only a minute or so to Photoshop any image I take.  Also, I have a general rule that I don't "delete pixels":  I don't smooth wrinkles on faces, I don't make people look leaner than they really are, I don't remove errant light poles or annoying ex-boyfriends. I do colour-correct, I bump contrast, I might add warmth.  But really, that's about it.  And while there are people who use Photoshop in wildly creative ways (Brooke Shaden is a wonderful example of someone who uses Photoshop as art, creating odd and fantastical imagery), I think sometimes people forget that Photoshop can, paradoxically, also help a photographer tell the truth.  And the truth is that the bottom image -- the image with the blue wall -- is actually what I saw through my viewfinder of my camera when I framed the shot. The top one doesn't express my reality.

But you know what else is true?

I actually hesitated about which photograph to make public.  I mean, the second one is definitely what my house looks like, but I sort of liked the first photo better.  I remember thinking, "well, it is straight out of the camera," and telling myself that it's art, it doesn't really matter if it's accurate or not.

Ultimately I decided to share them both (although I did only share the blue-walled version on Instagram).  And I do believe that art doesn't have to be documentary or even realistic -- there wouldn't have been anything wrong with my sharing only the first image.  But I love, nonetheless, that the image made me stop and consider which was my truth.  

(I could probably do that more often in my day-to-day life, as well.)


Soundtrack:  Truth comes shining through, by Ananda Project