The Word: The dying art of photo editing

 Ion Paciu, founder of the Photoion Photography School, explores the pros and cons of instant photo editing, and how editing has changed over the years


Traditional photo editing is something that every photographer needs in their toolkit to use at the final stages of capturing an image. Editing is a tool that should not be heavily relied on by a skilled photographer, it’s something that should be used during the image workflow which is the process of “finishing” your images after uploading your raw files to your computer; making minor tweaks to improve the information captured by the camera. But depending on the industry and type of photography some images only need one minute of editing while others need hours.

Over recent years, the media and the general public have relied heavily on photo editing programmes to achieve the perfect image, and this has also evolved with technology. I think the development of smartphones and photo editing apps is fantastic, as they allow everyone to capture images on the go and, to an extent, edit pictures; however there is no substitute for quality - detailed photo editing and apps will never replace this.

Recent research revealed approximately 68% of adults will not share their images without editing them first, either being a raw or a jpg image. The rest share their images as they come off the camera.

Our survey quizzed Brits on the motives behind the editing of images, and found that the majority (96%) of those who do use editing tools or apps do so before uploading images to social media sites including Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.

The rise in these apps and social media sites is creating a false sense of perfection when it comes to images and a social trend for many. It also shifts the skills of photography from capturing an image to the workflow stages. So is it true that the more we can minimise the editing aspect of photography the more we can capture our photographs for authenticity and honesty?

When working with professional photo editing software you can enhance and finish your images without reducing the quality of them for printing and displaying. In comparison, images edited in apps such as Instagram and Facebook reduce image size and quality which restricts your use to sharing them online and not for printing as the final image result suffers in terms of quality. For example, the colour replacement tool in Photoshop allows you to change the colour while maintaining the highlights and shadows of the original image. Applying a pre-set filter from an app affects the whole range of elements of an image.

As social media is focused on what’s happening now everything becomes instant and images are rushed, people tend not to take the time to edit images properly before they are shared publicly because everyone wants to live-post what’s happening. These images are capturing memories, but after 24 hours are lost on a person’s news feed.

At Photoion we host workshops and sessions with students and tend to highlight the importance that the art of photography is in capturing an image and not just in the workflow stages. I host Photoshop workshops and one to one sessions every month to assist all skill levels on post-production photography. The workshops help students make educated and effective choices about their own images in order to prepare them to be displayed or printed. Many of my students are surprised how little editing is needed on some of their images which have been properly composed at the outset. 

I am very passionate about my work and feel that social media is a huge part of our everyday lives when it comes to sharing images. Social media will continue to develop the way in which we share images, but the downside is that people will not print and store their own images anymore, and quality will be lost due to the rise of these instant editing apps.


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