Can a Photoshopped image match reality?

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What is a SOOC photo? SOOC stands for “Straight Out Of the Camera”. And those who use the term are generally looking for a pat on the back. Their photography is clearly superior because they “got it right” in the camera. No “manipulation”. No post-processing. Just a true representation of the scene in all its glory. When a photographer talks about their SOOC photos, they are often not-very-subtly implying that those who use processing software are cheating and that their photos are fakes. And that’s all well and good for them. I think I’ll stick to my post-processing, thank you very much. 😉

While I enjoy the challenge of “getting it right in the camera”, the fact is that even the most advanced cameras can’t always handle the broad dynamic range of light in nature. With the help of Photoshop, I am often able to create a photo that is much closer to reality than SOOC photos.

Consider the above image. I took this photograph of Lizard Lake in Colorado on a partly cloudy day. There’s no bright glaring sunlight here. The range of light isn’t very extreme. At first glance, the lighting, the colors, and the exposure look pretty well balanced. You might think that under such conditions, the photograph could be easily captured with a point-n-shoot or even a mobile phone camera in automatic mode. And a nice DSLR should be able to handle that range of light easily, right?

Well. No. This is not an SOOC image. In fact, I created this photo by blending three separate exposures using our iHDR workflow to maintain a natural look.

Here are the three bracketed exposures – SOOC using default settings. Notice that none of the individual exposures looks better than the processed image. And none of these SOOC shots represent reality as closely as the manually blended image. It is true that photographers can get pretty artistic with Photoshop and HDR technology – but in many cases, processing software also lets us bring our photographs much closer to reality than those SOOC photos.

There are – of course – LOTS of other good reasons to take the time to process your photos. This is just one of them!

About Author Jay Patel

I could startoff like this – “Seeds of Jay Patel’s appreciation for beautiful places were planted early in his childhood….” but it would get boring really fast. I will just sum it up and say that I am a Landscape and Wilderness Photographer who loves to capture dramatic light. My photographs have been published in various magazines, calendars and advertising materials throughout the world.
Patience is a virtue...unless you are chasing your dreams