Ten Things Photoshop Can’t Fix

From the time to time you may hear the phrase I can Photoshop that. This is a term that for means lazy. Photoshop is a tool but so is a camera and sometimes getting something right the first time in camera can save you time in post-production. There are something’s you cannot fix in Photoshop.

  1. Where you stand
    When you take a picture you must choose the viewpoint of your subject. This means that at times that view point is not where you are but you can take the picture from here anyway. As the saying goes god gave you legs use them. If you are too far away move closer if you are to close move back, low and high the same. Sometimes it is not enough to zoom in or out but move. In moving you will also see your subject from a new perspective. Of course in Photoshop you can make giga images, stitched together to fit in the view but would it take less time just to take ten paces back. You can also crop the image in effect magnifying the image (in a similar way a digital zoom works), in doing this though it will reduce the quality o the image.
  2. Lens
    Similar to where you stand is your choice of lens. Lenses are an important part of a camera that many people overlook. Their distortions can drastically change a picture; a wide angle lens stretches images and zoom lenses compact the scene. Photoshop has the lens correction tool but the tool fixes the distortions in a lens but will not make the wide angle shot have the look of a telephoto and the other way round.

    Although this image has been corrected you can still see the distortion in the background.

  3. Lighting

    Bad Lighting Courtesy of Adam Young

    Light is the most important part of photography, since if there is no light there is no image. Unfortunately I am not the X-Man Storm (or should I say X-Woman) and cannot control the weather and lighting. In studio conditions you can and this is the only exception. The rest of the time you need to make the light work for you. You may go out to capture a certain image but the sun is not where you want it or the clouds are making it too defuse and you don’t have the long shadows you were wanting. If it is midday the sun will be high and you won’t have the strong tones of sunset. You can’t change this in Photoshop realistically. Sometimes when planning a photo walk I will look at the places where I want to photograph using Google maps and work out where the sun will be to start planning my shots so I know what to expect.

  4. Focus

    Out of focus Leaves Photo by Monic LaRochelle

    It is important to focus you camera on your subject, you cannot fix out of focus images ( I know I have tried), you can apply some sharpening to soft focused areas but anything more will become a pixelated mess. You can blur a sharp image but it will not look the same as an image taken with a large aperture. Chimp mode on your camera can be beneficial to make sure an image is in focus by zooming into the part of the image you were focusing on and check.

  5. Blurred images
    If and image is blurred then you are in the same place as an image being out of focus. There are several ways to reduce blurring or camera shake:
    One try not to shoot longer than the focal length of the camera hand held. This is a rule of thumb, if you are using a 300mm lens you will get blur/camera shake when the photo is taken slower than 1/300th of a second.
    You could also use a tripod or gorilla grip.
    If you are taking a long exposure (I mean longer than 1/60th of a second) use the mirror lock function (if your camera has one) to stop the movement of the mirror moving the camera.

    Blurred image, still nice would be better if was not blurred.

  6. Exposure
    If you take a picture at the wrong exposure you cannot correct it.
    “Oh yes we can, in ACR when we shoot raw!”
    “Well no you can’t.”If you compare bracketed shots to those that have had their exposure pushed or pulled in Adobe Camera Raw you will see the difference. Exposure adjustments allow you to brighten and darken the overall image. Yes it can save your bacon if you were slightly out but if you underexpose by 3 stops you will not get the same image as if you took the picture with the correct exposure.

    Underexposed Image

  7. Clipping
    This kind of goes with exposure but I will give clipping its own point.
    Clipping is when you cut information from the highlights and shadows. Clipping is occurs when an image is under or over exposed. As stated earlier you can try to brighten an image in Photoshop but the information lost through it being clipped is gone forever.

    Examples of clipping in over and underexposed images.

  8. Beauty
    My friend Erica pointed this out to me the other day. She is a picture editor and said “Photoshop can fix a lot of things but not ugly people.”
    Yes beauty is in the eye of the beholder and one persons view of beauty is not the same as another’s, but if a kid has jam all over their face or a strange facial feature, this cannot always be removed. Sometimes it is good to find subjects good side or wipe clean the child’s face.

    My view of beauty and ugly is may not be the same as others, so I thought it was better to post Ecards

  9. Imagination
    We all take those shots that are unimaginative, we have just taken the picture for it to be done and not thought about it. Yet when you are asked “Do you have a picture of the Unicorn we saw?” You will be trying your hardest to make that image amazing even though it is unimaginative. Photography is a creative process; if you are being uncreative then your images will suffer too. I have a lot of them in my folders mainly of events I have photographed and was having an off day. Photoshop can’t fix that.

    No Insperation

    My most recent image that was lacking inspiration.

  10. Not taking a Picture
    This seems odd but unless you take a picture you can’t edit it. It can be hard to be creative and have the imagination some days and we get lazy. When we are taking time to compose a shot, choosing your settings carefully and focusing on what is the most important, move around and find the sweet spot. When all is done and you’re moving on, activate chimp mode.

Did I miss anything? Is there something else that you can’t do in Photoshop?

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14 thoughts on “Ten Things Photoshop Can’t Fix

  1. Nice post. One factor I’ve dealt with recently because of the high humidity and rain we’ve been having is a fogged up lens, or one that is wet. That can ruin a picture, and there is nothing you can do about it. There is also a point at which droplets on the lens become too numerous to bother fixing. It’s a big job. But overall wetness or fog will blur everything in the photo. Not good unless you like that effect.

    • Fogging on the lens due to humidity and rain on the lens are big things that you really can’t Photoshop.

      I do get fogging when I am shooting in the winter, here in Poland, because holding the lens you can warm it up. What i normally do is take the lens cap off and wait for the vapour on the lens to clear as it adjusts to the change in temperature.
      Rain on the lens is really annoying because you either are constantly cleaning your lens and then not shooting.

      Weather and Lens problems cant be photoshopped.

      Thanks for commenting hope you can pop by again.

  2. Great post, for the technical points as well as the creative ones. And the last one made me smile, but of course it’s dead-on! You might add one about resolution–if your camera is pre-set for lo res jpegs, or if you make the shot of a lifetime with your smartphone, you’ll never get a satisfactory large print from it.

    • Your right you can’t fix resolution if you take a low resolution images, although sometimes if needs must you can upsample but it is not the answer, the answer is to shoot on the highest resolution setting possible.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Jann

  3. Great post and examples. I agree with your points (how is it possible to disagree?), but the example picture in “Clipping” is not showing…
    Just like you, I’ve also tried to fix focus and exposure in the post-processing (and clipping too), but if the info is lost or out of focus, the best thing to do is to delete the picture and learn from your mistakes.

      • I agree. The only photos that you can say photoshop create, is when you’re working with composite images, but even then you’ll need a solid foundation to build on and that solid foundation should be correctly exposed and focused shots.
        If you start off creating a composite with shots that are poor, it’s very likely that you’ll end up with a poor result as well.

  4. So many interesting articles – I’m so delighted to have discovered your blog! This one really gives food for thought and I’m sure that an entire post could be written about each one of the points here (hint, hint). My only thought is that the ‘beauty’ point could be changed to ‘distracting imperfection’ – sometimes jam all over a kid’s face is exactly what you want, especially if it is everywhere; on the other hand, if it is just a small distracting blob you probably would want to remove it ahead of time.

    • I am really glad that you are enjoying my blog. Beauty is always in the eye of the be holder and I could write a lot about it subject but I have a feeling I may start ranting. Photoshop is good for corrections but ti is best to get everything right in the camera first as mush as possible.
      Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog and comment.

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