Saturday, March 27, 2010

Presto! Change-o! Where's the photograph?

If you use Adobe Photoshop, this little "sneak peek" at the upcoming CS5 version's Content-Aware Fill Tool will amaze you. Magic may have a number on the stock market now, but it's still magic & it deserves its due.

That doesn't mean we have to applaud it. Or, I should say, we don't have to applaud it without reservations. Everybody loves magic. On the other hand, the magician with the magic top hat not only makes the bunny appear. He also makes the bunny disappear.

Software running on a machine is about to give us the power to make what we don't want in a photo disappear from it as easily as waving a wand. Added to all the other magical transformations digital technology has made possible, how does this new fact change the meaning of a photograph? I don't see how any serious photographer can now avoid grappling with that question?


Chris Bonney said...

Photojournalists will, of course, not want to touch this.

I don't think hyper serious photographic artists will want to turn that much real estate in their images over to a piece of software, either.

Aside from perhaps putting a lot of skilled retouchers out of work, this will certainly be an interesting and valuable tool for those who make images for commercial purposes. That's a category where anything goes already.

Hobbyists will have a good time removing age spots from Aunt Emma's arms.

For the rest of us who dabble somewhere between all these lines, I could see using it a little to handle an intrusion into a photograph that can't be dealt neatly with using existing tools. But since I also presume it uses some kind of standard algorithm for sorting through contextual data, I suspect that those with discerning eyes will learn to recognize when it's being used. It'll become just another PS trick. You'll see a lot of use of it--like we see all these overdone HDR images now--and then it'll fall out of fashion as another trick comes along.

And as always, garbage in will not make what comes out anything more than more garbage.

Tim Connor said...

Chris, Your sensible, cynical take does my heart good. You're right, part of the skill of the pros (there's a few hundred still getting paid, right?) will now be judging a location with an understanding of what can be easily cloned out. Photog to art director: "No problem. We'll lose it in post production."