Get it right in-camera, or do it in Photoshop?

An important question that’s asked in photographic circles these days is whether it’s best to make your final image as much as possible in-camera, or whether it should be left to the editing stage in Photoshop (PS).  Some people insist that everything should be done at the taking stage, while others insist that PS is an integral part of the creative process, just like a darkroom was.  Let’s look at an example of a landscape image with motion blur added in PS, or with motion blur created when the picture was taken.

“Unblurred image” by Derek Gale

This is the original image, taken with a walkabout compact camera.  I was attracted by the repeating pattern of the trees in the plantation.  It’s quite interesting, but I felt it needed to be more abstract.

“Motion blur added in Photoshop” by Derek Gale

Here I’ve added some vertical motion blur in PS, and it has made the image much more dreamy and impressionistic.  All the fine detail on the tree trunks has gone, making it easier to concentrate on the pattern and the swirling shapes.

“Motion blur in-camera” by Derek Gale

With this image, of another part of the plantation, the motion blur was a result of a long exposure combined with a vertical panning movement.  The same dreamy effect is present, but there is no sharp, unblurred image to compare it to.

As you can see, it’s hard to tell if the blurring has been done at the time the images were taken or added later.  If it’s added later you have complete control, and you can give more or less blur as required.  It does mean however that you don’t have the thrill of seeing a “just right” image on the back of your camera.

It comes down to personal preference.  Me?  I sit on the fence somewhat, and say create the effect in-camera, but I also take a sharp one for creative editing later.  The best of both worlds!

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