They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, some photos are so astounding that a thousand questions bubble to the surface of our thoughts the moment we see them. In the 21st century, one of the first questions usually is: “Was this photoshopped?”
Whether you think that Photoshop should never be used to edit pictures ever or you believe that it’s an inseparable part of a photographer’s existence in the digital age, the fact is, more and more pictures are being post-processed than ever before. Simply because of how easily accessible cameras and editing software is nowadays. However, once in a blue moon some very intriguing photos pop out from the woodwork. Photos that look photoshopped, but that aren’t.
We love collecting stunning eye-candy for you to gaze at all day long. And today’s no exception. We’ve gathered the finest examples of fascinating pictures that definitely weren’t photoshopped. Grab a cup of tea, coffee, or cocoa, get your scrolling finger ready, and enjoy what our team of hard-working Pandas prepared for you. Upvote your favorite photos, share this post with your buddies, and let us know in the comments what you think of each picture. And check out our previous posts about incredible photos that weren't photoshopped right here and here.
Scroll down for Bored Panda’s exclusive and in-depth interview with professional photographer Anna Chii about the ‘morality’ of editing pictures, her take on ‘all-natural’ photos, her philosophy of photography, what clients usually expect, as well as the importance of trust between a photographer and their clients.
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Whether it’s a house almost completely blending into the sky, a dog covered with Holi powder that looks like it’s on fire, or a highway that seems to extend into the heavens, some pictures are able to addle, befuddle, and confuse our senses without needing even a byte of editing software.
Anna Chii talked to Bored Panda about photography, photo-editing, as well as what she thinks of ‘all-natural’ pictures. Bored Panda started off by asking Anna, who has worked with portraits for many years now, to go into detail about how much she and other photographers use editing software to alter pictures.
“Often when people hear the word “Photoshop,” they imagine Instagram girls which make their faces unrecognizable by “photoshopping” them and think that Photoshop is used just for that. Actually, people mistake it with other apps like “Facetune.” Photoshop is a software package for working with digital imagery and is used not only for photography but also for design, video editing, photo manipulations and more,” Anna gave a run down of the basics.
She then continued: “When we talk about photography, there is no single proven way of using this software when it comes to editing pictures. Every single photographer or retoucher has his or her own style, way of editing, or set of skills used for making the final image. That’s why photoshopped pictures can look wildly differently: from waxy or plastic faces to an absolutely natural look. From drastic changes in face or body features to just color corrections. From creating a fantasy world around your subject to simply removing unwanted objects from the background.”
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“From personal experience, after many years of learning and experimenting, shooting takes the least amount of time in comparison to the other parts of the process — planning and retouching,” Anna revealed. “I mostly take portraits. Usually, my clients are not professional models with heavy makeup, which covers all of their imperfections and barely requires any retouching. My models are people who want to have lovely pictures of themselves, who want to portray their lives and experience fun time while freezing those moments – without pressure or fear of being imperfect.”
According to Anna, she retouches her pictures every single time. “I do believe that my clients need to get the best result they can get. And making a regular picture great requires not only taking pictures correctly from a technical point of view, but also adding some magic to each and every one of them.”
“And it’s not about changing features, or making people look perfect and not representative of the way they look in real life,” she went on. “It’s about the small details, which make the photo stand out without making it look unrealistic. It’s about colors and lighting. About mood. Every person that I shoot has their own story and a unique aura. I want to make my pictures reflect the feeling I get when being with the person and share it throughout the final image. And it can take from half an hour to a couple of hours per image. Depends on the emotion I want to portray in the final picture.”
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Anna the photographer also talked to Bored Panda about how ‘all-natural’ pictures can compete with heavily photoshopped images. “We need to define what kind of photography we are talking about and what are “heavily photoshopped” pictures. If we are talking about portraits, I do believe that If you have a great team (assistant, makeup artist, hairdresser, stylist), you have a beautiful location with the lighting set up correctly, you have a model with clear skin and everything is under your control, then you can take really good pictures and editing could be almost unnecessary.”
“But usually, you don’t have all the people and props which could help to create a great image. When you work alone, sometimes mistakes slip past the cracks as you need to cover many areas during the photo shoot,” she noted that everyone makes mistakes and that no photographer is perfect.
“For me, Photoshop is not about changing the person in the picture, but about enhancing the quality of the picture. Correcting shadows and lighting, enhancing colors, correcting small details like wrinkles on clothes or makeup makes a huge difference. It can be done with the help of professionals — makeup artists, assistants, stylists. Before and during the shoot they will correct makeup, clothes, hair, hold a reflector for better light. And it can also be done during post-production in Photoshop. Almost the same result, simply a different way of achieving it. Producing a quality photograph requires time and effort. So Photoshop is not an easy way to get beautiful pictures with just a few clicks of a mouse.”
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What’s more, Bored Panda was interested to hear what Anna thinks of photography purists who detest any use of editing software and want everything to be ‘natural.’ According to her, a lot depends on an individual’s perspective and how they perceive the purpose of a specific picture.
“The purpose of a picture can be very different. Photos are like a form of art, images for advertising, family pictures, nature, product posters and many other genres. All of them serve a different purpose. The viewer should also have critical thinking while looking at the images and understand the nuance and the nature of the photos in question.”
“People have different beliefs on every subject possible. Some think girls with makeup are unnatural, some think it makes them prettier and more feminine. Same goes for photography. I think it’s a really lovely thing to have something you do like as well as something you don’t like about the final images.”
The photographer continued: “If you like pictures without Photoshop and want to have a photo shoot for yourself — that’s great. Find a photographer that takes “natural pictures” and hire her/him. And yet, I don’t believe that, if they are professionals, they will give you a photo without any (at least slight) retouching. Maybe the picture will look natural, but will it really be, is a different question (unless all a photographer cares about is to get the money and get rid of the client as fast as possible).”
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“As time passes in your photography journey, you want to take better pictures and improve the quality of your work. And for that you need to learn new techniques. And get new skills. Including Photoshop. I think, if a photographer has good Photoshop skills, it’s only a plus,” Anna said without any reservations.
“But you can’t produce good photographs if you can’t take good photographs. Photoshop won’t help you create a good picture out of a terrible shot. If you don’t know how to use Photoshop, probably it will end up being the opposite. You can make a picture even worse than it was before. But if the photograph itself is good, then Photoshop can enhance it and make it a little bit better in a different way — depends on the goal.”
“I believe that the best way to get natural, unretouched picture is to shoot on good old film. Film cameras take lovely pictures. And it’s so fun to make. I would say, film cameras have a certain magic about them,” Anna exclaimed that sometimes old cameras are the best. “After all, it’s all about your preferences. There is no good or bad photography. There are just the photos which you like and the ones you don’t. Remember, you are the one who chooses the photographer for your own photo shoot. So talk with a potential photographer, look at his/her work and decide if the style, mood, colors, outcome, attitude are the ones you would like to see in your pictures. And trust. Trust and believe in your photographer.”
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The Wall Street Journal writes that social media and editing tools have altered the landscape of photojournalism. Sometimes, people are accused of digital manipulation even if the picture is genuine and unaltered. For example, when Tamina-Florentine Zuch won an international contest with a picture of a woman in the open door of a Mumbai train, some online critics accused her of having composited the image and doctoring the photos.
The use of Photoshop and other digital editing programs has been compared, by some, to doping in sports competitions. Some recent photography contests have been tarred by accusations of cheating and using digital tools to enhance photos in order to snag top prizes. It’s a good thing that not all accusations are true and that there are plenty of pictures that look so amazing that people think they’re photoshopped.