I was scrolling through Twitter while I was in California when I stumbled on a piece of news that shocked me. Adobe unveiled a new feature coming to Photoshop: deblurring photos.
The software analyzes the photo to figure out how it’s supposed to look. It then fixes it. If you look at the video in the link above, you can hear the crowd react with shock and awe as they see photo become sharp and in focus.
If you look how photos were taken and processed 10 years ago and compare it to today, it’s like light and day. I was still shooting film and it was still cost prohibitive to own a digital SLR 10 years ago. When I was in college a little more than a decade ago, we shot film and scanned the negatives before using Photoshop.
Now anyone who wants a digital SLR camera can afford one. Many camera companies aren’t even selling film cameras any more. Those cameras have all sorts of auto settings to help you make a beautiful photo. And if you don’t shoot it well, you can fix it in Photoshop.
And with the new advent of removing blur in Photoshop, is there really any way to ruin a photo any more? Have we gotten to the point where every photo will end up perfect?
When I was learning to shoot photos in college, I remember my professor explaining how shooting slide film is the ultimate. You cannot make a mistake shooting on slide film. It is unforgiving. My father later confirmed the same assessment. He preferred to shoot slide film because of its difficult nature (aside: the first SLR I ever used was his camera). I shot on slide film a few times just to prove to myself I could do it. My cherry blossom photos came out well. My Capitol at night photos had more mixed results. You could screw it up, and it was satisfying to do it well.
It’s sort of why I enjoyed the dark room so much. You could screw things up easily there too. Need to dodge more. Need to burn less. Try a third or fourth or even fifth time. But when you got it right after a good 30 minutes, you felt accomplished. And that was for one photo.
Today I cannot think of a similar format that is as unforgiving as slide film. Everything can be shot perfectly, but even if it’s not it can be fixed. It’s just a matter of knowing what does what in Photoshop. I also now can process in Photoshop a whole group of photos in the time it would take me to do one or two in the dark room.
I recently spoke with my father about the advent of the deblurring tool coming to Photoshop and how I thought you can no longer ruin a photo. “Everything can look perfect now.” But he pointed out that even if you can take a perfect photo, you still need an eye. You need to know about things like the best times of day to get the right natural light. You need to know about the rule of thirds. And you need a unique perspective.
But how much can technology replace the artistic perspective of photography? Are we getting to that point?