Which do you prefer, Realistic or Artistic?

Type 4: Artistic Editing (Use Camera Raw Adjustment Brushes)
A Type 4 photographer has an artistic eye and uses adjustment brushes to paint with color and light to enhance his image and transform it into a photo painting. In this case, I opened the original jpeg in Adobe Bridge, then hit Cmd R to open it in Camera Raw. First I made some quick, basic edits to add saturation, clarity, exposure and blacks, but I kept it quite dark. Then I used adjustment brushes (amazing new Camera Raw tool in CS4 and above) to paint some light and saturation on the sky and dandelions. The really amazing part is you don’t need raw images to enjoy Camera Raw editing. If you have Adobe Photoshop and Bridge CS4 and above you can do non-destructive editing on jpegs and it will store the original image and all edits inside the jpeg file. No more saving multiple files, and no more annoying, huge camera raw files!

Type 3: Realistic Editing (Add Adjustment Layers)
The Type 3 photographer has some advanced image editing skills. The colors are enhanced and the exposure is corrected. The sky and house both have realistic lighting details. These areas must be edited in different ways to restore a realistic image, because the camera does not often capture the correct exposure for all parts of an image. Instead it meters where it is pointed and the rest of them image may be under or overexposed. In this example, I could have easily used adjustment brushes in Camera Raw (though it does take a bit more practice), but this time, I added three adjustment layers to increase the saturation, change exposure levels, and correct the color balance. I masked out part of the effect on the house and foreground, because the sky needed more of the color restored.

Type 2: Beginner Editing (Add Brightness, Levels, Saturation)
A Type 2 photographer wants to improve his image, but as a beginner he adds brightness to a shot like this in Photoshop and it blows out the sky. He should take his editing to the next level and learn to use Photoshop adjustment layers, (or adjustment brushes in Camera Raw) to edit selective portions of an image, each in a different way. If realism is the goal, then a photographer wants the subject and the sky to both look the same as his eyes saw the scene. If artistry is the desired outcome, then a photographer can become an artist and paint with light and color, just as a painter who enhances a scene. Which do you prefer, Realistic or Artistic?

Type 1: No Editing – Toss this image out? No way!
Even with a nice digital SLR, many photographers capture this type of flat, dark image when the lighting is not ideal. Without image editing skills, they may toss out a shot like this. However, with Photoshop adjustment layers and/or Camera Raw, an image like this can become quite a beauty. Why not be both: A great photographer and skilled image editor? Sometimes it is not possible to retake a shot like this. We were traveling on the Maine coast after my daughter’s graduation in Boston, and we found this beautiful, old abandoned mansion, called the Nickels Inn. I may not get back to the Maine coast again for years, so I wanted to resurrect this photo, and Photoshop and Camera Raw allowed me to do just that. Of course, I love the thrill of getting a perfect shot, right out of the camera, but lighting and timing conditions are not often ideal. But let’s be real. The majority of our photos, need a little help to look either realistic or artistic. So why not “paint your photo” and create a masterpiece?