Adobe Photoshop CS5 officially debuts today, and according to PC World, which tested a beta version of the software, “what sets Photoshop CS5 apart isn’t any one killer app but dozens of refinements that will make users’ lives easier, more efficient, and, potentially, more creative.”
One of those refinements is “content-aware fill.”
“One of the biggest requests we get of Photoshop is to make adding, removing, moving or repairing items faster and more seamless,” Adobe notes in a preview of content-aware fill that it posted at YouTube. “From retouching to completely reimagining an image, here’s an early glimpse of what could happen in the future when you press the delete key.”
In a recent post at her blog Sharpen, Stella Kramer also wondered about what could happen in the future as a result of content-aware fill. And as you can infer from the post’s title, “The End of Any Semblance of Reality,” her forecast isn’t very sunny.
Curious to learn more, I invited Stella to expand on her Sharpen piece by writing a guest column for this blog, and she kindly agreed. I’ve pasted her text below, unedited and unabridged.
(I hope it goes without saying that our guest columns, which I’d like to do more of, do not necessarily reflect the views of Stockland Martel. They do, however, reflect our wish to foster discussion in the photo community.)
Also, here’s Adobe’s YouTube preview of content-aware fill:
GUEST COLUMN: STELLA KRAMER ON PHOTOSHOP CS5
What do you want from a photograph? Do you want to feel an emotion? Marvel at beauty? Be informed about something that has happened in the world? Or maybe it’s all of the above. But when you look at a photograph do you automatically assume that what you see is what the photographer saw? I always do.
I can sometimes see where the photographer enhanced the photograph—after all burning and dodging have always been around, and I’m not naïve to think there isn’t some Photoshopping going on. But I’ve always seen photography as an art, something that requires an eye and an aesthetic and a point of view.
If it takes no effort at all to “fix” a photograph, then why even bother to learn how to compose a compelling image?
Since watching the sneak demo for Photoshop’s new CS5 (where “content-aware fill” was introduced), I’m worried about what effect it will have on photography of all genres. If it takes no effort at all to “fix” a photograph, then why even bother to learn how to compose a compelling image? Why try to develop your own aesthetic if you can just take out all the things you don’t want in the photo in post-production? Why become a craftsperson through your work? If the image isn’t to your liking, just use the content-aware fill tool and all your problems will disappear. If only we could do that in our lives. That would be something!
I’m not trying to revive the “are photographs truth” argument. I’d like to think that when I look at a photograph I am looking at what the photographer saw, not what the photographer constructed using Photoshop tools.
With everyone bemoaning the state of the industry now, why is this a great new development? With a tool like this, truly anyone can make a decent photo. And if that’s the case, why hire a professional? I’ve read excited comments about how easy this will make things for photographers. Is that what this is about? Why should photography be easy? Didn’t things become easy when the transition from film to digital occurred? Now you don’t have to learn how to develop film, or edit contact sheets. Wasn’t that enough?
How can I trust that a photographer knows how to take a great photo when all “problems” can be disappeared to make everything “perfect”? I don’t want a perfect world. That seems idiotic to me. And it also seems strange that anyone would want their lives to be so simplified that they don’t have to learn composition in order to be a photographer.
As for me, I don’t know how anyone is going to be able to trust photography at all anymore. I know I won’t be able to tell that this has been done to a photograph. So what’s going to stop our history from being completely rewritten, with the photos to prove it!
What’s to stop people from removing critical information from photographs, like a person or a weapon? If you can remove things so easily from a photograph, what’s to stop people from re-creating events to suit their own purposes? Do you think the Chinese government wouldn’t want to remove the man who stood in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square?
Maybe I’m kidding myself to think there has every been reality to begin with. But when I saw this demo, all I could think about was what was going to be taken out of the world, what I wasn’t going to see anymore, and how we’ll all be the poorer because of it. —Stella Kramer