The Photoshop Set.

I’ve just watched Melvyn ‘South Bank Show’ Bragg’s new documentary series on Class in Britain.  It shows just how the class boundaries existed (and still do today if you wear an ‘Old School’ tie). One titled fellow even commented on Britain having a class, not colour, based ‘Apartheid.’ In the 20's 30's, 40's, 50's and later (and some might say right up to today) the best magazines of the day catered for the upper classes and the aspiring celebrity ‘Noveaux Riche’ of the emerging film and theatre world, or the upwardly mobile (with disposable income to spend)  middle classes. The working classes could only aspire to the upper class lifestyle, the closest they’d get to it was when Corrie’s Hilda Ogden held her ciggie like Jean Harlow did, perched between her thumb and forefinger.  Whilst that’s not quite strictly true today, you can look at Lord Sugar and the crop of footballers, unfunny comedians, soap stars and the like making empire building amounts of money off the back of precious little talent (my dad had a saying for them – ‘Pinching Money’) and see that although there is still a class divide it’s not as pronounced as it was. Photography is one of those great examples where as long as you’ve got the best equipment it doesn’t matter if you’re from Buckingham Palace or Bermondsey.

Today’s magazines, gadget shows and websites are screaming about having the very latest and best gadgets, from I-pods, I-phones and pads to the most expensive laptops and digital cameras.  And of course, the photography magazines in the main feature only Digital SLR and the current Compact System or 4/3 interchangeable lens cameras . Basic point ‘n’ shoot models simply aren’t covered. For example, back in November one magazine front cover headline was ‘Get outdoors with your Canon DSLR’. It costs as much for the extra lenses as it does for the camera, and good lenses can easily cost over £1000.00. 10 years ago, when I first got into Digital Photography, it wasn’t all dSLR talk in the magazines, as entry level dSLR’s cost over the thousand pound mark and an advanced compact could easily cost £400.00. The bulk of cameras reviewed were from the major manufacturers but were optical zoom lens models with plain 3 X zooms, costing around the £200.00 - £300.00 mark, way beyond my income. I could only manage an unbranded fixed lens model costing less than half that price. DSLR’s were featured, but it was acknowledged they were beyond the average consumer. The magazines aimed primarily at consumers who could afford to spend £300.00 to £500.00 on a camera.

Today that’s changed. Falling prices mean that a basic DSLR setup costs around the same as an advanced compact did 10 years ago. The photography magazines are still catering for consumers who can afford to spend a similar amount on a camera as their target market of a decade ago. This makes the magazines virtually like an exclusive gentleman’s club where it’s not an old school tie that grants you access, but a DSLR or compact system camera with a full kit bag of lenses and accessories, and the image editing software of choice.

And the software of choice is Adobe’s Photoshop. The full CS5 suite commands a price tag of well over £600 due to the fact it’s the ‘Industry Standard’ software for the Graphic Arts and publishing industries, in fact anywhere you see photographs published: On TV, in magazines or books, on the websites of major companies, and on thousands of billboards, posters and flyers, Photoshop has probably been used. It’s undoubtedly the best image editor there is, but it’s industry standing is why it commands such a hefty price tag beyond the pocket of your average user.

From the outset, it was a difficult beast to master, meaning only the most dedicated amateur photographers took the time to use it, as there were many easy to use and cheaper alternatives. The magazines and websites are virtually exclusively Photoshop only. You won’t find any of the magazines giving tutorials for other software packages, with the exception of the ‘Open Source’ (Linux) community having a few tutorials for ‘The Gimp’ a freeware programme that’s as hard, if not harder, to learn as Photoshop. There’s not one but two cut down versions of Photoshop called Photoshop Lightroom (about £180.00) and Photoshop Elements (currently on version 10) that’s relatively easy to use at a basic level, but has many of the useful professional tools as well.  At a price of between £60.00-80.00 it’s not cheap, but can be found for as little as £35.00 if you shop around. And there lies my dilemma.

Photoshop is undoubtedly the best editor available, and the DSLR crowd use it, as do the serious bridge camera users. It may sound stupid, but many DSLR users have all three versions. Elements does about 75% of what the full £675.00 version can, and Lightroom does things differently as well. It’s horses for courses, and elements does some things better or easier, yet for other things Lightroom is best and for others it’s the full CS5 Suite. Most point & shoot users are happy with the software provided by their camera maker, if they use any at all. My stepson didn’t use any any editing software at all until he recently bought it on a half price deal at Amazon, and he’s took one look at it and already thinks it’s too hard. As Point-n-shoot is a beginners website dedicated to helping point & shoot users get more from using their point & shoot camera, and more importantly, as I’m a tightwad (LOL, I’m not really but I like to point users to the best FREE stuff around), I mean as the media establishment is all ‘You’ve got to have a DSLR and Photoshop if you want to be taken seriously’ it’s really an anti-establishment sort of kickback saying don’t buy it.

But, you’ll notice, that I said I have a dilemma.  I love my photography and enjoy editing my images. Windows Live Gallery does what it does easily and extremely well, but is limited as an editor.  Half price elements is, er was, too tempting for me.  I bought it. I didn’t get it from Amazon, but I paid a pound more wholesale for it (including the dreaded Vodka And Tonic). Yes, I’m actually against the Photoshop Set, but I’ve joined it, a bit like Ronald Regan originally joining the left wing Democrats in the 1940’s and becoming the right wing Republican President in the 80’s.

So my dilemma is this: Do I use it in tutorials? Do I stick with Windows Live Gallery and stifle point & shoot users creativity? Do I do every tutorial with it and alienate those who can’t afford to use anything but the free tools in windows? Or do I use Live Gallery for those tutorials you can use it for, and Elements for the easy ones that Live Gallery can’t do? Already, I’ve applied easy edit’s to several images to produce great effects, including a way out castle photo, and (very, very easily may I add) digitally re-spraying a photo of a Classic Vauxhall Viva from 1969 to turn it from blue to gold. And the basic editing is really easy to do as well. I thought the results from Live Gallery were great, but Elements images look even better, and it automatically saves the original image as well. 

I was against using it for the website on principle, but as it’s so easy to use, I thought I’d ask you what you think. Should I use it for tutorials, or would you rather I stuck with Live gallery? Am I a traitor to the point & shoot brigade, or a trailblazer giving them easy to follow tutorials they wouldn’t otherwise be able to do? I’ve already made up my mind as to what I think I should do, but if the opinion of the users of Point-n-Shoot say otherwise, I’ll bow down to user opinion. So let’s see those comments below.




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