Photography vs. Photoshoppy

You may not know this. But right now, all over the internet, there's a war going on. A war between two different types of people; Photographers, and Photoshoppers.

Chances are if you own a digital camera, you know what Photoshop is. Some people use it to correct white balance and colors, other people use it to create surreal portraits that are blatantly unreal. Some people claim that using Photoshop isn't what true photography is about... But is that true? Let's create a scenario:

Let's say that I want to create a composite image of myself. In this composite I want to have me, holding a sword, riding on the back of a unicorn fighting a fire breathing frog. Can't happen in real life, can it? Nope. But it can in Photoshop, lets look at what I need:

  • A photo of myself
  • A photo of a horse
  • A photo of a horn (Narwhal horn maybe?)
  • A photo of a sword
  • A photo of a frog
  • A photo of fire

Did you find the pattern? I need photos. Lots of them. Without them I can't make my composite. So let's assume I have the equipment, and know-how to be a photographer and I go and take all of these photos, I was doing photography right? So why is it that when I take these images into Photoshop and mash them together I'm now a Photoshopper? Can't we all just agree that some photographers use Photoshop to create photographs that can't be captured?

Another argument heard a lot is "I shoot film! All the best photographers I learned about at school shoot film and didn't have Photoshop!"... Ready to have your mind blown? You're wrong. People have been making composites since the 1800's by blending film exposures together and developing them. Even Ansel Adams created his iconic images by using different color tone filters. All Photoshop is, is a digital version of these techniques letting photographers push the bar further than ever before.

So the question I have is this: Does a photographer take a better image than a Photoshopper? More importantly, if the image is enjoyable... Does it matter?

And why has nobody Photoshopped me riding a unicorn fighting a giant fire-breathing frog?!