“Can’t you just Photoshop it?”
This question is like nails on a chalkboard to any graphic designer. At some point in time, people began viewing Photoshop as a digital magic wand that could make all your wildest photo dreams come true.
While Photoshop has tremendous capabilities, there are limitations and things to be mindful of. Hopefully the following diagrams help to increase your understanding of this impressive creative tool.
Figure 1: Pixels and Image Size
In any photographic image, there are a fixed number of pixels. In the diagram above, Square A represents a small web image. Because it is small, it doesn’t contain as many pixels. Square B represents what happens when you try to make the web image larger. The existing pixels are stretched and the overall image looks blurry. Square C represents a high-resolution image with plenty of pixels.
The creative team is often given a small thumbnail portrait and asked to ‘size it up’ or ‘make it hi-res.’ As shown in the diagram, this is not possible.
Figure 2: Removing Items From Images
Many people have the misconception that you can easily remove people and items from images with Photoshop. When an item is removed from an image, a big blank hole is left (1B and 2B). While Photoshop does have the capability to refill this hole, the complexity of the background determines how seamless the end product appears. 1C has a more complex background, therefore, when Photoshop attempts to recreate the missing information, it’s not super accurate. 2C has a very simple, one-color background, resulting in a very seamless fill.
When requesting to have items or people removed from an image, please be mindful of the complexity of the background.
Figure 3: Lighting
Lighting is extremely important to consider when making photo edits. In the diagrams above, Image A shows an image taken outdoors, while Image B represents an indoor shot. Image A has an entirely different tone than Image B. If you wanted to add the person from Image A to Image B, the person would not blend well. They would appear overly bright and washed out. If you’re hoping to remove someone or something from one photo and place it in another, be mindful of the lighting and overall tone of each image.
Figure 4: Physical Traits
Photoshop can do amazing things to ‘fix’ many physical traits. Flip through any fashion magazine and you can clearly see the wide range of capabilities; skin smoothing, blemish and wrinkle erasing, clothing color changes, weight loss, and more. While Photoshop has some impressive artillery, it is important to understand its limits. For example, Image A shows a typical selfie. It is unrealistic to expect a designer to ‘Photoshop’ Image A into a professional headshot (Image B).
Designers are more than happy to fix a few flyaways, erase imperfections, smooth out wrinkles or brighten makeup…but don’t expect to look like Heidi Klum.
A creative team is always willing to help with photo edits; hopefully these diagrams will help you to better understand whether your photo edit request is actually feasible. (Hopefully this blog doesn’t result in a bunch of requests to fix everyone’s flyaways or remove exes from photos)!