Filters and Textures


Today’s Question: How do you feel about photographers who use Photoshop filters or textures heavily on their photos?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While I don’t personally tend to apply a lot of filters, textures, or other creative effects that take a photo beyond the typical appearance of a photo, when these effects are done well they can produce very nice artistic images.

More Detail: I think it can be important to distinguish between a somewhat “normal” interpretation of a photograph and an artistic interpretation that happens to have been created in part from a photographic image. Neither of these is inherently better than the other, they are simply different.

Creating a great image is not necessarily easy. In my view it is especially difficult to create a great image when applying strong filters or textures to a photo. It is very common, in my experience, for a photo with these types of effects to quickly take on an appearance of being over-processed that can detract from the aesthetics of the image.

For photographers who are interested in taking their photos beyond the look of a “normal” photograph I think it is important to have a clear vision for what they are trying to produce. I also think it is important to consider that if you’re using Photoshop filters as the foundation of your creative effects, for example, those filters are relatively limited in number and there is a risk that the image will be perceived as having had filters applied to it rather than being appreciated for the aesthetic of the result.

Of course, ultimately it doesn’t matter what I think about specific ways of creatively interpreting a photo. I’ve seen a great many images that started as a photograph (or multiple photographs) and were transformed into incredible pieces of art. I’ve also seen many images that lacked a creative look in part because common Photoshop filters were applied to them. As with any form of artistic impression, it is up to the artist to decide what they like and what they want to produce, and to create the best art they can and then (hopefully) share their vision with others.

By the way, this question was asked in response to my recent webinar presentation on “The Best Photo Tips I Ever Learned”. You can view a recording of the full presentation here: