But there's also a lot to be said for the use of the tool to deal with things that should have been dealt with before the shot was taken. For example, the recent release of unretouched photos of Lady Gaga's Versace ads have gotten a great deal of noise. But what is the retouching doing?
It's making the wig look more like hair and less like a wig. Great. Should've been done by make-up before the shoot, but apparently that's Gaga's personal wig and they decided not to replace it. Photoshop covered up a bruise on her leg. Again, makeup should've handled that, but didn't. They've fixed the contrast and brightness. Guilty as charged - I do that with just about every picture of my own that I pass through Lightroom. A photographer more talented than I am might be able to get their light levels and contrasts just right and looking good on a glossy printed page, but not in a hurry or on a budget and deadline.
Yes, they also made Gaga's arms appear slimmer, but is that necessarily more of a lie? In a very cogent analysis for Vice.com, artist and former model Molly Crabapple points out that all photography is a form of lie:
Framing is a lie. Lighting is a lie. Cropping is a lie. When you suck in your stomach, or turn your head so the light washes out your laugh lines, you're lying as much as any liquefy tool. Untruth is baked into the process...
Crabapple also goes after Dove, which carefully restricts it notions of 'real' womens' bodies to "...smooth-skinned, able-bodied, fleshy but not fat." She is unsparing in reminding us that Photoshop's digital tools are modeled on the physical tools used for decades on film photographs - tools that shaped how we viewed Hollywood stars throughout the last century.
Crabapple's column, as a rant, is necessarily somewhat extreme. But I found her point of view refreshing.