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Life Before Photoshop: Miata Campaign

Look ma, no Photoshop!

Look ma, no Photoshop!

This is another in my series I call “life before Photoshop”. For a complete understanding as to why I’ve begun writing these posts, you need only go back to my first one.

For all you out there that began your love for photography in the digital era, there was a time when Adobe was a type of house made of sand, clay, and water, mixed with a fibrous material like straw. Now, Adobe Photoshop rules the photographic world, and these new photographers truly believe they can’t create good photos without it.

I’m not saying I don’t love my CS5, for I would be considered one fry shy of a happy meal. With me, I use it sparingly, and only after what I’m trying to accomplish in the camera just can’t be done. For me, being a good photographer that can’t think without the aid of post processing just makes me feel better. I love a challenge, and there’s no better challenge than creating in reality and through the lens what I’m thinking in my mind.

Years ago I worked on the Mazda account, and one of the ads created by the Art Director/writer was to show a Miata in the garage of it’s owner. They wanted to convey that this car was the love of the owner’s life and wanted me to carry that idea into a single photograph.

My location scout found a garage that would not only work, but the price to rent it was somewhere in the budget’s ballpark; considering this was shot in Burbank, $3000.00 was on the high side of reasonable. I had a stylist gather props several days ahead of time while I was figuring out how to light the car. At the same time, my producer was tracking down a Cat Wrangler that could make a cat stay on command.

I had several 2400 watt/second heads mounted in the ceiling facing up towards several large pieces of white Foamboard so the light would be soft when it fell onto the car. I had another 4X8piece of white board in front of the car so it would light the front.  This entire set-up took the entire day and was a hell of a lot of fun!!!

Here’s the garage the way we found it.


This photo would probably not be shot the same way today. The car would be shot in a studio and the Agency would use CGI (computer generated imagery) to put it all together. HOW AWFUL!!!

The digital age has done so much in so many areas, but in my opinion, it’s hurt photography in a way that can never be repaired.


Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out my 2012 workshop schedule. Come shoot with me sometime and we’ll cry together over a glass of wine!!!



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    { 7 comments… add one }
    • Gary Thursby April 1, 2012, 11:07 pm

      So true photography has changed so much. I can only image from your viewpoint Joe with all your experience. Hunh funny how a lot of people think photography keeps evolving based on the newest released camera. Right now those are Cannon 5d mark III and Nikon d800. The thing is those cameras can not compose, set up lighting, or understand how to emotionally impact a viewer of your photograph. So I guess another old adage rings true; The more things change the more they stay the same. I do believe photographers like you Joe would be successful 50 years ago or 50 years in the future.

    • Marcus Hammerschmitt April 7, 2012, 7:08 am

      I don’t know. I perfectly get what you’re saying about preparing that garage being fun. Yet for me, as somebody who’s just begun looking into photography in earnest, Photoshop (and digital in general) is a way to cope with otherwise prohibitive obstacles. I wouldn’t even have started shooting before the digital era, because the gear implied was simply to expensive. And because I’d known digital image manipulation since the early nineties, back in 2003 Photoshop and a very basic digital cam made excellent sense as a combo. I could very well be described as a happy self taught, which wouldn’t have been possible in this way before digital. Just sayin’. 

      • Joe April 8, 2012, 11:04 am


        In forty two years of shooting, I’ve been able to solve most problems in the camera…where they should be solved. This is what a good photographer is all about. Believe it or not Marcus, the non-digital age has been around a lot longer than the digital age, it it produced a lot of really good shooters!!! I have no problem using Photoshop, when I simply can’t do what I want in the camera. If I can’t move to the right or left to take something out, then part of my thought process at the time is to take it out later. To me, being a good photographer is about taking good pictures, not using some software to take good pictures.

        So many photographers are just lazy, because they know they can fix something later that they could have fixed while composing. That’s a fact that has been admitted time and time again by all my students.

        As far as expensive gear is concerned, that’s a fallacy!!! Buying a brand new Canon 5D Mark III won’t make you a better photographer. What it will do is to make you the proud owner of a Canon 5D Mark III. It’s not the camera Marcus, it’s the ten inches behind the camera that’s important. Henri Cartier-Bresson, the creator of “The Decisive Moment” used one camera with a 50mm lens.

        As far as not being possible before the digital age, you only need to look at the photos on my website. You see, I was also self taught!!!!!!

        Thanks for the comment. I hope you keep it up.


    • Joe April 6, 2012, 12:19 pm

      Thanks Gregory!!!


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