So what does Skynet have to do with photography? Some of you might be asking, "What is
Skynet?" I shudder at the thought of that. If you don't know what Skynet is, let me give
you quick update.
Skynet is the fictional supercomputer that becomes self-aware and launches armaggedon
against humans in the Terminator movies. The storyline evolves around Skynet sending a
machine, a Terminator T-800, back in time to kill the woman who would become the mother of
the man who would destroy Skynet. Now go watch the following movies, The Terminator, T2 -
Judgement Day and Terminator Salvation. You can freely skip number three, although
entertaining, it is not a requirement to gain perspective. Avoid the T.V. show at all
costs... it's like Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Melrose Place; sure it sounds cool, but
it wasn't and isn't.
Many people think that automation of their workflow is the best way to go, even at times
to the cost of creating inferior work. So I wanted to address this with an analogy of the
evil computer system known as Skynet, mainly because I am a fan.
So here goes:
Myth #1: Computers can out perform humans, faster and more efficient.
Response #1: While the answer to this is yes they can, a machine can't think. A computer is
truly a garbage in, garbage out system. It doesn't analyze a photo or know what mood or
feeling the photo conveys. The computer requires instruction and guidance. Without that
guidance what goes in as a nice image can come out as crap and in most cases even crappier
if the image was crap to begin with.
In the case of Skynet... Skynet's downfall has been its single objective; kill the human
resistance by killing John Conner. So as soon as a machine had its sights on John Conner,
or in the case of the original movie, his mother (kill the mother before the son is born
and you kill the boy paradigme), the machine got tunnel vision. The machine could not see
the bigger picture, just the main objective.
In the same frame of thought, an action in Photoshop may make part of an image look good,
but trust me when I say a skin softening filter applied to eyes is not appealing. You need
to take your time, analyze and interact with the computer to get the image right.
Myth #2: Computers can solve any problem.
Response #2: While it is true that a computer can solve Pi to the zillionth place, a
computer will never make a bad photographer better. No amount of layers, filters, actions
or presets will fix bad composition, lack-luster subjects, and poor light without
completely changing the entire image.
In the case of Skynet... Skynet thought it could eliminate the threat John Conner by
sending a T-800 back in time to kill his mother. That was an aweful plan. Skynet did not
consider that they had already sent a T-800 back in time and the T-800 wasn't successful
otherwise John Conner would have never been born and they wouldn't need to try to send
anther T-800 back in time. In T-2 they did the same thing, they sent another machine back
in time, this time the shape-shifting T-1000, with the same result because Skynet failed to
learn from the first event that if you consider sending something back in time and nothing
in the present changes, chances are it is because it failed. They repeated it in the third
movie... with the same result. What Skynet was doing was educating John Conner as to what
his role was going be in the future, enhancing the man he would become.
In the same frame of thought, get as much right in camera the first time because you can't
go back in time to fix it. While you can enhance it with a machine, the machine won't fix
Myth #3: Machines are the single biggest danger facing mankind.
Response #3: This is not true at all. While it is true that a computer making a decision is
making the decision based on logic, and without humanity or a concious, the fact of the
matter is that it is humans that have proved time and again to be the most dangerous force
facing mankind. Listen closely; It is decisions people make and don't make that leads to
In the case of Skynet... Skynet deemed mankind to be its single biggest threat so it set
forth to eliminate it. So who made Skynet? Who taught Skynet that mankind was the threat?
Yup mankind did. Through our actions and inactions.
Okay so how does this relate to photography? Simple. Use the computer as a tool and stop
being the tool being used by the computer. We are our own worst enemies when it comes to
using technology. Take the time to make the image yourself and use technology as a tool to
get you there and not as a crutch to carry you.