Thanks for all the kind responses so far!
So if I am summarising correctly, raster graphics (or basically PS) are an option for aerial photographs, shaded relief, hypso tints and artistic maps. And post-production.
I think that might be a reasonable summary of what a few people have mentioned so far. However, I think to even need to ask if Photoshop (essentially what you're asking seems to be whether anything other than GIS/vector software) is necessary, wise, and/or useful when creating maps shows just how much the fields of art and cartography have diverged over the past few decades. It makes me sad. Sad and angry.
What's to say a map has anything to do with scale? Does a map need to be displayed on paper or an electronic screen? Does a map need to have a single character of text?
We had a major medical equipment manufacturer ask us if we could develop a map of the human body. I've drawn maps with a stick in the sand for people who needed to find their way from the beach to ??? I've created maps (albeit experimental, not for commercial distribution) that contained nothing more than colors, business logos, and/or quick sketches of major natural or man-made landmarks to watch for on their journey.
Personally, I think it is nothing but arrogance and self-projection...people proclaiming a map to be that which is drawn from a data set. To be forced to a particular scale/orientation. To adhere to some rules set forth by some academics in some classroom who might have barely had any experience developing maps in/for the real world. To be almost completely devoid of any ounce of creative freedom and/or artistic training/talent.
I found a link to this book at the University of Chicago Press that might be useful: http://www.press.uch.../bo5486535.html If for no other reason then to hammer-home that maps are not (and should not) be "paint by numbers." The world is a whole lot more beautiful, diverse, and whimsical than having everything done to-scale in planimetric form, with North always, ALWAYS being on the top of the design.
[/rant] Sorry. I just find the general question to be something along the lines of "should artists use clay and/or paint...or should they stick to Adobe Illustrator and deskjet printers?" Maps ARE art! Artistic, creative expressions. Or at least most of them used to be...before all the left-brainers took over cartography and stomped out anything and anyone who didn't conform to their modus operandi.
I think a lot of that is just sort of understood. I read
this question as more pragmatic in terms of what working map makers are using
particular software for, not prescriptive like what should and should not be
used for making maps.
I agree with you about art and cartography (and what
constitutes a 'map'), but I think your lament is about 5 - 6 years behind the
times. While there are certainly many very rigid users of map making technology
out there I've see an explosion in more creative and informal cartography
taking place (mostly online) in recent years. Not just 'mashups' but artistic
map work, work I would call cartography* not just map-making.
*I’m stealing that word back from Dennis Wood. I agree with
his assertions on academic map making (see Cartography is Dead) but I think he’s
wrong in implying that term means rigid, rule-bound academic map making. To me
cartography specifically implies knowledge of geography, geographic science, design
principles, AND artful expression.
I don’t think of cartography as having rules as much as best
practices and I’d never say any of them were required, but the least artful and
most prescriptive map work I see on a regular basis is often the result of map makers
who did not start from that knowledge base but relied upon the technology to
tell them what to do. In other words, you can’t break the rules if you don’t
know the rules.