Skip to main content

Where Do You Draw the Line on Image Alteration?

This article from Digital Photography School raises a great question: Where do you draw the line on image alteration? There are many gray areas that surround this debate, and it seems fairly subjective for each photographer. Some photographers go crazy with overdone HDR processing (something that personally makes me cringe, but that's a topic for another discussion). Some photographers enhance color saturation. Some photographers crop or clone out distracting details. Obviously, photojournalists are quite different from landscape photographers, and are held to a specific code of ethics that may not apply to the rest of us. A photojournalist who digitally manipulates a photo of a scene can create an entirely different view of an event they're covering. Some interesting examples and discussion are available here.
Cathedral of the Assumption - Louisville, KY (HDR version)

While I have occasionally done some overdone HDR for a specific purpose, it's rare that I do that. However, one edit that I do frequently do is cloning out power lines. I find them horribly distracting and in my opinion, they often ruin what would otherwise be a good photo. I've been known to spend hours editing them out of a photo (something a friend of mine teases me about frequently). In an odd sort of way, I find that kind of detailed editing strangely relaxing.

St. Therese Church (with power lines)
St. Therese Church (power lines removed during post-processing)

When I take a photo, I attempt to get as much correct in-camera as possible, rather than relying on post-processing to correct things afterwards. I believe this has made me a better photographer overall. It's taught me better composition, better use of light, how to look for distractions in a scene (light poles "growing" out of a subject's head as an example). It's taught me that what may be an ok photo, may be an awesome photo if I just take a step or two in a different direction and re-compose the shot. I certainly don't feel that there's any shame in post-processing - I just prefer to not rely on it 100% of the time.

I don't think there's a right or wrong answer to the debate. If highly-processed photos are what you're going for, great. Edit away and enjoy your end result. If you're a purist and choose to forego any post-processing, that's great too. Either way, if you achieve the end result you desire with your photos, that's the entire point. It's what makes art so interesting. Each artist (and each viewer) is different and has different likes and dislikes.

However, if a manipulated photo is used in a situation that strictly forbids any alterations (a photo contest or a news article, as a couple examples), and the photographer lies about any manipulation, then that's an entirely different matter.

How do you feel about it? I'd love to hear your comments.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Copyright issues and photo usage

When will people learn that just because you find a photo on the internet, doesn't mean it's yours to use as you'd like? On my main website, I've taken steps to (hopefully) make it difficult for someone to steal my photos - I've watermarked my images. I've disabled right-clicking images on my website (and included a popup box saying the image is copyrighted and to contact me for usage rights). I've included a copyright notice at the bottom of every page on my site. Does any of that help prevent theft? Apparently not.

While doing a Google image search recently on some of my photos, I discovered a blogger who was using one of my images (with no photo credit given, of course). I recognized the photo immediately. Despite my frustration, I preferred to give the benefit of the doubt and assume the blogger wasn't aware the photo is copyrighted. I decided to email the blogger a politely-worded Cease and Desist letter explaining that I found my copyrighted imag…

A Long Absence

It's been five years since my last blog post. Five years. I realize how pitiful that is. Why even bother with a blog if I'm not going to update it, right? Very good question. I started out with good intentions, but...well, you know what they say about good intentions.
Part of the delay was due to my procrastination in writing a new blog post. Sometimes writing doesn't come very naturally for me. I struggle with what to write about. Other times an easy topic comes to mind, but my nit-picky nature comes out and it feels like it takes me forever to find the right words. By that point, my interest in the topic has waned and I've moved on to other things. "Squirrel!"
Various life events happened during the past few years that resulted in my website and blog being pushed to the back-burner on my priority list. I got married (after waiting 20+ years for it to become legal. YAY for marriage equality!). I changed jobs in 2015 (same organization, different team). But…