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Why is image manipulation so contentious?
Photographic images have been manipulated since the invention of photography in Victorian times. The use of double exposures and drawing on prints to enhance their content was commonplace and even used by many of the early masters. For example, Ansel Adams was sometimes known to change lens, reframe his 10x8 and double expose a larger moon into his landscape negatives. Bill Brandt used pencil on his prints to help define the curves of body in some of his nude work.
So, is there a line in the sand for you with regard to editing or image manipulation, presets and software? Why is the use of manipulation to create photographic art so contentious?
Who cares. It's your photograph and you can do anything you want to with it. It is very wearying to be told that photographs can only look a certain way or they are not good. It's 100% subjective. If you want purple people, then make purple people.
I think certain sub-genres are subject to constraint (photojournalism, scientific, forensic), but in my opinion, what helps you achieve the image you see in your mind is fair game.
I see a certain percentage of photographers who yout "straight out of camera" as some sort of bona fide. If you achieve your desired image that way, fine, but I see no value in judging others who process their images.
Darkroom work has always been a necessary part of the process and the modern analog to that is post-processing.
Personally, I think it is an individual’s call. To even argue that any method is acceptable and another isn’t is ludicrous. I’ve been a photographer for 48 years. I’ve heard about everything you can imagine. B&W is the only real photography, color is the true art, you shouldn’t use a zoom lens, you shouldn’t use any lens but a normal (50mm in the case of 35mm), you have to use raw, you don’t need raw if you get it right in the camera, on and on. It’s actually silly. Unless you are working with documentation of reality for whatever reason then photography is an art. Your art. Anyone who tries to belittle the value of your work by using all these contrived “rules” is only trying to lift themselves.
I 'dodge and burn' digitally as I would have in a dark room and make some other adjustments to produce a visual aesthetic I'm after. I'm not a fan of one-click filters and over saturated photos. As for serious photoshop manipulation: there are some people who are masters at this. I'm not interested doing this myself but I can appreciate it. Erik Johansson comes to mind.
Once you free yourself from the notion that a photograph is reality, the issue of manipulation drops away. When you break free from the idea that a photograph is about the photographer and is instead about the image, then the concern about manipulation is no longer relevant.
What counts ultimately is the end product and not how the photographer got there. It is more about how an image speaks to you and less about the 'çamera' skills of the photographer.
It's only a problem if you are selling yourself as a photojournalist but are adding or taking out important elements of a picture in post-production. That can get you in trouble if people are buying your work because they think it's actual photojournalism, as opposed to photo-illustration.
I think all photos are an illusion to some degree. Crime scene photos, mug shots, maybe they need to be literal but the rest of it is a distortion of reality on some level. Even photojournalists are manipulating reality in that they are telling a s tory through photos.
There is analog and digital photography. The latter extends the possibilities of creating an image, giving infinitely great possibilities.
Whether we want to call ourselves a photographer or a graphic artist, a painter who works with photographic material, decides whether the center of gravity is on the side of involvement during the shooting itself or editing and making changes to the photo, and whether interference in the photo changes the original in terms of content. There are such wonderful artists as Jan Saudek who creates fantastic photographic images and Tomasz Tomaszewski, one of the best photographers in the world, who makes photographic reports consisting of extraordinary photos of enormous artistic and intellectual value which is the essence of valuable photography. The choice is ours but you cannot mix these two fields of art with one word replacing a photographer.
I'm sure it's been discussed in the past, but personally I've never heard a discussion about painting and what is ethical for the painter to put in to a painting or leave out of a painting or use their imagination to simply create what's in their head, i.e. think of Salvador Dali's paintings. So why is it such a big issue in photography?
I do agree with folks above who have said if it's scientific, journalism, or for police work the image must show the facts as recorded at the time.
I have my own standards of what I'll do or not do, but I would never judge someone else for what they do to their images.
As others have said, it depends on the kind of output you want. One genre not mentioned is Street photography, which is conceptually based on candid, unposed moments. As such, seriously manipulating the image in a way that alters the reality (intended as the objective scene as it appeared in front of the camera at the moment of pressing the shutter) alters its significance. It simply can’t be called a street photograph anymore. The same is true about documentary photography and photojournalism, where if you alter the “reality” of the image you are not documenting anymore, you are creating. Let’s not dive in to how you can skew the message in a photo essay, that’s a given.
A way to look at street and documentary/photojournalism is like writing a his tory book: you can be quite serious and try to adhere to the truths as you know/see them (documentary/PJ) or to find the absurdity, hypocrisy, contradictions or simply quirks of his tory and describe those (street photography). Of course his tory is told differently in different countries and by different authors. So a photo essay will be done differently by different photographers.
The rest of photography is art. Like writing fiction. You can write fiction based on his tory or a science fiction s tory, it’s your choice and the value of the book is not in how close to reality it is, but how good the s tory is. So it is in photography in my opinion. You can manipulate as little or as much as your heart and skills will allow. Just don’t call it street or doc/PJ (or forensic etc).
I think Christian Boltanski nailed it when he said " Art making is not about telling the truth but making the truth felt." I take that to mean that the task of a photographer/artist, if he so chooses, is to say something about life in a way that is meaningful to the viewer without needing to speak the literal 'truth'. A photography can reflect on reality/truth, whatever that means to the individual, without being reality itself.
photography for me, is a creative outlet. If I'm shooting out on the streets I usually keep things the way I want to remember them, so maybe a little cropping and a few basic edits. I make photographs for myself, so I do what comes naturally. I don't constrain myself with rules..and who made those 'rules' anyway? I don't make a living from my photography therefore I never have to think in terms of 'is it saleable...what would a purchaser/gallery be interested in...what's the fashion at the moment?' It's just me and my thoughts and what makes me feel happy and fulfilled. I just do what comes naturally, intuitively to me, what gives me the greatest feeling of pleasure...and sometimes, if that means playing with an image and dis torting it in some way, then so be it, that's what I will do. I am my own master.
I think the conflict comes from the camp which sees the camera as a documentary tool only. On the other side are the artistic creatives who I believe find no problem with "altering" a photo to fit the artistic idea. It's when these 2 camps collide in the "ideal use" of a camera/photo where conflict comes to light.
It’s a technical medium, so sometimes it’s necessary to process the photo in order to deal with dynamic range, tonality, dust spots, saturation, etc. But if it’s about adding or removing things, I’m out. There’s enough fakery in today’s world already. If you can’t rely on documentary photos to actually be documentary, you can’t rely on anything.
If you want to make images on a computer starting with a photo taken with a camera, fine. Anything goes in art. But, I don’t have to be interested in your photoshopping abilities. Same goes for commercial photography. I expect facial blemishes to be removed in a portrait or fashion shot, but I don’t really want to see enlarged eyes, thickened lips or thinned waists.
Art is whatever we want it to be, so for me, it’s in the taking of the photo... the observation, the noticing, the being there, the timing, the use of light, the composition. I’m not interested in manipulating it afterwards from what was there when I took the picture, and I actually like the imperfections that might result from the actual taking of the picture. Of course, it doesn’t get me many views on Instagram or Twitter.
In terms of portraiture, it’s about the issue of putting a camera at someone and expecting them to be natural. Another issue is that photographers hide for various reasons so there is this desire to portray people who are crying to be seen, because photographers are possibly wanting to be seen.So there’s a form of dishonesty around the process. There’s a sort of disconnect somewhere sometimes. I think when we emphasize post-production, it’s possibly a failure to connect truly to the subject.
Ana toli Zehalko
I always say "There is no such thing as a bad photo just bad judges"
For the purist who objects to post processing, their argument should rest entirely on which camera brand's processor is more authentic. Which is more true? After all, every single image has been processed by the camera's computer before one can see it. Is the Nikon processor the only true one? Or is it the Hasselblad? Or the Canon? By your choice of camera and its processor you have already decided how true to reality you want to be.
In addition to the processor, every image has been modified from reality by the photographer when they decided which aperture, speed, ISO, framing and lens to use. Each of those decisions additionally modifies reality before they pressed the shutter but ton.
So we are all guilty of not capturing reality. It is impossible for a camera to capture reality. It can only capture the photographer's version reality.
We now know that all photographic images are a computer's interpretation of reality, the discussion then becomes to what extent can/should one modify an image? All of the above postings are correct and spot on. It's whatever you the photographer, the artist, the creator want it to be.
Every one edits images right from the taking stage you can make an images say any thing you want it to say just by taking from a different angel . Iv seen this first hand I watched one photographer take an image and the angel it was taken made it look quite sinister when it was nothing of the sort . So can you believe all the news / documentary images that you see, are they reality ?
Reality can be change with out using editing software ? Iv nothing against using editing software ( I use it myself) so long as you don't use other's presets and pass it off as your own work.
Someone has already said editing and manipulation of images has been used right from the birth of photography so it's nothing new .
This is only my view others will /may think different .
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