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Is editing your photos cheating?

 
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Here's a video about editing photos



Shean Tucker talks about the history of photography and editing - both on film and digital photography.

It got me thinking about why I take photographs.  I don't take them to record the world as it is, but to record the world as I see it.  Quite often, the camera needs help to see what I see.  
 
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I edit photos routinely. Some common themes are:

  • Remove extraneous objects that don't help in telling the story (clutter under the greenhouse benches, tree branches sprouting out of someone's head. Distracting foregrounds/backgrounds).
  • Get the colors to more closely match what the eye sees, instead of the auto-corrected colors.
  • Cropping.
  • Adding text, arrows, or circles to highlight special features.
  • Plain old playing, such as glowing eyes.
  • And of course for pure fabrication, and meme creation.



  •  
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    Editing and adding artistic interpretation has always been a part of the darkroom process for film, and now digital editing. I think its only a problem if one is misrepresenting images in journalism or science fields.

    Having a great shot straight out of your camera is excellent, but the people who say that's the only real photography are promoting unrealistic expectations.  
    BW-rainbow.JPG
    Rainbow
    Rainbow
     
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    I think it makes sense to distinguish a bit. I would suggest

    The term Photograph:
    A photographic image. It contains the light that the lens captured, not more and not less.
    However since our devices (monitor and print) can't represent the data that the camera captured in a good way, colors need to be modified a bit and contrast may require local adjustments to make the image more pleasant.
    One example is an image with bright and dark areas. Without adjustments one can only see the bright or the dark part as the other is completely white or black. With some editing the brightness can be adjusted so that both parts are visible.

    The term Illustraton:
    When you want to show something and need to add text or remove / add other stuff. Basically the intent here is to create a representation of reality (no lies), but some parts can be omitted or amplified.

    The term Picture:
    This would be the digital equivalent of a painting. The artist can do whatever they want. No representation of reality implied.
     
    pollinator
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    If the camera lens was a good as the human eye, it might be an issues, but it really is not. Because of its limited scope, the very act of taking a picture means things are left in, and things are left out. It is simply called "Framing a shot". Sometimes I take a photo and it is a little washed out. I can use a one touch photo edit click, and take care of that.

    To me this is no different then Katie with, or without make up. I love my wife either way, how she choses to present herself to the world is up to her.

    It is the same with photography, I love it, and how I chose to present it to the world is up to me.

    To me, failing to touch up a photo is no different then failing to edit a written story. Is it really your best work if you don't? Why do we think nothing of editing a written work, but want to question editing photos? In the art world, this is really a double standard.
     
    master pollinator
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    I look at it differently than most I think. In my mind, intent trumps all. If you are editing a photo in order to fool people, it's wrong. If you are doing it to enhance something and make it more beautiful, or more real to you, or for humor, or simply because you think it's better that way, then there is nothing wrong with it. Your intentions make a thing good or bad. Is a knife a weapon, or a tool? It is determined by intent.  
     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    Here's an example of turning a photo into art. This was done with GIMP photo editing software.
    rainbow-1.jpg
    [Thumbnail for rainbow-1.jpg]
    Original
    rainbow-2.jpg
    rainbow on farm
    Artistic: (rotated, color enhanced, and posterized)
    rainbow-plus.png
    rainbow
    Drawing added to enhanced photo
     
    gardener
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    Hello R!!

    I seem to remember reading somewhere that when judging photographs for professional competitions it is perfectly legitimate to alter things like color balance, color saturation, tint, exposure, etc. Basically if you apply an algorithm to an entire photograph, that’s legitimate.  But using a photo editor to say, remove a set of power lines, would disqualify from the competition.  It would still be acceptable to remove the power lines if the picture was cropped in such a way that the lines were removed along with everything else in that section of the picture.

    Personally, I love taking pictures of sunrise and sunsets. I deliberately purchased a dSLR because I could adjust the white balance.  Most cameras taking a picture of a bright pink sky at sunrise will interpret that bright pink light as being white and the beauty of picture gets lost so some level of photo editing is necessary to ensure accurate representation of the original view.

    Eric
     
    Travis Johnson
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    I got into trouble one time for photo editing.

    I was working for the railroad as a Safety Coordinator and they had just came out with a 10 million dollar machine, BUT it was always stuck in some railroad yard somewhere that was kind of nasty. So I took a photo of the coast of Maine, inverted it, played with some stuff, and basically made it look like the railroad machine was sliding along the rails by the coast of Maine. \\\

    People loved it, and then asked when it had gone to Maine? They were upset when they realized it was 100% made up.

     
    r ranson
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    It seems that some photography is designed to document events.  To me, these want very light editing - but again, the camera has a limited range of what it can "see" and in order to document what actually happened, we may need to do some editing.

    But most of the photography I see seems to be some sort of art.  Is applying paint to a canvas cheating?  What about using different size brushes?  Photography is painting with light - so why not create art with an image?

    But then again, I am drawn to photography because my painting skills are poor.  


    Generally, my aesthetic favours mild editing.  Some photos I see look too synthetic for my preference.  But I think a lot of people like that style, so it works for them.  
     
    pollinator
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    A whole lot of people's graduation pictures wouldn't look so good if not for editing. They remove blemishes and smooth the skin tone among other things.
     
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    r ranson wrote:Here's a video about editing photos



    Shean Tucker talks about the history of photography and editing - both on film and digital photography.

    It got me thinking about why I take photographs.  I don't take them to record the world as it is, but to record the world as I see it.  Quite often, the camera needs help to see what I see.  


    Of course not.  After all paintings, the pride of expensive collections, are 100% editing. Nothing but.
     
    Phineas Gulcher
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    Legit photo of our house, a little editing to remove colour and light. Still a fair representation of the subject.  Now, if we had added a unicorn winged blue whale to the sky - well, that too would have been fine. It's our image to do with as we please.
    IMG_6511.JPG
    [Thumbnail for IMG_6511.JPG]
     
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    As someone who studied photography and it's history I always laugh at gate keepers who say editing is bad or try to brag about how they didn't edit. Like, get over yourself XD
     
    Phineas Gulcher
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    Pam Maz wrote:As someone who studied photography and it's history I always laugh at gate keepers who say editing is bad or try to brag about how they didn't edit. Like, get over yourself XD


    Exactly!
    I always enjoyed teaching art history when it came to the era of photography and its impact on painters.  Great stuff.

    I say 'Edit away, be as mad cap as you wish. Or not. Whatever. Up to you.'
     
    Pam Maz
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    Yeah, tech has grown and made these processes VERY easy and fast and that's some how cheating? XD
    Meanwhile these people are using digital cameras and cell phones like "you should be using film. You're not a true photographer if you're using digital. That's cheating" lol
     
    pollinator
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    I am not a photographer, but my brother is.  He also shoots videos.  Last night he showed me a video of a wedding that he recently shot and edited.  It was really REALLY nice, but to the point that it looked fake.  I mean it looked like something from a movie.  I made that comment to my brother and he told me that that's the way people want them to look.  Humm, okay, no problem.  If they like it, I love it.  Anyway, I really appreciated this video that you posted.  I feel editing that it's only "cheating" if your are purposely trying to mislead someone for your own personal gain.  
     
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    I dont see anything wrong with editing your photos. As long as you aren't lying to deceive people it doesn't really matter. Most things we see online have been ran through some sort of filter. I even edit most of my photos even if its just of a tomato to reduce the brightness or enhance the contrast. It just makes it more appealing to the eye. Cameras don't capture exactly what things look like in real life anyways. Most of the time a normal camera shot seems dull compared to real life. Thats why a little editing and enhancing can really help.
     
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    photos should be edited to improve impact upon viewer, back in the day of printing photos in a darkroom it was common to dodge and burn and crop out the clutter in a picture. In just the same way as you would edit a photo shoot and pick out the most effective pictures from whatever had been shot, now adding stuff that wasn't there and wild manipulations in photo shop are something completely different. But then again I'm an old school photographer with a college degree in the subject from back in the day before newspapers even had color photographs.
     
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