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Photography Question 
Jodi M. Walsh
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/7/2007

photo editing

I've been wondering, does everyone touch up their images now and is that acceptable or is it looked at as cheating (making a so-so photo into a good one through editing)? I'm just curious. I used to do bw film photography and I continue to be blown away by the things you can do with digital but then it makes me wonder if I'll ever be good on my own or will I always have to re-touch.

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10/22/2007 8:10:14 PM

Hi Jodi,

"if I'll ever be good on my own or will I always have to re-touch".

Those 2 aren't mutually exclusive.

Exquisite photography on film was impossible without the careful art of developing and printing. They went hand in hand.
Exquisite digital photography goes hand in hand with editing.

With film, when you had your pix developed and printed at the next drugstore, you got snapshots (if you were lucky).
With digital, if you don't edit, you'll get snapshots (if you're lucky).

So, no, your photos will never get any better than snapshots if you don't pay attention to editing them.
Just like they were mere snapshots in the film days if not carefully developed and printed by an artisan.

Have fun!

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10/22/2007 8:25:34 PM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  Hello Jodi,

Your question is one that rages on in the realm of digital photography, so opinion will reign supreme in it's answer.

Personally; I find the only real "cheating" in photography would be claiming a photo that we did not shoot.

One could ask if the artist who painted fall colors in Vermont cheated? Afterall; the yellow sure didn't look that vibrant in real life.

There is a very real and obvious difference between editing/touchup and manipulation.

I like to invoke the name of Ansel Adams as he is a household name amoungst photographers. Mr. Adams "touched up, edited" almost to the point of manipulation. Did he cheat? I say no. His dark room techniques were second to none.

Do I always touchup? No way! If I shoot the family gathering at a birthday party, I consider them (snaps); nothing more than memories to mark the day.

A panoramic of The Grand Teton Range? You bet I will edit and touchup if I want to hang it on a wall or sell it.

All..All digital images can benefit from (some) enhancement, touchup, editing. Call it what we will, the image CAN be improved on.

all the best,


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10/23/2007 6:01:24 AM

Glenn E. Urquhart
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/3/2006
  Good Morning, Jodi!!! The camera sees excactly its physical surroundings. The Human Eye "enhances" and processes the physical surroundings. I always touch up an image to reflect what I saw through my eyes! However, if not careful, one can get carried away and change an image, way beyond what you actualy saw. Then it becomes more of a creative, artistic... Digital Darkroom Image. Well hope this helps... this is just my humble opinion and there is much room for disagreement on my thoughts!!! Good Shooting, Glenn.

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10/23/2007 6:28:09 AM

Jodi M. Walsh
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/7/2007
  wow, those are all such great answers. I had been thinking some of those things too and was curious about other peoples opinions. I really liked the distinction between snapshots and touched up photos. I also liked Glen's idea of the artist enhancing what the camera sees.

thank you so much for your opinions and ideas.

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10/23/2007 10:47:21 AM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  Glenn's analysis that "The Human Eye 'enhances' and processes the physical surroundings" is an accurate assessment of why corrections (enhances) to photographic imagery is necessary and usually required.
The human eye (and mind) can instantly correct color shifts to conform to complex light temperature changes and has the capability to interpret much greater detail in highlights and deep shadow areas than our film or sensors can possibly hope to record.

Enhancement and/or corrective techniques have been utilized for many decades by professional printing labs and skilled photographers with lens filters and in the darkroom long before digital software evolved.
It's just a whole lot faster and easier now.

And Pete pointed out...:"There is a very real and obvious difference between editing/touchup and manipulation."
Touching up a photograph in an honest attempt to re-create a mind's-eye vision should not be considered as "cheating".

"Manipulation", (to me) includes:

-Adding or removing key elements, like having to zap out those pesky powerlines because you failed to reposition your shooting angle at the scene...or having to add a soaring eagle to that perfect sunset you just shot because it looked a bit too boring and cliche without it.
-Changing that lifeless dull-gray sky to a vibrant blue instead of just excluding the sky from the composition while at the scene or vowing to return when conditions were more favorable.
-Employing un-natural colors, textures or patterns to make a mundane scene appear more eye-catching.

Enhancements can improve what was there while manipulative techniques can imply what you WISH was there.

That's just my opinion but I could be wrong.


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10/23/2007 3:29:39 PM

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