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Author Topic: The Ethics of Photo Manipulation  (Read 34170 times)
Ken Richmond
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« Reply #240 on: June 09, 2013, 07:04:58 AM »
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By this post, it has been a while since you contributed anything much except increasingly intemperate abuse of those who disagree with you. Nobody is criticizing your chosen practice. it sounds fine to me, and I am happy to believe that it produces great images. Why do you feel the need to insist that it is the only way to go, to the point of claiming some sort of right to tell people with a different practice or different views that they don't belong on the forum? Who do you think you are to be telling anyone that? Go take some photographs or something. Come back when you are prepared to listen as well as rant.

"Ken, if you'd extract your cranium from your anal sphincter you'd see that what I was saying was that all those things you mention are included automatically with digital."

Ken, that's a quote from Scato-Bob.  Where were you then?


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michael
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« Reply #241 on: June 09, 2013, 10:08:34 AM »
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The rules on this forum are... no personal attacks. First and last warning to those concerned.

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John Camp
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« Reply #242 on: June 09, 2013, 01:58:14 PM »
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John, that is an interesting example. While I agree with your reasoning, let me introduce a twist.

When I was in Yosemite, I had a full moon in the scene. Given the inherent dynamic range limitations of slide film, I got the scene mostly right, but the moon overexposed. I had another camera with me, loaded with a negative film, and I snapped the same scene perhaps minutes apart. Now, I was thinking of taking the moon from the negative film (which has a greater dynamic range) and photoshopping it into the slide film scene. This would satisfy your requirement ("Does this represent what actually happened out there?"), yet it will be not only photoshopping, but compositing as well. So, if I say "Yes," would I be unethical?

I'd have no problem with it at all...if you explained it as you just did. Because you're disclosing the manipulation. One thing about these borderline cases -- if you showed me a photo taken at night, that had a lot of detail, and also a well-exposed moon (the moon being really bright) I'd say hmmmm...something ain't right. You can't do both of those things, not even with the widest latitude film. You couldn't dodge the moon because it would have been blown. So I'd know you manipulated it somehow, and I'd wonder what else had been done. Is the moon really coming up like that? Or did you take a shot of a mountain off to the north, and have the moon coming up in the north? If you explained it by saying, "I knew I couldn't hold this scene as I saw it, so I took two shots, from the same vantage point, a few seconds apart, and substituted the well-exposed moon for the blown one." I'd probably say, "That sounds legitimate -- you're not changing the scene, you're attempting to defeat the shortcomings of the sensor." If I liked it, I'd buy it. But with all that, you've done two things -- you've made a scenic change so minor that not even an astrophysicist could detect it, and you've disclosed the manipulation. However, if you'd taken that shot in Yosemite, and then a really good moon shot out over the ocean from Santa Barbara, and composited the moon, I wouldn't buy it, even if you disclosed. By disclosing, you wouldn't have done anything unethical with the Santa Monica moon, but when I collect art photos (and I do) I want actuality, as close as I can get it. I'd argue that your Yosemite photo was actuality, as close as you could get it, and the disclosure of manipulation eliminates any ethical problem.

Look, I have a very nice Moonrise Hernandez NM print, and Ansel manipulated the hell out of it. I have no problem, because he disclosed, and he did not change the physical elements in the photo. Some of his prints, in which the sky is brighter, might be the way you'd see it with your eyes wide open; the later ones, with the darker sky, is like you were squinting. But he didn't add any cemetery crosses, or put in a shooting star...

Again, if we're talking about ethics, the ethics lie in the intent of the photographer when presenting the work. If the intent is deliberate deception, with perhaps a monetary motive, then it's unethical.     

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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #243 on: June 09, 2013, 02:15:49 PM »
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... It is my hope that you knew what your were going to do in post when shooting the scene...

Ken, while I was contemplating an answer to this, I've come across a quote from our forum friend Russ (handle: RSL) that sums it nicely (emphasis mine):

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... I'm convinced that the glance that made you raise your camera is where the truth lies. You can dork around in Photoshop all you want, but if you have a developed instinct the best result is going to show what made you raise the camera in the first place...

I wish I could brag how I pre-visualized exactly the result shown when I press the shutter, but that's not how it usually works for me.

I was crossing the town, going from one business meeting to another (i.e., not leisurely walking around photographing) and had only my p&s with me. As I was crossing the bridge, I saw that reflection of the setting sun on the buildings. It was "the glance that made me raise my camera."

And then, in post-processing, I explored the editing potential of the image, until I recreated the feeling I had.

You see, Garry Winogrand said: "I photograph to find out what something looks like when photographed." To paraphrase it, I photoshop to see how something looks like when photoshopped. However, even when I go aggressively into post-processing, "the best result is going to show what made you raise the camera in the first place." as Russ eloquently stated.
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Slobodan

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John Camp
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« Reply #244 on: June 09, 2013, 02:17:10 PM »
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One further comment.

We're asking about the ethics of manipulation.

Why wouldn't you tell somebody what you'd done? There's nothing inherently wrong with manipulation.

If a friend was admiring a composited nature photo as a brilliant example of nature in the raw...would you lie to him, and tell him, yes, that's what it is?
If a potential buyer said, "I only buy straight unmanipulated photography, is that straight?" would you say it was, to get the sale, when it wasn't?
If a photo contest specified "No post-processing," and you post-processed a photo, would you enter it anyway, hoping to get away with it?

All of those things are cheating, in one way or another.

People who say that artists are privileged, and can do as they please without regard to common bourgeois rules, are full of it, in my opinion. Somebody before me observed (and I agree with the observation) that "criminal" and "artist" are not mutually exclusive categories. It's possible to be both at the same time. Normal Mailer once led a campaign to get a criminal out of prison because he was an exceptionally talented writer. He succeeded, and a short time after he got out, the criminal/writer stabbed another man to death. That's a dramatic example, but it's equally possible to be a pretty talented photographer and a cheat. They are not exclusive categories. If you start asking yourself a question that amounts to, "How much can I do before I have to disclose manipulation?", you're really trying to figure out if you can cheat and get away with it. Otherwise, why would you even ask the question?
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Telecaster
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« Reply #245 on: June 09, 2013, 02:30:45 PM »
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It's interesting to me that manipulating tonal detail through dodging & burning is widely acceptable while manipulating spatial detail through cloning & compositing is less so. Is there something more real about the spatial than the tonal to justify this? How is it that Gene Smith could work the tonality of his photos like a taffy-puller and still be considered a photojournalist, while someone cloning out a McDonald's hamburger bag in a war-zone photo (hypothetical example) might have her/his credibility shredded as a result? Is it not the case that our photo ethics are the product of convention and concensus rather than mandates engraved in stone?

-Dave-
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« Reply #246 on: June 09, 2013, 02:46:20 PM »
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One further comment.

We're asking about the ethics of manipulation.

Why wouldn't you tell somebody what you'd done? There's nothing inherently wrong with manipulation.

If a friend was admiring a composited nature photo as a brilliant example of nature in the raw...would you lie to him, and tell him, yes, that's what it is?

Is the composite an HDR or other type of image blending, or is it something along the lines of swapping out a sky or adding a horse roaming in a field?  If the former I'd say it was an HDR.  I wouldn't do the latter.
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If a potential buyer said, "I only buy straight unmanipulated photography, is that straight?" would you say it was, to get the sale, when it wasn't?

I'd tell the buyer that every print s/he has is manipulated in some way or other and that there's no such thing as an unmanipulated photograph.  I'd then smile as he walked away confused.


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If a photo contest specified "No post-processing," and you post-processed a photo, would you enter it anyway, hoping to get away with it?

Moot.  I don't enter contests.  But if I did, I'd write the organisers and tell them the same thing I told the buyer above.

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« Reply #247 on: June 09, 2013, 02:52:43 PM »
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"Photo shopping destroys the credibility of everyone involved in photography." 

"Studio Portrait - Hasselblad - Retouched/Photoshop Makeup"


"Who has time to entertain "Photographers" who photoshop an image?  Get lost!  your not a photographer and  can't cut it as one.  Your a photoshop techician and have to rely on Jeff to get an acceptable product."

"Studio Portrait - Hasselblad - Retouched/Photoshop Makeup"

Anyone else see any incongruence in those statements?

I have no idea who 'Jeff' is; however.
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Isaac
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« Reply #248 on: June 09, 2013, 03:21:32 PM »
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If a friend was admiring a composited nature photo as a brilliant example of nature in the raw...would you lie to him, and tell him, yes, that's what it is?
No.

If a potential buyer said, "I only buy straight unmanipulated photography, is that straight?" would you say it was, to get the sale, when it wasn't?
No.

If a photo contest specified "No post-processing," and you post-processed a photo, would you enter it anyway, hoping to get away with it?
No.

... there may be a roaring expressway a few inches out of the landscape photo, but if the photo itself is unmanipulated, then its an image of what was in front of the camera.

If someone was admiring your "straight photo" of the landscape sans roaring expressway would you tell them - Yes, that's what it was really like?
« Last Edit: June 09, 2013, 03:31:32 PM by Isaac » Logged
kencameron
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« Reply #249 on: June 09, 2013, 05:57:29 PM »
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Where were you then?
Missing in action, I guess. And your observation that the photoshoppers "spoil it for the rest of us" leaves me at least understanding (if not agreeing with) where you are coming from on all this. I have deleted the post you were referring to, as it resulted from a late night rush of blood to the head.
« Last Edit: June 09, 2013, 11:17:42 PM by kencameron » Logged

Ray
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« Reply #250 on: June 09, 2013, 07:59:29 PM »
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If a potential buyer said, "I only buy straight unmanipulated photography, is that straight?" would you say it was, to get the sale, when it wasn't?

Good question, which highlights the dilemma. A completely truthful response might be, "Wow! I've never seen an unmanipulated photograph. I didn't know they exist. How many do you have in your collection? They must be extremely valuable."

A slightly more recondite response to the potential buyer, might be along the lines, "By 'straight unmanipulated' do you mean, only manipulated by people who were not present at the scene I photographed, such as the engineers who designed the camera's electronics and lenses, or the chemists who formulated the type of chemical coating on the film, and the chemical composition of the film and print developers?"

The bottom line surely, is whether or not a sane person, not suffering from hallucinations, would recognize every major detail in the real scene that the photographer has presented, if that person were present at the scene during the same time as the photographer, viewing the same scene from exactly the same position as the photographer.

However, the condition that everything represented in the photo should be easily identifiable in the real scene, is not the same condition that everything in the real scene should be easily identifiable on the photo. In order for that to occur, the photographer would have to limit himself to the use of small apertures or big f/stop numbers which result in an extensive depth of field and usually involve the use of very slow shutter speeds only suitable for static scenes.
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kencameron
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« Reply #251 on: June 09, 2013, 11:14:44 PM »
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...if you are in the American southwest, and you take a photo of an arch, and then you uses Photoshop to bring in a separate moonrise, and place the moon in the arch, I have no problem, though I wouldn't buy the photo ...    
Would you be more inclined to buy exactly the same image if you were in no doubt at all that the moon was right there in the arch when it was taken?

I suspect I would, although it calls in question my usual line of argument on this issue.
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markd61
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« Reply #252 on: June 10, 2013, 12:59:17 AM »
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As has been stated before, all images are manipulated, even to the extent of an in-camera JPEG being the result of human decisions about conversion. The discussion about how much is OK seems irrelevant as it implies there is some virtue in minimal or no manipulation.
I am not sure what that virtue is.

Art is not evidence but rather it is expression. As in writing or painting, the creative use of the medium is what makes it effective as opposed to an arbitrary declaration of a rule that no one can philosophically justify.
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #253 on: June 10, 2013, 01:09:26 AM »
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... The discussion about how much is OK seems irrelevant as it implies there is some virtue in minimal or no manipulation.
I am not sure what that virtue is...

That virtue is the essence of photography.
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Slobodan

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« Reply #254 on: June 10, 2013, 01:37:02 AM »
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That virtue is the essence of photography.
The essence of "photography", maybe. But if so, then "photography" isn't the only interesting thing people do with cameras - or have done with them ever since they were invented - or (increasingly, IMO) will do with them in the future. So maybe we need a new word for everything people do with cameras.
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Rob C
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« Reply #255 on: June 10, 2013, 03:30:43 AM »
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I'm trying to put myself into the mindset of a buyer of photographs (difficult - I'd much prefer to sell them) and in so doing I come to the conclusion that above this post lie acres of irrelevance.

If I was going to buy, I would buy something that pleased me. Period.

All this stuff about AA and how his prints varied strikes me as some sort of conceit indulged in by collectors who value not the photographs, but all the art-business nonsense that gets stuck to the pictures along the way. Is the message, then, that the lighter prints are more valuable, more 'real' than the heavier ones? Are the heavier ones more to do with his mood as he printed? Are other copies printed by the estate not as valuable because he didn't print them? In other words, it isn't the print, it's the provenance. Unless you work for the estate it's unlikely you would be able to tell which print in a group is his own work. Since they all vary anyhow, who is in a position to say which is the more valuable? Which one tells the imaginary truth with which this thread is obsessed?

Writing about art and documentary photography in the same thread is pretty pointless, though that's not to suggest that there can be no art within the documentary work - far from it - but the purpose is essentially different.

As often happens, these threads seem to slip into last-word contests, with each writer hoping for the killer post. There isn't going to be one. The reason is that folks simply ignore what doesn't suit their argument, and that can go on until the end of time or at least until the more vocal contestants become bored of the whole thing and just stop reading or caring.

The fact remains that a 'decorative' photograph created for that purpose is usually worth no more than the piece of paper upon which it is printed. That it actually costs vastly more is a product of commerce, not of nature.

Rob C
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kencameron
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« Reply #256 on: June 10, 2013, 04:19:43 AM »
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...above this post lie acres of irrelevance...
Broad acres. Extending only that far down ?  Wink
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RFPhotography
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« Reply #257 on: June 10, 2013, 06:00:38 AM »
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Rob, if the idea is about the ethics of manipulating photos then why can't all forms of photography be considered in the same discussion?  Really, why shouldn't all forms of photography be considered in the same discussion?
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Chris Sanderson
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« Reply #258 on: June 11, 2013, 10:43:54 AM »
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Not sure what happened in this thread. I suspect that someone posted an over-sized image which locks up the forum software or the reader's browser which results in a completely blank thread.

I have split the topic off to  The Ethics of Photo Manipulation - 2 but the problem persists...

If you wish to read the now-missing posts, click on 'BobFisher' / Show Posts in the penultimate post above; then select Bob's final post in The Ethics of Photo Manipulation - 2 and click Reply. That will bring up the text-only thread under the reply box....

I suggest that someone start a new thread "The Ethics of Photo Manipulation - 3"

« Last Edit: June 11, 2013, 10:47:49 AM by Chris Sanderson » Logged

Christopher Sanderson
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