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Author Topic: The Ethics of Photo Manipulation  (Read 31552 times)
Isaac
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« Reply #40 on: May 30, 2013, 06:00:46 PM »
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So, what exactly is the controversy here?

I'll leave that question to Bob Fisher.

What I found interesting was the discussion of aesthetics in the British Journal of Photography coverage --

[22 May 2013] World Press Photo controversy: Objectivity, manipulation and the search for truth

[20 Dec 2011] Post-processing in the digital age: Photojournalists and 10b Photography
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Ray
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« Reply #41 on: May 30, 2013, 06:12:09 PM »
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Thanks, Isaac.

So, what exactly is the controversy here? Which one is manipulated more? Which one was published first (I assume the more colorful one)? To me, the difference looks like the difference between, say, Canon's Landscape camera profile (the bottom image) and the Neutral profile (top image). In that sense, the WWP one appears to be less "manipulated." What exactly is the "big deal" here?

Both photos show a very obvious distortion of reality. The walls are leaning precariously outwards. They look as though they are about to collapse any second.
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« Reply #42 on: May 30, 2013, 06:15:44 PM »
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I didn't create the controversy.  Hansen did.  I didn't discover it.  Others did.  I simply agree that it shouldn't be a winning image due to the extent of the manipulation.  Looking at the two images, particularly the rollover linked below, I don't buy that the images match up pixel for pixel. 

http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/155617-how-the-2013-world-press-photo-of-the-year-was-faked-with-photoshop

http://www.worldpressphoto.org/news/digital-photography-experts-confirm-integrity-paul-hansen-image-files

http://www.hackerfactor.com/blog/index.php?/archives/550-Angry-Mob.html - this one has a rollover for direct comparison

http://www.hackerfactor.com/blog/index.php?/archives/549-Unbelievable.html
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #43 on: May 30, 2013, 06:24:21 PM »
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Both photos show a very obvious distortion of reality. The walls are leaning precariously outwards. They look as though they are about to collapse any second.

Good point, Ray. Looks like a perspective issue, due to the use of super wide-angle lens. However, we all know that focal length does not have any impact on perspective. Or does it, Ray?  Wink Grin
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Slobodan

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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #44 on: May 30, 2013, 06:35:35 PM »
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... it shouldn't be a winning image due to the extent of the manipulation.  Looking at the two images, particularly the rollover linked below, I don't buy that the images match up pixel for pixel...

Right.

Only photographers.

Or only geeks.

Or only geek photographers...

... would argue that the power of a photo, showing children as casualties of war, stems from the pixel position.

 Huh

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Slobodan

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« Reply #45 on: May 30, 2013, 06:47:37 PM »
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The "aesthetic offence" would be not cloning out the 150' pine tree that blocked a lake view.
I know what you mean. But that depends on your aesthetics. I have a bit of a soft spot for landscapes that leave in (or even clone in) the coke bottle or the power line.

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Isaac
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« Reply #46 on: May 30, 2013, 07:11:42 PM »
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I have a bit of a soft spot for landscapes that leave in (or even clone in) the coke bottle or the power line.

I really did mean a 150' pine tree that blocked the view of a lake 1/2 a mile away.

I don't recall a coke bottle but - Dominant Wave Theory: The art of beach rubbish
« Last Edit: May 30, 2013, 07:52:10 PM by Isaac » Logged
Isaac
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« Reply #47 on: May 30, 2013, 07:13:49 PM »
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Looking at the two images, particularly the rollover linked below, I don't buy that the images match up pixel for pixel.
 
The rollover where the blogger says - "I had to rescale the February 2013 image to make it align"?
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BJL
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« Reply #48 on: May 30, 2013, 07:38:25 PM »
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There probably are readers who haven't seen the photos, so -- World Press Photo of the Year 2012 vs Photo published in Dagens Nyheter
It looks about like the difference between Velvia and Provia: is one of those films unethical?
« Last Edit: May 30, 2013, 09:51:20 PM by BJL » Logged
John Camp
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« Reply #49 on: May 30, 2013, 11:03:22 PM »
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I'll repeat what I said in my first post, in a somewhat different form. You can do anything you want with your pixels, and I don't have a problem with any of it. What I have a problem with is when somebody says "I didn't manipulate these pixels," but he did. Most of the older fim-era manipulations aren't really problems because they're obvious. At this very moment, there are four Ansel Adams prints of "Moonrise" hanging in an exhibition on the second floor of the Andrew Smith Gallery in Santa Fe. All four are sharply different. In the early prints the low clouds were very bright and frothy, almost like cake frosting, and there were a number of thin clouds higher in the photo, and the sky itself looks like twilight. In the late prints, the low clouds are considerably paler, and the high clouds are virtually gone, and the sky is very close to black -- the series shows an aesthetic development over three decades, but nobody was trying to fool anybody: all those prints were out there and were often shown side-by-side. As I said before, there's nothing unethical about photos or photo-illustrations, because they are paper and ink and have no ethics. It's the photographers who face the choice of how to behave.

The question people here seem to be struggling with (after you clear away the bs) is how much you can manipulate in post-processing before you have to tell a viewer (who wants to know) that you did it. I think you have to tell them if you did any manipulation, though you are okay to tell them that the manipulation was "minimal" and that you only did it to "make it more like I saw it." At that point, the viewer has the choice of whether to believe you or not.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2013, 11:05:42 PM by John Camp » Logged
theguywitha645d
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« Reply #50 on: May 30, 2013, 11:47:56 PM »
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What other photographers do is their business. The frauds are easy to spot anyway.

As far as my work goes, I set my own limitations.

The phase "as I saw it" is a cop out. It is also meaningless and disingenuous.
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Schewe
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« Reply #51 on: May 31, 2013, 02:36:38 AM »
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I'll repeat what I said in my first post, in a somewhat different form. You can do anything you want with your pixels, and I don't have a problem with any of it. What I have a problem with is when somebody says "I didn't manipulate these pixels," but he did. Most of the older fim-era manipulations aren't really problems because they're obvious.

Hum...I've been engaged in this debate far longer than most...my first multi-image composite was done in 1984 (way before Photoshop). I took 2 8x10 chromes and had an imaging artist do an 11x14 composite that took a loupe to know it was manipulated.

Regardless of the intent, the bottom line is the context. If a documentary photographer or a journalist steps outside of the line they have agreed to stay within, shame on them. However, I do agree that recent post-Photoshop scrutiny has been risen to ludicrous levels not imposed on several past generation of photographers.

What are the real rules? Who decides? Who enforces? Are the rules different for current photographers than past photographers? You bet...and ironically, it's far more unfair now than in the past.

Look, I'll admit to wanting to manipulate EVERY pixel in my image...I don't claim any sort of "truth", I actually tend towards telling people don't believe what you see, question everything.

The whole real vs manipulated has been around long before Thomas did Photoshop.  Edward S. Curtis's The North American Indian was totally bogus...he traveled with a covered wagon of "props" that he used when shooting various Indian tribes....so feathers and headdresses from one tribe would be put on Indians of a tribe that they had never heard of. Curtis was often taken with the thought of trying to picture the Indians as intelligent and noble, so he would often place a clock in the shot–something the Indians had no knowledge of, but Curtis had decided that it would be useful to portray the Indians as somewhat "normal".

There's a long legacy of manipulated imagery...but it was really Photoshop that allowed talented individuals to be able to do manipulation that stressed the ability to dictate it.

But I come back to the context in which an image was made...if journalism,, you will be held to a high (and totally unreasonable reality) process. Same deal with many photographers who need to be able to portray an image as being at least within the realm of possibility...

I used to do advertising photography. Even then we were held certain standards like not putting marbles in a Cambell's soup can to make the soup level unrealistic.

On the other hand, in fine art, I think that no holds barred comes into play...I make no claims of reality or non-manipulated images...I loudly proclaim that peoples expectation should be totally blown up and that a new reality will come into play.

So, bottom line, is the context supposed to relate some sort of reality? If so, tread carefully. But if it's your intent to create a neat image and you need to manipulate the heck out of an image, go for it...just be willing to admit exactly what you may have done to accomplish your image.

So, nothing new here...these are not the droids you were looking for...
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jeremyrh
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« Reply #52 on: May 31, 2013, 03:49:51 AM »
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So, what exactly is the controversy here?  [...]. " What exactly is the "big deal" here?
The "big deal" is that the photograph depicts something that some parties find politically uncoomfortable, hence the concerted campaign to de-legitimise it.
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Ray
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« Reply #53 on: May 31, 2013, 04:14:15 AM »
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Good point, Ray. Looks like a perspective issue, due to the use of super wide-angle lens. However, we all know that focal length does not have any impact on perspective. Or does it, Ray?  Wink Grin

Slobodan,
My guess is the photographer did not use a lens that was wide enough. If he had, he wouldn't have needed to point his camera downwards, thus creating that impression that the walls are toppling over.

It seems very strange to me that so much fuss is being created over what I would consider to be normal photographic processing, such as lightening and brightening faces. As far as I can tell, from reading the commentaries linked to, Hansen has not altered the position of any individual in the group, nor added to, nor removed anyone from the group.

It seems to be all just a load of nonsense in my terribly humble opinion. The attached image of 'Before' and 'After' demonstrates what can happen when one points the camera downwards. Here I was trying to include the bottom of the well in the photo, as well as the nice ladies at the top. The lens was 14 mm with the Nikon D700. I needed a bit of help with DXO ViewPoint to try and get this image presentable for the World Famous 'Deepest Well in Suburbia' competition.  Grin

The corrected image is still not quite right, but better than the original, I'm sure you'd agree.  Grin
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stamper
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« Reply #54 on: May 31, 2013, 04:19:21 AM »
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At a camera club meeting one night there were film slides on view. The first an image of mountains in Nepal and a lake in the foreground. A person in a canoe sailing towards the mountains. Looked good. It was two slides. The person and the canoe was in the front slide and the lake and the mountains in the back slide. Roll Eyes
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Ben Rubinstein
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« Reply #55 on: May 31, 2013, 04:21:05 AM »
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The "big deal" is that the photograph depicts something that some parties find politically uncoomfortable, hence the concerted campaign to de-legitimise it.

Politics, that's just what this thread needs.
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jeremyrh
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« Reply #56 on: May 31, 2013, 04:28:44 AM »
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Politics, that's just what this thread needs.
Was already there, I think, since someone wrote ...
As for that controversy it was proven to be false. However it does show the lie of why there is any point of claiming that a photo can show a truth. Case in point I doubt it was published alongside the funeral of the pregnant woman, her husband and children from the other side of that conflict. As such however true a photographer may be, the objectivity or truth of the photo is only as true as how it is represented and what the bias is of whatever media is showing the image. One side of the media is right wing, the other left wing but I don't think I've ever heard of a truly objective centre. So what does it matter? The photo may be pure but the way it will be used is rarely so. Might as well not bother IMO, it's all lies, all agendas, it's why I don't bother with the news any more, nothing new under the sun...
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Ben Rubinstein
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« Reply #57 on: May 31, 2013, 04:56:51 AM »
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Stirring the pot are we? My point was that in general no photo could lay claim to being an objective truth unless presented as such. Making claims as to the politics of posters is just trolling at this point.
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #58 on: May 31, 2013, 04:57:27 AM »
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Yes, the issue is not whether the image is manipulated but rather how much and with what intent.
Even a JPEG straight out of the camera is manipulated, just in this case the engineers from Canon or Nikon, or whatever, have done the manipulation for you.
Reality is another issue.
Photography cannot deliver reality or truth.
Photography can however deliver a representation of reality or truth.
However, in every case whether the viewer is aware of this or not, they are interpreting the image.
By definition, no image can be objective to the nth degree.
Some photography is done with objectivity in mind but even so interpretation is always required - no matter if everyone who looks at an image can agree to its elements the overall interpretation can result in wide differences in opinion.

I confess to liking images to try and represent what I saw at the time of shooting.
I fully comprehend that what I 'saw' at the time is subjective.
Depending on the time lag to post-processing I am sure a degree of 'drift' takes place as well with regards to what I thought I saw.
Usually I am carrying in my memory not just sights but sounds and even smells that all inform my interpretation of what I saw and especially what it mean't.

Even images that others post on this forum of South (and Southern) Africa that take me back there I interpret radically differently to individuals who have never been there. Sometimes I can even smell the locations as I view the images. All of this is normal and good. All of us in one way or another, and to some degree or another, bring our own interpretation to both our work and the work of others.
I enjoy reading the comments about posted images precisely because even if everyone really likes an image they all see different things in it that they like.
I hazard a guess that if we all saw the same things in every image or wanted to shoot and post-process in the same way not many of us would do it for long - we would find the whole process stultifyingly boring.

What about images that have had wholesale edits applied like removing or adding elements.
Is it perforce a bad thing?
Well, about a year ago a very similar debate was had in response to an article posted by Alain Briot and his philosophy toward photography and art.
Alain felt that massive editing was a valid part of the artistic process when post-processing images.
Some felt that doing this was not in the spirit of photography, especially in the context of landscape photography.
However, Alain, explicitly and obviously, through his artists statement, informs viewers and buyers that his images may well be purely the result of his imagination and artistic ability.
I believe this to be a very fair and ethical approach.

Not everyone agrees with Alain's approach to disclosure and I remember several reasons were advanced to defend non-disclosure. I confess to respecting the views advanced without really comprehending why an open disclosure of one's artistic philosophy could not be given to viewers and buyers as the case may be.

Schewe has stated in a recent post that scepticism should be the fundamental starting point when viewing photography.
He has a good point.
In fact this scepticism is really a corollary of the interpretive ability that human being possess that allows art to be art.
We enjoy analysing and interpreting EVERYTHING and not just drawings, paintings, sculptures, and photography that apparently purport to be art.
We sometimes even see 'art' in what is supposed to be purely utilitarian.
Photography is one of the most interesting of the apparently artistic endevours, precisely because it so closely represents reality, yet it cannot be reality. These parallel universes, if you like, provide rich pickings for our insatiable appetite to analyse and interpret what that image may, or, may not mean, and, what it may, or, may not, represent.
There is nothing wrong with the starting position: "Don't believe anything that you see in a photographic image."
Starting there may result in a very rich interpretive experience precisely because there may be so many more factors to consider.
This viewpoint is not so very different from the approach that modern science takes although it diverges from science in that interpreting art does not require the same objectivity with regard to the accumulation and analysis of data that science does.

In summary photography cannot be photography without manipulation and our interpretation of photography cannot be anything but subjective, at least to some degree. Whether we interpret an image as representing reality is always, well, ...open to interpretation!

Tony Jay
« Last Edit: May 31, 2013, 05:02:36 AM by Tony Jay » Logged
stamper
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« Reply #59 on: May 31, 2013, 05:38:56 AM »
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Tony's post is a very good outline of the problem. There certainly isn't a definitive answer to this, and there will never be.

There is nothing wrong with the starting position: "Don't believe anything that you see in a photographic image."


An acquaintance of mine used to say that or something very similar. However it wasn't an honest appraisal. He was actually jealous of what could be done to make an image look better compared to straight out of the camera. He didn't have the skill or the ability to learn editing skills. He was the type of person who wouldn't admit it which meant he rubbished the whole idea. I suspect there are a lot of photographers like him. Michael had an article on the site a few years ago with a French saying - which I can't pronounce - or state that summed up the problem nicely.
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