Is it Ok to manipulate your photos?

Once in a Lifetime

In the days of film photography, photographers manipulated their images in the darkroom. Ansel Adams himself was very accomplished in the darkroom – and he wasn’t afraid to stretch the boundaries of possibility. I think we take ourselves entirely too seriously if we aren’t willing to let photography be the art form that it is. Of course, there are limits to what I believe is acceptable. First and foremost – I believe in honesty. If I adjusted an image in Photoshop, I believe it’s important to be honest about the changes I’ve made. And if I am presenting an image for documentary purposes – newspapers etc – then I need to make sure my photograph is true to the reality of the original scene. That said, as far as I’m concerned… there are no limits to what is acceptable when it comes to your art work.

Additionally, it’s important to remember that a JPG image directly from your camera is also a manipulation… it’s just manipulated according to the settings you select in-camera, and the algorithms that the software developers choose.

Film was very different… there were no built-in, digital algorithms. No JPG or RAW or PSD… and yet, photographers used colored filters to produce effects that are similar to what we can achieve in PS. They dodged and burned and cropped and rotated. They chose Velvia film to produce saturated colors. They used circular polarizers to enhance colors and reduce reflections.

A circular polarizer filter helped remove distracting reflections from the wet surface of the rock. A wide-angle lens makes the rock appear large and adds depth to the image.

They used kaleidoscopic lenses to create bizarre manipulations, and fish-eye lenses to create extreme distortion, and wide-angle lenses to mess with perspective, and long lenses to get close to faraway objects, and macro lenses to make little things look big. They created double exposures.

Double Exposure created in Photoshop from two images taken within minutes of one another.

They used soft focus, or a long exposure, or a narrow depth of field to change the look of the scene they were photographing.

A narrow depth of field eliminates distracting details from the background.

And they even used masks – carefully cut from dark paper, or even created with the help of a microscope – to build images that were not so different from what we can do with Photoshop today. If photography is art – then who decides what is right or wrong? The artist, of course!

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About Author Varina Patel

There is nothing more remarkable to me than the power of nature. It is both cataclysmic and subtle. Slow and continuous erosion by water and wind can create landscapes every bit as astonishing as those shaped by catastrophic events – and minuscule details can be as breathtaking as grand vistas that stretch from one horizon to the other. Nature is incredibly diverse. Burning desert sands and mossy riverbanks… Brilliant sunbeams and fading alpenglow… Silent snowfall and raging summer storms… Each offers a unique opportunity. I am irresistibly drawn to the challenge of finding my next photograph, and mastering the skills required to capture it effectively.