As a tog, clients have probably asked you to alter your images in various ways, ranging from the mild skin touch-up to the fun breast enhancement job. Or like us in this photograph above, you’ve simply decided to create a fairytale portrait … because you fancied it!
But not everyone seems to agree on the morality of editing things out (or in!). When chatting to photographers and customers alike, we’ve really heard both sides of the coin and found the debate rather interesting!
Some argue that editing = cheating. That this bird's neck tag above was on the animal that day, and that by removing it, we are not showing the reality, the fact that it is not a totally wild animal.
My own mother always argues that ‘the sky wasn’t that blue’, or ‘that window was definitely broken!’ when she sees my photos. And more often than not, she strongly disapproves!
More recently, the debate has been rekindled by various mobile apps and selfie filters. Should you really make your eyes blue if they’re brown? Your hair short if it’s long? Or your skin as smooth as a baby … but that’s a whole different debate on modern societies and self-acceptance!
Going back to photography, others think just the opposite. People who believe that far from cheating, editing can give photographers much scope for creativity and isn’t actually that straightforward. We agree that mastering the art of subtle editing and compositing isn’t easy at all.
The final image should simply match the brief.
Just as there are different kinds of painting (cubism, realism, etc.) there are different kinds of photography. And we wouldn’t expect the same final images from a fine art shoot and a documentary-type project.
Besides, it is just as easy to portray untruths in camera, by omitting to photograph a subject, going for a certain angle, or removing the bird's tag yourself before taking the photo. Photographers have not waited for Photoshop to do that.
Basically, it all depends on the type of photography and the photographer's purpose. Many professionals seem to agree on that. We recently attended the Photography Show (amazing by the way, we really recommend it!) and loved Underwater photographer David Keep’s take on the topic: David’s objective when creating a photograph is to invoke emotions and feelings in the viewer. As long as he does not lie to his viewers, David has no issue with editing: 'When I process, I do not have other photographers or nature specialists in mind - I think of the general man/woman in the street. What would it take for them to be moved by our images. For me if I don't incite some kind of emotion in the viewer I have failed - & of course I often do fail, but I'm driven to keep trying'.
And to put the final nail in the coffin – if that’s how you choose to see it! – one of our favourite sessions was Glyn Dewis’s on adding light in Photoshop! If you do it well enough, no one will ever know that those headlights weren’t on, and … well, it looks cool!
Ultimately, the answer lies with ethics. If you’re a war journalist, editing torture out would probably be seen as unethical. But if your purpose is artistic, then go for it! In art, ‘the sky is the limit’ as they say, and if you want to turn a model on a horse into an elf on a unicorn, who’s there to stop you?
- Fairy Model: @evemayx
- Red-legged seriema: Steve, from Knowsley Safari Park #KnowsleySafari
- Quote by @davidkeepphotography => www.davidkeepphotography.co.uk/
- PS course by @glyndewis