How much image manipulation is too much?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Rich, Mar 9, 2006.

  1. Rich

    Rich Guest

    -a minor amount of brightness, colour saturation or contrast changes?
    -The use of garish film response or large amounts of colour to
    oversaturate an image (like Velvia landscapes that look pretty but
    fake as Hell)?
    -Wholesale deletion and addition of objects into the frame that were
    not there before?

    When I look at unrealistic images, sometimes they look "nice" but
    something about them turns me off from an imaging perspective.
    Its like shots of a lion taken in a zoo; Sure you can get a nice
    close-up, detailed unhindered by grassland growth, distance, etc,
    but it really doesn't represent any kind of work on the part of the
    imager. Its essentially staged, much as heavy image manipulation is.
    For a magazine ad campaign to sell a camera or a car, it might make
    sense, but from a purely photographic standpoint, IMO, its cheating.
    Because we're talking art here, I guess there are no rights or wrongs.
     
    Rich, Mar 9, 2006
    #1
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  2. Rich

    Bob Williams Guest

    No matter what ANYONE says, it is a totally arbitrary opinion.....Which
    is OK for them but is certainly not binding on anyone else.
    There is no "higher authority" that says adjusting levels is good but
    cloning or juxtaposing images is evil. We are not talking Religion, we
    are just having fun playing with images.
    If we are making images for our own enjoyment, the sky is the limit.
    Whatever manipulation gives us the most pleasure and enjoyment is the
    correct one to use.
    Now, if you are a contest moderator, you can set certain rules by which
    all entrants must abide. If I don't like the rules, I can choose simply
    to not enter the contest contest. Fair enough?
    Bob Williams
     
    Bob Williams, Mar 9, 2006
    #2
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  3. Rich

    Charles Guest

    This one has obviously been manipulated a bit, but it came out as a
    pleasant picture: in alt.binaries.pictures.astro

    message ID:

    2XKPf.40460$%[email protected]
     
    Charles, Mar 9, 2006
    #3
  4. : Rich wrote:
    : > -a minor amount of brightness, colour saturation or contrast changes?
    : > -The use of garish film response or large amounts of colour to
    : > oversaturate an image (like Velvia landscapes that look pretty but
    : > fake as Hell)?
    : > -Wholesale deletion and addition of objects into the frame that were
    : > not there before?
    : >
    : > When I look at unrealistic images, sometimes they look "nice" but
    : > something about them turns me off from an imaging perspective.
    : > Its like shots of a lion taken in a zoo; Sure you can get a nice
    : > close-up, detailed unhindered by grassland growth, distance, etc,
    : > but it really doesn't represent any kind of work on the part of the
    : > imager. Its essentially staged, much as heavy image manipulation is.
    : > For a magazine ad campaign to sell a camera or a car, it might make
    : > sense, but from a purely photographic standpoint, IMO, its cheating.
    : > Because we're talking art here, I guess there are no rights or wrongs.
    : >
    : No matter what ANYONE says, it is a totally arbitrary opinion.....Which
    : is OK for them but is certainly not binding on anyone else.
    : There is no "higher authority" that says adjusting levels is good but
    : cloning or juxtaposing images is evil. We are not talking Religion, we
    : are just having fun playing with images.
    : If we are making images for our own enjoyment, the sky is the limit.
    : Whatever manipulation gives us the most pleasure and enjoyment is the
    : correct one to use.
    : Now, if you are a contest moderator, you can set certain rules by which
    : all entrants must abide. If I don't like the rules, I can choose simply
    : to not enter the contest contest. Fair enough?
    : Bob Williams

    I have to agree with Bob on this one. The amount of "manipulation" that is
    right for you and for the specific image will depend on you, the intent
    and the viewer (which could also be you).

    If this is supposed to be a "true representation of what I see" then the
    least manipulation is probably best. But if it is "art" the skys the
    limit. As with any art form some of us will like it and some will hold
    their nose. I may not count a "painting" done by throwing cans of paint
    into the outfow of a jet engine as worth the cost of the paint, but others
    do. I may like a pastoral "cattle in a field" painting that others deem to
    be booring and unimaginative. And the funny thing is that none of us are
    wrong. The same goes for photography. If you "play with" an image and get
    a result that you like, you did just the right amount of manipulation. One
    of the nice things about digital image editing software, many of the
    better ones allow you to backup to a previous point in the process if you
    find that you have gone too far. Lets see a painter do the same (Gee I
    think it would have been better if I had painted Mona Lisa a bit further
    to the left...). :)

    Randy

    ==========
    Randy Berbaum
    Champaign, IL
     
    Randy Berbaum, Mar 9, 2006
    #4
  5. It is not cheating any more than using oil paints vs pencil is cheating
    by an artist working in a different medium.

    It is all about what the artist chooses for tools and how they apply
    them. Photography is no different.

    I don't like all art forms (maybe I should say I don't appreciate them),
    but that does not make them cheating or lesser arts.

    It could well be said that demanding straight photos with little or no
    post exposure processing is not acceptable is rejecting the idea that
    photography is an art and is only a mechanic science.

    Not that anything is wrong with grouping images according into
    classifications or appreciating different styles or techniques, but I would
    have to say that no method is 'cheating."
     
    Joseph Meehan, Mar 9, 2006
    #5
  6. Rich

    Jeremy Guest

    I agree. Part of the reason for it is that we have become conditioned to
    spectacular imagery--saturated colors, tack-sharp focus, frozen action, etc.

    Sort of like fake boobs--at first they were eye-catching, but now every
    woman has 'em, and they've become a prerequisite for any girl that wants to
    get into show business (or be a waitress at the local diner . . . )
     
    Jeremy, Mar 9, 2006
    #6
  7. Rich

    mianileng Guest

    I agree with everything said here. Not in a judgmental sense, but as
    you said, something about those artificially enhanced pictures turns me
    off. I guess it depends on how we define photography and what we expect
    from it. To me, photography is a recording of a scene or a moment.
    Reasonable adjustments to compensate for shortcomings in the
    photographer's skill or equipment is OK, but obvious manipulation is
    not photography. It's another form of creative art, which is fine so
    long as it is categorised as such.
     
    mianileng, Mar 9, 2006
    #7
  8. My feeling is much the same. It's a matter of "What effect are you
    going for?" In most of my photography (which is all non-professional,
    just for fun) I'm aiming to document what's there in a way that evokes
    some kind of emotion. Now, "what's there" is kind of a philosophical
    question: your eyes and your brain are fooling you all the time; what
    you see is not exactly what shows up in a photograph.

    I took a photograph of a building the other week, and there were
    some tourists milling around. I didn't feel like they added anything to
    the picture, and I would have preferred that they weren't in the shot,
    but there they were. I could have edited them out, but they were there
    when I pressed the button. If I were doing commercial photography and
    just trying to represent the building, then maybe I'd edit them out, but as
    it is I feel it would be a little like cheating.
     
    Jeremiah DeWitt Weiner, Mar 10, 2006
    #8
  9. Rich

    Stan Horwitz Guest

    For me, when I look at a photo, it depends on the context. If the photo
    is part of a newspaper report, for example, I would hope that any
    digital manipulation is done only to enhance the quality of the photo,
    not to change what it represents.

    When I look at a photo that's intended to be a piece of art, the answer
    depends on the photo. If the manipulation looks too extreme and you can
    tell the photo was edited easily, its too much. If the photo looks nice,
    then the Photshopping is okay. In short, its entirely in the eye of the
    beholder.
     
    Stan Horwitz, Mar 10, 2006
    #9
  10. Rich

    John Smith Guest

    For a photographer, as little as possible... for an artist who is only using
    photography as one element in his/her "vision" the sky's the limit.
     
    John Smith, Mar 11, 2006
    #10
  11. I would say many photographers are artist. I see no reason to suggest
    that photographers are not artist.

    Even many photographers who are not trying to produce art have good
    reason to manipulate. I do some medical photography. It involves little or
    no art, but it does involve manipulation in order to do the best job.
     
    Joseph Meehan, Mar 11, 2006
    #11
  12. Rich

    mianileng Guest

    This is not a challenge - it's more of a question. Some manipulation
    may be acceptable or even desireable in any application of photography,
    but where does it end ? E.g., if you were to take a picture of a
    melanoma for a medical textbook, how much artificial enhancement would
    be best ?

    I'm not in the medical profession, but I'm intimately acquainted with
    many who are - from students and interns to senior heads of
    departments. One topic that comes up regularly is about how different
    things are in the real world from those presented in medical books.
    This applies to textual descriptions as well as pictures. Perhaps the
    writers also manipulate, consciously or unconsciously, the descriptions
    to fit what they think is the way it *should* be.
     
    mianileng, Mar 11, 2006
    #12
  13. Rich

    John Smith Guest

    In the original context of the question, I don't agree. I've got a problem
    with accepting an image that been "photoshoped" within an inch of it's life
    as a "photograph".

    However, I can accept that image as an original creation that happens to be
    "based" on a photograph.

    Understand, we're talking about substantial changes to "reality" here, not
    correcting or tweaking the image while still keeping it more or less
    faithful to the original scene.
     
    John Smith, Mar 11, 2006
    #13
  14. Funny melanoma is the subject.

    In this case photography is being used to record current state to
    establish a baseline for changes. To do that sometimes means creative use
    of lighting or post processing to bring out detail, much the same as
    staining a microscope slide.
    That could be. I would hope not, but it is possible. BTW you might
    want to do some manipulation to provide a final photo more like the original
    than a "straight" print would produce. We even did that in the old days of
    wet processing.
     
    Joseph Meehan, Mar 12, 2006
    #14
  15. Rich

    bob Guest


    In part it depends on the use. If I was sitting on a jury in a trial I'd
    want to see unedited photos, for instance.

    In my own work, I usually want my editing to be invisible. Like I took a
    picture across a harbor with some docked boats in the foreground. One
    boat had a large red "for sale" sign on it that was very distracting to
    the print. It was easy to clone out, and if you saw the picture you
    would never know it wasn't there.

    I don't really consider changes of levels and curves manipulation, just
    another part of the exposure process.

    Bob
     
    bob, Mar 13, 2006
    #15
  16. Rich

    mianileng Guest

    No argument there. What I and others object to is when someone makes
    extensive alterations and enhancements to a photo to make it look nicer
    and still calls it photography. If he calls it art with the original
    photo as the starting point, no objection there either. Whether we like
    the end product or not is a different matter.
     
    mianileng, Mar 13, 2006
    #16
  17. I would say it is much the same as an impressionist calling what they do
    painting. Michelangelo and Pablo Picasso were both painters.
     
    Joseph Meehan, Mar 13, 2006
    #17
  18. wrote:

    : No argument there. What I and others object to is when someone makes
    : extensive alterations and enhancements to a photo to make it look nicer
    : and still calls it photography. If he calls it art with the original
    : photo as the starting point, no objection there either. Whether we like
    : the end product or not is a different matter.

    Unfortuantely the word Photography is defined (in part) as:
    The art, practice, or occupation of taking and printing photographs.

    And Photograph is defined:
    An image. A positive print, recorded by a camera.

    (the Concise American Heritage Dictionary)

    You will notice that art IS included in the description. It is true that
    nothing is said about manipulation of the image. So this is not specific
    for or against such manipulation. Thus many of us tend to lean toward any
    image that was (originally) captured with a photographic process is still
    a photograph. Even "fakes" or "artistic manipulated" photographs are still
    photographs.

    Maybe what needs to be found is a word that specifically means an image
    that is captured, processed, and printed in such a way that the completed
    output is as closely consistant with the original view as can be achieved.
    The word Photograph (and all its derivitives) is just too vague for the
    purists in the field. This is not wrong, as a vague definition allows each
    of us to define it in our own narrower designation. But our own definition
    probably will not match everyone elses.

    If you have any suggestions of how to designate a photographic image with
    no processing (and/or one with only minimum processing to adjust for
    inaccuracys in input/output technologies such as printer profiles). Who
    knows, you could be the inventer of a new word or word use that could
    become popular enough to make it into the next dictionary. :)

    Randy

    ==========
    Randy Berbaum
    Champaign, IL
     
    Randy Berbaum, Mar 16, 2006
    #18
  19. wouldn't a photograph that is manipulated enough to change the original
    scene captured considered digital art and not a photograph? If it was done
    with inks and dyes, wouldn't that be considered art as in a visual art
    piece? A photograph is an image from a camera and printed as an original,
    with minor changes such as exposure, contrast, or minor blemish removal.
    It is only when people "manipulate" the definition of a word that problems
    arise.
     
    newfysnapshot, Mar 16, 2006
    #19
  20. Rich

    Gary Edstrom Guest

    How much image manipulation is too much?

    My personal answer is this: If it is obvious that manipulation has
    been done, then it is too much. Manipulation should enhance and NOT
    overwhelm a picture! I'm not against enhancement at all. I use it on
    my own pictures. But I always try to look at the overall picture and
    ask myself if it really looks natural. If not, then I back off the
    controls a little and try again.

    Gary
     
    Gary Edstrom, Mar 16, 2006
    #20
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