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Should You Digitally Manipulate Your Photographs?

This is a highly debatable question. The purists swear by originality and look down upon manipulated work. But in the digital age when most of the photographs don’t even take form on paper and just are passed from screen to screen, sure quite a lot has changed. It’s easy to use Photoshop to cover up the blemishes or may be only enhance the exposure. So while one photographer showcases the original, others have retouched images in their portfolio. Which way should you go?

  • Find your art

    With new factors coming into the world of art, every field of art is growing. You have to decide your medium of expression. After all that’s what art is – it is a medium of expression. How do you want to express? You’ll find DeviantArt to be such a resource of artistic expressions. There’s no stopping, no-holds-barred. People share what they create in whichever ways. So basically you have to decide which way to go.

  • Photography manipulation is nothing new

    Before digital was born, in the times of black-and-white, photographers employed custom film development to get the right exposure and results. They used the filters of their choice to bring out what they envisioned. So strictly speaking they did alter the original. But that’s about classical photography. Today the medium has gone digital. So why shy away from using Photoshop?

  • Retouching kills the technique

    One thing that goes against retouching is that enthusiasts tend to be careless in technique and try to fix things later during post-processing. Basically here’s how I interpret it: if you falter at technique but achieve the desired results in the post-processing phase – you are more of a retouching artist. If you get the result right in-camera you are more of a purist and a classical photographer.

  • You don’t have to choose

    Every professional photographer gets his work retouched before their photographs take form on media be it in advertisements or news. Things have to be polished to look surreal and marketable. In fact the job of a professional photographer demands that the results be polished and be marketable. But for something that doesn’t need marketing and is a pure specimen of artwork, the right employment is critical. This is the case with photography competitions etc.

  • A blend of both

    Trick photography is another field that comes into play. The original can be retouched. To extend that idea trick photography fakes the result. So basically it all is a blend of everything. Employ the method that you feel like best expresses your expression.

So at last it all depends on the situation. If you are shooting a product for marketing you’d need everything you can get hands on to suppress the reflections on the product body or to create them when needed. When you are out their on the country-side streets capturing some the raw scenes you may prefer to perform the role of a purist. But just in case your rainbows feel unsaturated I find it ok to tweak them in Photoshop. The basic guideline is if your work sells commercially it has potent to be retouched. If your work sells to connoisseurs of art you keep it pure. Just be honest about your artwork. Retouching is by no means a way to say that you are a better photographer. But if you don’t tweak the curves or white-balance in Photoshop or tune your camera settings you are overlooking the limitations of the camera and as Ken Rockwell says “You cannot let the camera drive itself“. Do you digitally manipulate your photography work?

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4 comments… add one
  • Paul Aug 4, 2009 @ 23:00

    Post manipulation of images. Sometimes it sounds like a dirty phrase.

    I confess, YES I do it too.

    However I do my best to get it right when taking the shot. Having a fairly recent move from 35m and 6×4.5 format I’m still in the habit of being ‘frugal’ with my shooting. While some may come back with 500+ images, I will only have 90-120.
    I Work with these damn things called computers from Moday to Friday. I don’t want to be parked behind one sifting through piles of dross looking for some thing that can be salvaged and then trying to beat it into something I’m not ashamed to show others.
    Not being that skilled with Photoshop I try to keep my changes to a minimum. Play with the levels a little, tickle up the brightness and contrast and a touch of sharpening. On rare ocasions a dash of graduated filtering to improve the mood of the image. Cropping too as one can’t always get the perfect composition at the time.

    Any cabbage can blaze away and take a gazillion pics and get some of them right by accident. Trying to get it right when you shoot it is the best way, (in my opinion), to improve your skills as a photographer instead of a image emergency services..

  • Jennifer Pham Sep 21, 2009 @ 11:23

    thank you for great content , and picture
    but i like photograph i dont retourch via photoshop :)

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