OPINION: Why Photoshop is Ruining Landscape Photography

OPINION: Why Photoshop is Ruining Landscape Photography

This opinion piece was contributed by Declan O’Neill from www.newzealandlandscape.com.

The winner of one of Britain’s most prestigious photographic competitions was stripped of his title recently because of excessive use of Photoshop. David Byrne was the winner of the Landscape Photographer of The Year award and a £10,000 ($16000) prize but has now had his title and prize money taken away in a surprise move by the organisers of the competition which is supported by Epson, The Sunday Times Magazine and The National Theatre.

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The dramatic reversal came about after other photographers pointed out that the image had been photoshoped to include clouds not in the original image. Other photographers pointed to the impossibility of the sun casting shadows in different directions.

Mr. Byrne defended his manipulation of the image by pointing out that altering images is hardly new. He was quoted by The Daily Mail as saying, ‘The purists out there were not happy. Messing about with pictures has been done for over 100 years. I treat my photography as art and I try to make the best looking picture.’

Those three sentences neatly define the battle lines which have been drawn over the digital manipulation of photographs.

First of all he seems to suggest that anyone who objects to manipulating images is a ‘purist’. It seems clear that ‘purist’ is not a compliment in this context. What this veiled insult fails to acknowledge is that many photographers do not object to using Photoshop to enhance photographs but they do object to its use in altering photographs.

The problem comes in defining when enhancement crosses a boundary into alteration. Removing power lines from a landscape is one thing. Changing the colour of the sky from grey to orange quite another. It isn’t as if there is any shortage of sunsets around to photograph and the joy of landscape photography is capturing the elusive, not manufacturing it with software. It’s no crime to create a sunset sky, it’s just rather sad that someone would need to do it when there is so much natural colour to photograph. How many times have you looked at a super saturated landscape photograph and known instinctively that it’s false? Yet we see these photographs constantly win awards in club and national competitions. Anyone who has studied the way sunlight paints the landscape from different angles knows how to capture the best colour without needing Photoshop. That’s what being out in the field teaches you. You learn how to use the light to maximum effect.

The second defence that Mr. Byrne advances is that photographers have been ‘messing about’ with photographs for a long time. His choice of words is both unfortunate and revealing. Photographers should respect their subject matter. You do not have to go very far to capture truly beautiful natural photographs and the idea that it’s ok to mess about with the captured image is a depressing comment on the craft of photography. This attitude tells us that the photographer has no qualms about creating a vision of what they wish they had captured, but failed.

Finally Mr. Byrne tells us that he treats his photography as ‘art’ and tries to make ‘the best looking picture’. Here is the real problem with the software tools that allow us to create our own photographs. Photography has always been a craft. Ansel Adams had no need to add clouds or alter tree shapes because his images were honest and beautiful. There is nothing wrong with painting new images with Photoshop, just don’t call it photography. It is something entirely different when a photographer wants to be an artist. An artist creates images from their imagination and that is a wonderful thing. Just leave photography to record what the camera sees not what the photographer wishes it had seen.

What is extraordinary is that Mr. Byrne should have won such a prestigious title as Landscape Photographer of the Year. Luckily, his alterations were brought to the attention of the judges who had been unable to detect them for themselves. But for the ‘purists’ his accolade would have reinforced the idea that we can alter images in the name of ‘art’ and still claim they are photographs. If something good can come out of this sorry debacle it is the lesson that landscape does not need our interference. The true joy of landscape photography lies in capturing its pristine beauty. Painting it in the crude lipstick of Photoshop is both unnecessary and an admission that we cannot leave it to speak for itself through our lenses.

Declan O’Neill is a photographer who lives in Nelson New Zealand. He specialises in landscape photography and runs photographic tours of the South Island. His website can be found at www.newzealandscape.com.

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Some Older Comments

  • Gary June 25, 2013 04:05 am

    Thanks for bringing this to the fore...I have always stated that many of the competitions (even wrote to one photographic magazine) stating that their own competition should be re-worded as 'Photoshopper of the Year' as opposed to Photographer of the year as the winning article could never have been done without large manipulation (but you guessed it, they never mentioned anything about it!)

    My own personal thoughts on the subject are, if you manipulate an image to the extent that you remove or add or manipulate an object / colour to such an extent that it was/wasn't there at the time of taking it, then your using tools to achieve the desired effect and not the photograph

  • Dave May 10, 2013 02:45 pm

    So it's NOT okay to make a grey sky orange, but it IS okay to make an orange sky grey?! Dudes... Relax. You say it's okay to enhance?? You mention craft? Is one of you Galen Rowell?

  • Brian May 10, 2013 07:53 am

    Ever seen the negative of Moonlight over Hernandez? It sucks. Mr Adams "messed about" plenty and photoshop is just the digital equivalent of the darkroom.

  • Richard Jones April 20, 2013 01:06 pm

    This social networking thingy has for me become a doubled edged sword. The good side is that anyone can express an opinion with total anonymity, and they do, they do, and I’m doing it also. The bad side is, it can and often does become crazy, sometimes vicious. It has not become vicious in this forum, but could easily do so.

    For the reasons I have mentioned here I bailed out of Face book and LinkedIn. I started a discussion group on LinkedIn that went well beyond seven hundred posts. It started off well enough, but close to the end it was a free for all. The thread posed the question “Do you think painting over images produced by digital cameras and printed on canvas is legitimate or fraud?” Well that put the fox in the henhouse! I was squarely on the fraud side of the question.

    Readers could well ask why do I defend Photoshopping and criticise those who (can’t draw) paint over printed images. The answer to this issue oil and acrylic paintings among other mediums, painted over photographs are being routinely passed off as traditional paintings. Traditional work for most collectors has more value than the latter method. It is based on a respect for the skill level required by the artist. This practice of painting over photos in my view is definitely FRAUD!

    With regard to PP editing; it’s easy to spot an HDR, so it’s hardly an attempt to defraud and the same can be said for many works that have much PP editing. How about the work of a fine art photographer that is so well done that no tooling or any other evidence can be detected by even the most skilled observer, is that fraudulent? I take the position that the viewer buys the work based on an emotional response. As a published and collected painter and photographer, I have done exactly the same thing after seeing the works of other artists, I have been so moved by a work that I purchased it and took down my own work to use the space for the other artist work.

    What’s all this to do with photography? Well I think of photography as an art, but unlike painting a landscape where one can modify the sky to what one likes; the photographer has to manipulate the photo, and has been done since the advent of photography. Agree or not, there are those among us who see this as legitimate (count me in), and those who vehemently oppose such methods; back to painting over photographs. I call this fraud; those who defend the practice say it is a legitimate use of modern technology, the same argument I use to defend PP editing with digital software. So who’s right? Let us all just get on with what we do best and not try to win an argument with no end.

  • Jonathan Pearlman April 20, 2013 12:43 pm

    I only post here to make sure my email account is working.....

  • David Sargent April 20, 2013 12:13 pm

    Wow, I should not have selected for the site to email me automatically with new comments lol.

  • Richard Jones April 20, 2013 12:05 pm

    What makes my wife happy, is my work selling!

  • Richard Jones April 20, 2013 12:04 pm

    Criky, that was fast!!!

  • Jonathan Pearlman April 20, 2013 12:03 pm

    Your work makes your wife happy Richard?

    You, sir, are a true artist.

  • Jonathan Pearlman April 20, 2013 12:01 pm

    I have a photo of me flogging a dead horse.

  • Richard Jones April 20, 2013 12:00 pm

    Who cares? Some do, some don’t as evidenced by the comments here. Personally I don’t give a toss! I edit in Photoshop without regard for the purists and with total commitment to producing work that satisfies my artistic vision, and satisfies my patrons, which satisfies my bank manager and also makes my wife happy.

    Any further discussion on this topic will be a chronic waste of time (although some interesting reading) as it will not be resolved any time soon. Let’s all do our best at what we choose to do without ranting and raging to devalue others efforts and work.

  • chauncey April 20, 2013 11:39 am

    Does anyone have a picture of a dead horse!

  • Richard April 20, 2013 11:18 am

    Of course its all about opinion. That is the purpose of this discussion, offering(and respecting) opinions

    What I mean about adding a tree to a blank screen was adding a 100% computer generated tree, Sure its still art, but is it photography?

    I believe there is a line when it is no longer photography, where that line stands is the question.

  • Jonathan Pearlman April 20, 2013 11:09 am

    Isn't that my point Richard? Anyone offering an opnion - because this discussion is based only on opinion, not morality, not values, not legality (save for competition rules).

    You ask a question that seems to elude us all: what is photography?

    You turn on your laptop and add to your blank page a tree, a river, a sky and clouds (presumably, a collection of photographs) - and you create. Has your creativity been diluted? If so, how?

    The painter who paints a scene and ADDS what ISN'T there (a brook, a cottage, a bridge) which, 200 years later, sells for $20m and who takes his place as the world's greatest landscape painter? Is he not an artist?

    'Rescuing' a bad exposure is not the same as 'enhancing' the clouds. The clouds, which were once white and fluffy can be made appear dark and menacing; this 'alters' the emotional view of the photograph. It is an untruth from what it was the artist saw at the time of the photograph.

  • Richard April 20, 2013 10:54 am

    Who defines one thing over another?
    Anyone offering their opinion actually

    I fail to see what this has to do with a court of law but my point is that one is real....one is fake

    And again
    Rescuing a bad exposure is not the same as adding something

    If I can turn on my laptop, start with a blank page, add a tree here and river there with a blue sky and a few puffy clouds all without even owning a camera....Is it still photography?

  • Jonathan Pearlman April 20, 2013 10:27 am

    But who defines the "one thing" as opposed to "another thing"

    The artist was disqualified pursuant to the rules of the competition, not by some over-arching authority that governs the taking and making of photographs.

    You may very well believe yourself to have been a 'victim' if I portray an unconscious child in the arms of a firefighter in front of a burning building. Unfortunately, you would have nil to no chance of seeking satisfaction in a court of law unless you can prove there to be a loss or an injury which added to your claim.

    I make no value judgment of anyone who would do such a thing with their photographs. Similarly, I make no judgement on Ansell Adams incorrectly judging his own 'zone system' and having to rescue the result in the darkroom.

    Altering, schmaltering. Who cares?

  • Richard April 20, 2013 09:52 am

    One point that those who use Ansel Adams as an example is the fact that he never added anything to his image....He only enhanced it

    Aa far as I know....He never added peaks to a mountain range or added a majestic tree to an orchard...

    In the photo that was disqualified...The photographer added clouds to the sky and shadows to the ground
    That is the difference

    As an example
    You photograph a firefighter coming out of a burning building with a few flames on the roof

    You can dodge the flames and burn in the smoke...that's one thing

    Photoshopping an unconscious child in his arms and a fireball exploding out the front door is another

  • Mike Russel April 20, 2013 09:25 am


    I loved your follow-on question. "Do you think the film masters would say their darkroom work made their good photos great? Or was it just fine tuning great photos?"

    Lets take Moonlight over Hernandez by Ansel Adams, the most famous of his spectacular images. I had the privilege of seeing a straight print from that negative along side the finished image printed personally by Ansel. The 1st doesn't hardly resemble the finished image. Ansel soaked that negative in Selenium Toner in order to increase the density because the sky was so under exposed. Then, he dodged the foreground heavily and did a considerable amount of burning and dodging.

    Ansel always said that the negative was the score and the print was the performance. For a complete description of how Ansel made this image, by his son in Ansel's home and darkroom, you should watch this:
    Do you think the film masters would say their darkroom work made their good photos great?
    Or was it just fine tuning great photos?


    This was an informative and enjoyable 10 minutes. So the simple answer to your question is a resounding YES the darkroom was as important a creative element as the initial image.

  • Richard Jones April 18, 2013 05:37 pm

    Thank you Jonathan, I enjoy your style of prose, keep posting. Now I have to hit the sack, its 01:30 my time. BTW, I know you are smart enough to recognise my blatant method of promoting my Flickr site, so thanks for not mentioning my self-serving motive, and thanks also for your kind comments.

    I will pay a visit to your site tomorrow

  • Jonathan Pearlman April 18, 2013 04:15 pm

    Richard! Gorgeous image. Should I care you 'borrowed' the sky? Your art was exactly what the market believed it was worth; ditto Gursky. Perhaps your buyer, had he/she believed others were interested, may well have upped their price. Who knows why 'Rhein 11' sold for $4.5m; more pertinently, it now has an unarguable value. Whether or not Gursky laughed all the way to the bank is a different story.

    In my head, my collection is invaluable.

    Let's start a new thread: "what makes a good photograph?" I'll open with a shot at a certain Magnum photographer.........

  • Richard Jones April 18, 2013 03:33 pm

    Thanks Jonathan for the correction and link, it made for interesting reading and viewing. Rhine 11 is an interesting image for me as it presents a simple juxtaposition of colour in a minimalist form. For the life of me I can’t see why it fetched such a high price. I just compared a landscape photo of mine that my gallery sold for $1200.00 CDN., dimensions 20”x 72”. Printed on canvas, stretched and framed unglazed.

    It can be viewed at http://www.flickr.com/photos/aeros4/6144629985/in/set-72157627605356989. I have produced a file of the same image with dimensions of 42”x 144”. I wonder what my chances are of getting a price like Rhine 11, 1999? BTW I’m getting very sharp res., with my Pentax MF 645D for large image prints. I think this is where the big bucks are, collectors with big spaces and big wallets. Regardless of the money, I just love printing large with razor shop detail, but then that’s just me.

    Oh another thought, (maybe this will put the fox in the henhouse) I changed the ho hum sky in the landscape for one I had in my archive for just such purpose, (actually two sky shots blended) great day, great view, lousy sky, quick fix! A collector had 1200 reasons to buy it; he was overwhelmed by the image which is a huge compliment to me and is worth more than the money.

  • Jonathan Pearlman April 18, 2013 03:20 pm

    I absolutely and totally and completely agree with you Jeffrey!

  • Jeffrey April 18, 2013 03:00 pm

    Thanks Richard and Jonathan and Everyone,
    Great discussion!
    To me, the art starts when we get that first adrenaline filled emotional response when seeing or thinking of a subject for the first time for a photograph. The rest is all processing pre and post shot. Still art but processing to produce a photograph that just maybe will give someone else that same emotion when they view it.

  • Jonathan Pearlman April 18, 2013 02:19 pm

    Thanks Richard - you're almost there. The $4.5m photo was one 'created' and sold by Andreas Gursky - 'Rhein 11, 1999.'
    You can research it, rather than listen to me blather on about it.

    My "case" is that Gursky's image apparently lifted the photographer to the same dizzy heights as the 'artist.' Has he (Gursky) done us (photographers) any favours? Stieglitz certainly believed photography to be art; the making of the picture an art.

    Gursky's image has been manipulated; it is a copy of a copy of a copy of the original photograph with some subject matter deleted.

    My point is merely this: when does photography in all its forms and variants become an art? Does the 'manipulation' of the negative necessarily devalue the 'final' image. Do we need rules and regulation to fix the shadows - to dictate when and by how much one is allowed to alter a negative?

    I have a photo on my website - it is of a wooden kitchen chair seemingly floating in mid-air by a window. The photo is actually as I saw the subject in real life and I made one minor change in Photoshop. Did I cheat in any way? Does the altered negative devalue the final image I chose? See Stieglitz 'New York in Snow Storm' taken in the late 19th Century and compare the final version to his original negative. No matter how you turn it on its head, the negative was manipulated to create a new and exciting motif.

    Incidentally, I once met a master of processing; a German (now living in Australia) who spent almost 50 years in the darkroom processing negatives for some of the world's leading photographers. Did I realise, he asked, that some of the world's most famous photographs started their life as some of the shittiest negatives he'd ever seen?

  • Richard Jones April 18, 2013 01:48 pm

    I think the reference is to a backlit transparency that is about thirty feet square. The subject matter is a scene on an Afghan battle field depicting the scattered bodies of Russian soldiers. A very macabre subject that I recall sold for 3.5 million Dollars US.

    The point being made by Jonathan I think (if I’m referring to the same photo)is, that it was staged using actors in Russian uniforms, it was a photograph no less than a still shot on a movie set or of actors on a stage, and it sold for 3.5 million reasons upholding its validity to the buyer as a fine art image. This begs the question; is it a legitimate photography because it was staged (a form of manipulation)? Someone had 3.5 million reasons to buy it, manipulated or not.

  • Jeffrey April 18, 2013 12:46 pm

    Alfred Stieglitz believed that the darkroom work was as important as hitting the shutter button in the making of a picture. I am not quite sure what the $4.5m photograph is all about.

  • Richard April 18, 2013 09:29 am

    Im not exactly sure what your case is.

  • Jonathan Pearlman April 17, 2013 03:43 pm

    My two shillings worth: Alfred Stieglitz once said "the making of the negative is not the making of the picture."
    The great man knew a thing or three about manipulating photographs.
    Has anyone in this forum mentioned the (in)famous $4.5m photograph? I rest my case.

  • Jeffrey April 13, 2013 12:58 am

    Sure Mike and Izzy,
    You had to start this thread again for another weekend. Just kidding, to me the real art of photography is doing all that we are describing before we hit the shutter button. But if I dont get it right I will work it post processing. Great story Mike, good thoughts Izzy!
    Question for you, Do you think the film masters would say their darkroom work made their good photos great?
    Or was it just fine tuning great photos?

  • Izzy April 12, 2013 11:08 am

    If we define processing of an image as developing the data collected by the camera. Then whether it is on film or in digital form, the data still needs to be processed.
    We have idealised darkroom skills and totally accept this as skills of the photographer. Our most respected masters are those who were able to apply darkroom processing in a way the rest of us, mere mortals could only dream of.
    Processing today involves the processing of camera data in electronic form. Our darkroom today is safer, more accessible and therefore most of us can dabble at it. I am going to suggest that the same happened in the darkroom of the past. There would have been many draft images before the final masterful image was created and became the one we're all familiar with.

    If above is a reasonable opinion then I suggest the skills of those using software processing are just as valid. The images are just as valid and valued. And it is obviously less elite. It is the last factor which may be the motivation to be critical and invalidating the current photographic process.

  • Mike Russel April 11, 2013 11:07 pm

    I have been a landscape photographer for 30 years. I carried a Wisner view camera all over the world for 23 of those 30 years. I remember once in Machu Picchu, I was with group of photographers and we received special permission to be on site at sunrise. We had scouted the area carefully the night before. Sunrise arrived, we were cold, wet and set up to make exposures as the sun was about to rise.

    It was a beautiful morning, the sun came up in a blaze of glory, burning off the fog and what was left made a spectacular show. We all left very happy.

    I arrived home a week later and developed my sheet film only to find that a tourist with Garber Travel branded bag was sitting on the wall at the foundation of the subject I photographed. I was devastated. I can't believe all my images from that morning were ruined.

    You know what I am going to say next, right?

    5 years later I scanned those negatives and brought up that image in Photoshop. Within 60 seconds, the woman had been cloned out of the picture, I balanced some of the contrast and burned in the sky a little. The image was saved and this would not have been possible without the computer and software.

    So does that mean I ruined my image by using Photoshop? I didn't change the color of the sky, I could have. I didn't "photoshop" in sheep on the hill, I could have. I didn't even crop the image, I certainly could have done that too.

    Back when the camera was coming into use as a tool for portraiture in the 1800's, it was not considered to be creating art. In fact, in the 1500's only oil paint was considered a valid medium for the creation of art recognized by the masters of that era.

    For me, photoshop is a tool which I will use to create just as I use my camera to create. If that's a problem for some, they don't have to buy my images.

    Great discussion by the way....

  • Michael Bolognesi April 7, 2013 11:33 pm

    I dont like the general tone of this article at all. To me it sounds like the author is stuck up in the past big time. What is rather comical is the the author mention Ansel Adams. Clearly he haven't read Ansel Adam’s books “The Camera”, “The Negative’, and “The Print” or he would never have mentioned him. Ansel used the techniques available to him exactly in the same way most landscapers use editing software today.

    Photography evolves and the techniques available to process our images. There are no written rules in photography and each one of us decides what we want to do with our images. What's wrong removing a bird poo from a foreground rock when we can do so? To me that's enhancing a photograph no altering it.
    What's wrong blending two exposures to increase dynamic ranges when we can do so? What's wrong with long exposure photography?

    Rules in a competition should of course be adhered to. Mr Byrne clearly did not and was rightfully stripped off his award, end of story. Adding or removing large subjects is a totally different subject than to digitally enhancing your image.

    This article smells way more like a witch hunt towards the modern evolution of landscape photography and the techniques available today and he is using Mr Byrnes image as a very poor example in this debate.

  • Richard March 31, 2013 11:08 am

    A lot of people are comparing photoshop to Ansel Adams' burning and dodging but IMO there is a difference.

    You can dodge the shadow beside the rock so that the flower can be seen, but the flower IS there. Your eye can see it but film and paper have its limitations. Using Photoshop to add the flower is completely different.

    The same can be said with dodging,,,
    You can burn in a blown out sky but again, the clouds are there. Adding a lightning bolt is another matter

    Just my opinion

  • Jeffrey March 23, 2013 01:19 am

    Note to Wesley,
    That is a great article you attached in comments but that is a different author.

  • john hryniuk March 22, 2013 06:35 am

    There is no need to be rude on here. Everyone has their opinions so respect them regardless of what side they take.

  • GW Carter March 22, 2013 05:21 am

    The caveman artist disparaged the use of canvas; the oil painter disparaged the use of multi-media; and the film photographers disparaged the use of digital sensors. And so it goes.

  • Malcolm March 22, 2013 04:49 am

    You Sir, are a horses ass. If you went to an oil painter and asked him/her to paint your portrait, would you ask the painter to add your skin blotches, zits, wrinkles etc.? Of course not. Beauty is beauty and your "definition" of photography is absurd. Ansel Adams "diddled" with processing times, contrast, density etc. He did not shoot and present the image as it was but presented it as a work of art.

    Grow up!

  • Jeffrey March 22, 2013 03:42 am

    I guess the author hit a "hot button" with alot of us!

    Since when is photography not an art. The final image is always the way we saw it or remember it.

    We all see and remember differently. The author might want to consider archival photography as a profession or hobby.

  • Wesley March 22, 2013 02:54 am

    I see it both ways, You can criticize one way or the other but you can't criticize both as it seems you have done... May I remind you of a previous column you wrote? https://digital-photography-school.com/thats-a-photoshop

  • Leon Hertzson March 21, 2013 04:43 pm

    I have been taking/making images for almost 70 years. The fine art at the beginning of my work was in black and white with dodging and burning. In time, I learned to use potassium ferrocyanide just as Adams did in many of his images. Red/orange transparent dyes and fancy brushes filled out the manipulation process. We made good to great images with all the alternate processes at our disposal. But now we can do more in photoshop and equivalent techniques. I am a photographer and I make photographic images!! Also, I am an artist and the camera is the starting point in my artistry. No, I cannot make a water color or oil painting nor can I take a photo image and overpaint it as many artists do and have done for well over a century of time.
    But when I do shoot PJ or street scenes, I will not alter an image save for cropping to remove superfluous matter.
    In street photography, I will go further to enhance my image. This defines my art form. Any purist can take exception to this approach yet, the final image defines my position as "photographic artist". Lastly, unless one is restricted in nature photography to capture and present the final image, adding a better sky or removing an animal partially behind another seems most logical to me.

  • Rick Berk March 21, 2013 01:05 pm

    Honestly, anyone who claims Photoshop is destroying photography doesn't have a complete understanding of photography, it's history, it's practices, or how today's digital cameras work.

  • John Hryniuk March 21, 2013 08:02 am

    this is quite simple.

    Photography - taking a picture and adding contrast or lightening or darkening an area but not manipulating the image to the point where you are creating clouds that weren't there or light coming from the wrong direction.

    Illustration - taking a photo and moving the sun from the west to the east.. creating more clouds than there actually were. Adding things that weren't there... flying whales.. unicorns....

    If you want to enter a digital landscape photography contest please do so... you can add all the magical moonbeams and planets in the sky.. hell you can add hobbits. BUT when your entering a landscape photography contest that specifically asks for ethical photography.... then don't complain when you get booted from said contest

  • Joe Constantino March 21, 2013 03:47 am

    The technological advances that are currently taking place in photography are designed to assist the photographer in attempting to make his photos the best that he can. Some people use a lot of technology and some use a little. That is up to the individual. The new developments that are ever present in each of the new Photoshops that are presented tend to lean toward a term that exceeds the word photography. We are now talking about technography. It appears that the objective of each photograher is to try to produce the best image he/she can with the materials that are available. Once again it is a matter of choice.

    Ansel Adams enhanced his photographs with his dodging and burning.

    Perhaps the best example of conventional darkroom manipulation was done by Jerry Uelsmann. If you're not familiar with his work find some on the internet and you'll be astonished at what he has done in the darkroom.

    Some types of photography stipulate that there can be no manipulation such as photo journalism simply because the truth must be told in the image that is being presented. It is a simple matter of reading the instructions of the contest that is being entered to determine if you can or cannot manipulate the images that you are entering.

  • Mike DiRenzo March 21, 2013 12:33 am

    So, what does the "new" winning landscape photo look like? I bet its not quite as nice as the former award winner. I often find that the people who do the grumbling about manipulated photos are often those who have little skills when it comes to using post processing techniques. If I've travel 1000s of miles to visit and photograph a particular vista and Mother Nature doesn't cooperate with a beautiful sky, moon, etc. then I am going to do my best to make the photo and the trip worth my time, effort, and expense.

  • Richard Jones March 18, 2013 02:47 pm

    I just got an email commenting on this thread where I agree with everything the writer said in support of PP. Where we part company is on the last line where he says "Give the guy back his prize......it's a beautiful image." That's where we part company; yes it is beautiful but not believable. The dynamic between shadow and shade is in conflict with the light source.

    As a landscape and thus representational, the image does not represent reality. Simply put, this could not happen! The photographer failed to observe where the light source is and where the resultant light and shade should be. This image fails in my view for all the reasons I have detailed, and so should not get the first prize.

  • Anna Soffia Óskarsdóttir March 17, 2013 10:34 pm

    Ansel Adams is not a good example on little after-processing. He did not change a form of a tree or a mountain maybe, but he is known to work for days on one photo until it comes out as he likes it. Dodgin and burning, giving light and reducing light is nothing new. When is a photo a photo and when a graphoc peace builded on a phot is still not answered.
    Still I do not understand why winners do not have to show a copy of the raw file with intact metadata in those large competitions, where the rules are set clear in advance

  • John March 17, 2013 04:39 pm

    What a bunch of photo snobs! I can't believe all the so called "purist" out there. Photoshop is just a tool. It is no different than a darkroom. It seems that most of the negative comments are from people that don't have a clue how to use it. If most of you don't manipulate your images at all then you must not be shooting raw images because they have to be processed ( manipulated). And... Don't you dare change the white balance... That would be cheating!
    I'm a photographer but I also enjoy cartooning. I've seen similar comment about people that use iPads to draw. They are not "real" artist because the didn't draw it on a piece of paper. What a load of ....well... You know.
    Give the guy back his prize.... It's a beautiful image.

  • alex March 17, 2013 12:49 am

    i looked at Mr O'Neills photos and thought how much better they would be with a touch of photoshop especially the colours which are very dull!, I don't think using it to boost colour and contrast is wrong but using it extensively to create what isnt there and then showing it as if it is really like that is wrong

  • Jim McAnlis March 16, 2013 01:34 am

    Hmmmm Interesting Chris. Would this be impossible in real life? It a composite of a forest in Randalstown and a deserted cottage 30 miles away

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/62392198@N06/8353734040/' title='RiverCottage' url='http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8088/8353734040_2bbed09859.jpg']

  • Chris March 16, 2013 12:59 am

    If you look at different series of Ansel Adams prints you can clearly see how he changed the mood of the images to suit his tastes at the time. It was all done in the darkroom. He painted his scenes every bit as much as many do in photoshop.

    My rule of thumb is that if the final composed image is possible in real life, then I am OK with combining images. For instance, if I set up my tripod and took multiple images of a beach, I would have no problem blending the sky from one with the water from another, the rocks from a third and maybe adding a colorful kite from a fourth because they all really existed at the location, they just didn't exist at precisely the same moment.

    On the other hand, I would never take components from two completely different scenes or sessions because that image would be impossible in real life.

    Just my opinion - doesn't make it right.

  • Akshay Jamwal March 15, 2013 06:27 pm

    I can only second, third, or fourth the voices that seem to disagree with the overall tone of this article.
    While I personally wouldn't spend hours on Photoshop adding a sky, I see nothing wrong with manipulating images. It's a little silly to suggest that removing power lines is OK, but changing the colour of the sky is not.
    Do you never change White Balance in post? That changes colour too, y'know.
    It's akin to saying that all photographers should only ever shoot JPEG and be happy with the results they obtain.
    A camera is a tool. As such, it can only provide you with part of what you visualize in your head when you're in the process of making a photograph.
    While on the subject of visualization, to bring Ansel Adams into the argument is highly ironic in my opinion. Anybody who's read The Camera, The Negative and The Print knows how heavily he manipulated his images through his process. There is no shame in this. Please.

  • Jim Hirschberg March 15, 2013 09:11 am

    I used to be a "purist" but then realized that the term was incredibly restrictive and unartistic if you're truly "ethical". What constitutes "manipulation"? Moving a leaf in order to get a better photo of a butterfly? Sure, you can control depth of field and exposure within the camera but what about lens shift? Filters? Cropping? Push/ pull processing? Contrast filters in printing? Solarization? Long exposures? The Zone System? Aren't all of these "manipulations"?
    In my opinion, a great photographer will do just about anything to make a great photo so why belittle a photographer that will do anything to create a great photo?
    I've seen some really incredible "photos" that I knew could not exist without "manipulation" but my enjoyment of those images does not diminish because they were manipulated.
    For the purists, I'd suggest a competition whereby you can only use a pinhole camera and can only make calotypes.
    Just my two cents worth.

  • Kim Franks March 15, 2013 05:17 am

    Two things leap out at me on this article; Bad judges, and perhaps we should just use photos from film. What is the difference on altering a photo in post production, using filters either on the lens or in the camera or moving a dead soldier from one spot into the Devil's Den area like Matthew Brady's people did and then pass it off as being authentic? If any alteration has been done then it is not what the photographer saw in the first place.

    It sounds as if there were a lot of sour grapes here and is one more reason I will never enter a photo contest.

  • Roger Spurr March 15, 2013 03:48 am

    Or, as in the old days in the darkroom. RS

  • Roger Spurr March 15, 2013 03:43 am

    If you take a photo with clouds in the photo and then find them to light. You darken them in a software such as Photoshop. End of story.

  • Roger Spurr March 15, 2013 03:37 am

    It is not what you take, it is what you make of a photo. Even Ansell Adams altered his photos.

  • Yuri March 15, 2013 02:47 am

    Is B/W photography image manipulation because it removes colors? I do not follow the logic why changing the color of the sky to fake a sunset is bad but bleaching the colors completely to create B/W image is OK.

  • Bob Wood March 14, 2013 03:31 pm

    I got carried away and enhanced my name. Wood, not Woos.

  • Grace March 14, 2013 11:56 am

    Perhaps we are witnessing emergence of a new art form altogether - 'photographic art' as distinct from 'photography'.

  • Bob Woos March 14, 2013 08:53 am

    I heard Annie Leibovitz say that Ansel Adams would have loved Photoshop and digital photography, and she knew him. Bringing Adams name into the argument did not help the writer of the opinion piece sell his opinion. I think before anyone condemns either Mr. O'Neill or Mr. Byrne, they should realize this is an opinion. Nothing more. Do what I do, make your art, find people who love it, and hang out with them.

  • Harry Sandler March 14, 2013 02:48 am

    "As the language or vocabulary of photography has been extended, the emphasis of meaning has shifted, shifted from what the world looks like to what we feel about the world and what we want the world to mean." - Aaron Siskind

  • Rhonda March 14, 2013 02:43 am

    I am an amatuer photographer, and I admit I have a LONG way to go. But, I have seen most of these comments, and am sad to see that so many people rely now on photoshop. I enjoy taking a picture of something beautiful, and have seen with my own eyes, and being able to capture it, not alter it. While I may adjust the exposure, or straighten a landscape, I cannot imagine adding or taking things away from that photo. Why bother taking the picture to begin with? Like I said I am fairly new at this, and I hope that I never lose that feeling of being so excited at capturing beauty, instead of adding of taking away from it. I hope I am making sense!!!! :-)

  • Vestal March 13, 2013 08:41 pm


    This from the all knowing Wikipedia:

    (On art)

    Art is a diverse range of human activities and the products of those activities; this article focuses primarily on the visual arts, which includes the creation of images or objects in fields including painting, sculpture, printmaking, PHOTOGRAPHY, and other visual media. Architecture is often included as one of the visual arts; however, like the decorative arts, it involves the creation of objects where the practical considerations of use are essential—

    (On Photography)

    Photography is the ART, science, and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film, or electronically by means of an image sensor.

  • Leon L. Nery March 13, 2013 07:43 pm

    Photography is not an Art. The only eligible art forms are Sculpture, Painting, Music, Dancing and Architecture. Read Ayn Rand's book Romantic Manifesto to make the long argument short.

  • Leon L. Nery March 13, 2013 07:10 pm

    Thank you Mr. O'Neill. That is what has aching in my heart as a photographer. You put it in words with great clarity and it relieves me of the pain. Thank you

  • Vestal March 13, 2013 04:04 pm

    For those who care to know the rules, the following is copied directly from the contest terms and conditions website: http://www.take-a-view.co.uk/termsandconditions.htm

    11) Digital adjustments.

    Digital adjustments, including High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging techniques and the joining together of multiple frames, are allowed in all categories. However, for images entered in Classic view, Living the view and Urban view, the integrity of the subject must be maintained and the making of physical changes to the landscape is not permitted (removing fences, moving trees, stripping in sky from another image etc). The organisers reserve the right to disqualify any image that they feel lacks authenticity due to over-manipulation. The judges will allow more latitude in the ‘Your view’ category, which aims to encourage originality and conceptual thinking. Please see How to enter for further details.

    As is noted in the above paragraph, Classic view, Living the view and Urban view must, for all intents and purposes, be left unchanged. The second to last sentence calls out the Your vew category in which the judges allow more latitude but does not outright state what those allowances are.

    If the photographer in question did in fact submit (it is the photographers responsibility to make sure their photos are submitted in the proper category) his photograph in the "Your view" category, he had every reasonable expectation to believe that he was within the rules.

    If he submitted his photograph in any of the other categories, he was rightfully disqualified from this particular contest and in my opinion should not be allowed to enter similar contests in the future for the simple reason that he tried to win by fraud.

    Unfortunately, we do not know for sure what category Mr. Byrne entered his photograph in and for that reason, any arguments made for or against him in regards to the contest are moot.

    As to the above article by Mr. O'Neill, I believe that he took offense to the following statement "The purists out there were not happy." and goes on to attack Mr. Byrne through a veiled discussion about where the line is drawn when considering what and what does not constitute photo manipulation.

  • Jl March 13, 2013 10:52 am

    Yes John, perhaps research the very meaning of the word 'photograph'. Making images is exactly what photography is, by definition, chemically, digitally or by camera obscura. It's never what you actually see, even your iris inverts an image and your brain corrects it.

  • John Hryniuk March 12, 2013 03:38 pm

    Photoshop has turned photography into illustration. Pure and simple.

    Making images isn't photography. If you want to make an image... then become a painter.

  • Richard Jones March 12, 2013 11:51 am

    Taking a second look at the disqualified photo, I can see why so many photographers objected to it. When one studies the light source compared to highlights and shadows, it fails totally. If a landscape photographer wishes to enhance an image, then it is a basic requirement to consider where the light is coming from and edit accordingly.

  • Bret Linford March 12, 2013 11:28 am

    @richard gunther, is that a joke?

  • Richard Gunther March 12, 2013 08:53 am

    Good photography is a true "CRAFT" and should never be confused with or compared to true "ART".

  • Ben March 12, 2013 07:58 am

    To start with, whether or not I agree that David Byrne should have had his title stripped is a mute point. It was and that’s the end of that. I liked his photo and I would love to see what he could do without Photoshop.

    After reading many of the comments I think that there is a point being missed. The author didn’t say all manipulation of a photo is bad. Some people have nit picked the point that all photos are manipulated so this should void the authors view. We all agree that photos are manipulatedto enhance the photo. What we all seem to disagree on is where the line is that someone crosses over from enhancing a photo to creating digital art from a photo. We will always disagree on this because it is a personal line.

    I know for me personally, and just for me, I want to see how good a photographer is with his camera. Not how good he is with Photoshop.I know several people who can Photoshop anything but have no clue on how to take a photo. I have more respect for the person who took an hour or longer to set up and wait for his shot and comes up short of a perfect picture than I do for the person who has mastered Photoshop and can make every picture perfect. To me this just means that they are much better at manipulating a photo than they are at taking it. This doesn’t mean that I do not enjoy a beautiful photo that has been turned into a piece of art by using Photoshop. I do. I just prefer to know that if it has been lightly enhanced or heavily manipulated.

    I know for the local club that I am involved in there are three categories to enter photos in.
    Photos cant be manipulated beyond what you can do with the camera.
    Photos can be lightly manipulated, and this is strictly spelled out as to what can and cannot be done
    And the last is all bets are off, do whatever you can.

    This allows everyone to participate and do what we love to do.

  • Cranios March 12, 2013 03:48 am

    Great point, Jim McAnlis. By the standards of this op-ed, sculptors who use air hammers (instead of a chisel and hammer) should have their work disqualified too, I suppose? Seems like photography is viewed by some as being more of a competitive sport than a profession... wonder when they are going to start testing for performance-enhancing drugs among photographers?

  • Stan Robins March 12, 2013 03:43 am

    All this from a photographer who is addicted to split toning. I've never been to New Zealand, but I doubt that the country ever has sepia storms. In my opinion, he needs to study, among many examples, Julieanne Kost. He will learn from her stunning talent that Photoshop isn't ruining landscape photography, but landscape photographers with limited vision can cause landscape photography to seem as if it's just running in place.

  • Jim McAnlis March 12, 2013 02:39 am

    I sort of agree and sort of don't. For those who can spend time and energy at obscure times and inaccessible places and are prepared await that exultant glee when they get one good photograph for every hundred taken, my congratulations and deep respect. For those like myself, who have neither the time nor the physical capability to search out those amazing scenes, we have to make do with creating scenes from genuine photographs taken on one of the few days when the sky is marvelous but the place we happen to be is in a wide and uninteresting field. In Ireland, we have, much of the year, monochromatic grey skies but we also have the most beautiful landscapes. Before criticising our art of compositing, judge the result and not the methodology. Maybe it's not 'purist' photography - that remains with 35mm film. So call us 'photographic compositors' if you like but let us fully use the technology available to us - and have fun

  • Brad Trent March 12, 2013 02:16 am

    "Warren said: "...Ansel Adams was a master photographer AND a master artist when it came to processing his pictures. He did not, however, add anything to his pictures that wasn’t there to begin with as far as I know......"

    Well, not exactly. I think the only person who saw a scene the way Ansel Adams saw a scene was Ansel Adams. That is, only he could could look out at a scene and envision what the final result would be after some serious time in the darkroom. Even if you stood next to him as he took a photograph, what you saw had nothing to do with the final image. Whether his manipulation took place as he shot an image by using exposure, filters or magic fairy dust, or if was accomplished in the darkroom in dodging, burning or with the aid of contrast masks, let's not kid ourselves and think he didn't alter reality, or 'add' anything to his images.

    Honestly, all this digital manipulation talk is boring the Hell outta me. We're not talking about removing the guy next to Stalin in a news shot.....it's a bloody scenic photo! If you like the final result, like it. Don't over think whether the photographer removed a tree or power line, or if he darkned the sky more than 'normal'. The way some of you guys go on, I'm sure if you were alive when Man Ray was doing his thing you'd probably be among the throngs who called him a hack!


  • Cranios March 12, 2013 02:03 am

    It looks like the purists won with the judges, but the market (and the future) belong to the photo-manipulators. People respond to dramatic images, period. They don't care how those images came to be.

    "It isn’t as if there is any shortage of sunsets around to photograph..."
    The author has obviously never been to Cleveland.

  • Herb Paynter March 12, 2013 01:58 am

    I think we need to make a clear distinction here between adjusting tones (dodging, burning in, exposure and development- all done in even Adams' photography) and altering the subject matter. Perhaps the limitations of photographic manipulations should be limited to what can be done with Lightroom. This would mimic what I (and thousands of other professional photographers) have done in the darkroom and true alteration of subject matter. With Lightroom you can adjust and shape tonality for more/less drama, but you cannot do pixel surgery.

    I worked in the color separation field for decades and bumped into this problem in the early eighties, when digital workstations (Scitex, Chromacom, etc) came on-line. Our shop produced the National Geographic magazine covers for a number of years. On one cover featuring Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian President, the great pyramids were pictured in the background. Because the Art Director needed certain photo composition to accommodate the cover's feature articles, the Scitex operator was instructed to rearrange the pyramids in a way that fit his layout. This alteration of reality eventually led to a Supreme Court ruling that digital images could no longer be used as evidence in a court of law.

  • Dana Andrews March 11, 2013 11:50 pm

    The real manipulation here is the magazines. This article should never have seen the light of day. The author very obviously has no educations or credentials to critically review the subject matter. He is simply a person with an opinion. The number of comments on this post is the real reason this was published. Posting a controversial statement to generate web hits is nothing new but it is more like yellow journalism than positive contribution to the conversation of man. Shame on Mr. Rouse for feeling his organization has to stoop to this level for success.

  • Jim Denham March 11, 2013 10:50 pm

    The problem with both the author of this article and the artist of the image is the classifying this art as one thing or another - purist or anything else. The camera, and photoshop for that matter, are merely tools to an end. The end is determined by the artist, not some set of rules that one group or group of people decide they should be. That's the beauty of art - it's self interpretation.

    I find it interesting that he won the award and the judges weren't sharp enough to find issues with his images until others complained about it. There's just so much wrong with this whole conversation. Go out and MAKE great images and forget the noise!

  • Mark March 11, 2013 09:27 pm

    There is now 2 very defined area's in photography - the raw picture and the processing.

    35mm photography & processing were just apart of the whole photograph package yes? BUT today, (digital tech) I feel the area's have become their own skill / art.

    I love the raw photo with just alittle processing and the skill / eye it took to take that image and I also love the over processed photo and the skill it took to do that.
    I think both have there place now, in today photography out of default, if nothing else.

    We crop, HDR, aboard processing it goes on of what we have to play with to get the photo we want.

    Any photo Competition should define the the rules with the two in mind!

  • Jerry March 11, 2013 07:22 am

    Uh, guys, we don't see the world in black and white...that by itself is a manipulation.

  • deborah March 11, 2013 04:29 am

    Direct quote from Ansel Adams: "My Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico has the emotion and the feeling that the experience of seeing the actual moonrise created in me, but it is not at all realistic. Merely clicking the camera and making a simple print from the negative would have created a wholly different--and ordinary--photograph. People have asked me why the sky is so dark, thinking exactly in terms of the literal. But the dark sky is how it felt." (see the rest of the interview here: http://davidsheff.com/Interview__Ansel_Adams.html).

    I am not sure what this photographer did is so different from what Ansel Adams chose to do in the darkroom (although I personally believe Ansel Adams did it with more elegance and realism).

    Contests like this need rules, and people need to follow them. It's as simple as that. If this kind of manipulation is not forbidden in the rules, than why not? And if people running contests have a problem with that, they can use it as feedback for the following year's contest rules.

    From my own perspective -- it's interesting that you mention getting rid of power lines. I find myself really irritated by photographers not making an effort to get a view without distractions such as power lines. Sure there are some iconic and dramatic landscapes that cannot be photographed without the power lines, and then you have to make the choice whether to photoshop them out. But I see too many amateur photographers taking snapshots and then bringing them in to photoshop to delete distractions (often in an obvious way), when a few steps to the right or left or waiting ten minutes for a tourist to get out of the way would have given them the photo they were looking for. In my opinion, the majority of amateur photos where the photographers have had to edit out distractions weren't worth sharing to begin with.

  • Al Reiner March 10, 2013 10:16 am

    I you shoot with a digital camera you're photo is MANIPULATED, a raw picture can NOT BE PRINTED it is a collection of digital data. A JPEG is converted in camera by the computer in the camera. Our eyes see many more f stops then even the best camera, finally we see in three dimensions the camera only one .

  • Bruce Bidinoff March 10, 2013 02:08 am

    I really don't care much about most rules. Composition would be my main guideline. I enjoy HDR, both subtle and grunge, depending on the subject matter. Details in the shadows got me hooked I plan most of my shots, but many times I have surprises in the digital darkroom. And I like that. The person I want to satisfy is me. If someone else likes it, great. My camera, my subject, my art.
    Satisfaction is a very strong word. Satisfied for the moment is where I live. Some moments last longer than others. Tomorrow is another day. And I like that, too.

  • Harry Sandler March 9, 2013 10:59 pm

    A wise critic once observed that whereas painting is an additive process - starting with a blank canvas and adding compositional elements one by one - photography is subtractive. By choosing the camera position, focal length, cropping and retouching, our decisions try to tame the confusion around us, distilling the image into a message that moves from the print or screen to the viewer.

    In the fine art world of image creation, the original capture (i wish there was another word for this - sounds like a video game) is often only the first building block as the image is CRAFTED to it's final form. I prefer to think this is 'sculpting with tonality', three words picked up from a fried. We add depth and dimension to the image that, let's face it, is going to be displayed as a two dimensional object on a wall...

  • Kartik March 9, 2013 05:10 pm

    I completely disagree that Photoshop is ruining photography. I ahve time and again affirmed that modern photography is a combination of 3 things - a good eye, decent equipment and the skill in using image editing tools. A real artist is one who possesses all these skills.

    Take a look at this Arizona landscape photo. It has the perfect timing for the sun, six exposures for detail, shadow and highlights and a intricate way of post processing which results in a stunning landscape,


    Now tell me what defines an artist? Ansel Adams was a great artist and could have been even better if Photoshop had evolved in his years.

    To each his own I guess!

  • Johannes Compaan March 9, 2013 11:11 am

    Christ, what a senseless list of arguments and counter-arguments.

    Rules are rules, the rest is personal opinion and of no value to the matter for nobody has to agree with nobody. Wich is obviously the case here...

    Grow up please.

  • Harry Sandler March 9, 2013 09:57 am

    A few folks have written about fixing up bad shots in Photoshop not thinking that qualified. Is that any different then buying a fixer upper house and then moving in...Not sure I know anyone who perfectly exposes everything all the time.....I have a Sasquatch setting on my DSLR - meaning that if something is happening quickly I switch to that and start shooting so I walk away with something - that I can fix later. The most important thing is to get the shot. But I fear this conversation is like talking politics...

  • Bret Linford March 9, 2013 09:47 am

    @Dave Hughes: What you or I see and what the camera sees may be TOTALLY different. This is art not science.

    @romanski: Nice that you've gone back to analog. Now you can manipulate/process in an analog, non-photoshop way. ;-)

  • viragored March 9, 2013 09:29 am

    I thought this article contained a number of opinions and assertions presented in such a way as to make them appear as facts. The reference to Ansel Adams was particularly 'challenging' to me, he being one of my heroes. Adams' craft was mastery of the darkroom to create outstanding prints from negatives that, untreated, would have been flat and without the impact that he created by processing them - Photoshop makes the darkroom techniques Adams used accessible to many. I don't accept many of the assertions the author has presented - in my opinion they are not the whole story.

  • Al Reiner March 9, 2013 09:24 am

    Lets see using a red filter is okay but using a red filter in a digital form is cheating, Using a telephoto lens that distorts is okay as long as it is on camera. Cropping an image is okay as long as it is done under an enlarger with a bulb, but not with software. Dodging and burning are okay with a bulb but not with software. Adams did manipulate images and was criticized by small minded folks who also manipulated. Acmera sees diferently then human eyes I feel it is not wrong to try and duplicate the vision.

  • Bob Sennhauser March 9, 2013 08:55 am

    1- Glass plates were so slow that they would not even have an ISO of 1, and all landscape photographers
    would either take a second exposure of the clouds taken in the first exposure, or clouds taken from different
    clouds at a different time. This early "manipulation" did not bother any one then or now. William Henery
    Jackson, Timothy O' Sullivan, etc, etc etc.

    2- It has nothing to do with Photoshop, but with dishonest photographers.

    3- Did the "contest" state that no changes could be made? Photography is an art medium, and artist
    do, and can rightly make changes to their art.

  • Harry Sandler March 9, 2013 08:48 am

    I agree with Bret - if a camera was used it is photography. When a photographer approaches printing an image why can't he take out power lines or the like. Painters leave things out at will and their vision is what matters - Picaso completely ,manipulated to the scene to his vision - is he not a painter. Get over all the rules - no major breakthrough in our lifetimes has been made by those following perceived rules - all this reminds me of a Picasso story I read. He was at an art show and a patron asked him what a certain painting was - Picasso said it was a sunset to which the patron replied 'I have never seen a sunset like that'. Picasso answered 'What a pity'....Photography was never pure and because everything looks good on the internet does not make it a photograph. Print it, and then it is a photograph.

  • Bret Linford March 9, 2013 08:38 am

    Robert, I disagree. Photography is literally 'light writing'. How is that so different from 'light painting'?

  • Robert Townsend March 9, 2013 08:27 am

    Lets draw the line
    As paint is to a painting so a photo is to a photo painting. If the colour or content is changed in any way whatsoever then it needs a new name as it is no longer a photograph.
    Now I am not talking about colour cast correction or a bit of a push to allow for printing or to suit your monitor but beyond that it is no longer a photo rather an ingredient.
    I however see no issue with removing part of a photo like using masks etc.

  • Corey Thompson March 9, 2013 08:07 am

    This article is exactly why I despise competitions. This is a good example of how art gets bastardized by people who feel it necessary to confine one's imagination to an absurd set of rules in which they feel a grossly subjective media should have to comply to.

    These so-called purists who are so against manipulation are nothing more than hypocrites. The very scene in front of you that you're looking to capture is manipulated by the composition that your own imagination comes up with. The kight is being manipulated by the duration of your shutter, the size of your aperture, and the iso you're shooting at. The colors are being enhanced and manipukated by the filters you're using. The glare in the water is being stripped by the polarizer you're using.

    There is no such thing as a pure photograph. The photograph itself is nothing more than an artist's interpretation.

    You put a professional landscape photographer and an amateur photographer on the same beach at the same time, shooting the same sunset from 5 feet apart. Both will shoot vastly different photographs. So you tell me, which photo is more pure?

  • romanski March 9, 2013 07:57 am

    I think Photoshop is something that any serious photographer should avoid.It is only sick way of cheating and pretending that any average shooter is a "master".I would suggest that any digital image manipulated in Photoshop should not be entered in serious photo competition.Looking at all that digital crap today I think photographers should brush off their dark room skills and start shooting film again.
    I recently acquired Hasselblad with three lenses and put my Canon full frame on ebay...Howgh!!!

  • Dave Hughes March 9, 2013 07:14 am

    Personally I like the "leave it as you see it" option and I totally agree with Eric's opinion...he hit it on the nose...enough said.

  • Gordon Woolcock March 9, 2013 06:42 am

    Couldn't agree more, Declan. There is some clever and interesting work done by people using image-manipulation software, for various markets, uses and viewers. However, if the final image is such that the whole does not originate from one photograph (eg. because people, objects or animals not in the original have been inserted into it), then it is graphic art. As you say, that's fine as long as you don't pretend that it's a photograph. One can argue for exceptions for things such as stitched panoramas on the grounds that all components of the final image were taken in the same place at the same time, and the stitching merely allows the viewer to see the whole scene at once. Plus, of course, it will be obvious from the shape of the picture that it is a panorama. There are grey areas. For example, where software is used (usually to hideous HDR effect, from what I have seen) to combine different exposures of the same scene. In my opinion, a case cannot be made for replacing an entire sky with one from a different picture and claiming that it is "a" photograph: it is not, it is two photographs.

  • Kevin March 9, 2013 04:10 am

    Does no one else realize that the moment you stick a lens on a camera and capture a moment you have altered reality? Does anyone truly see with the perspective of a wide or narrow angle lens? Is anyone capable of mentally stopping a bird's wings in flight or seeing water as a creamy texture as you get by using different shutter speeds? What is studio lighting? Is there anything "real" about it at all? Is anything we look at in greyscale like a black and white photo? Anything at all? Any line you draw is arbitrary.

    Of course for the purpose of a contest you can make whatever rules you want. If your goal is to have people compete on their camera skills, then sure, eliminating photoshop makes sense. But then you still don't have a fair comparison given the number of features available in cameras. In-camera HDR certainly screws up this concept and people are still at the mercy of the gear they can afford.

    Of course we have to keep this in perspective. A photo competition is just for fun. It really shouldn't be taken so seriously. A person could spend $10k setting up a shot and lose to someone who was in the right place at the right time with an iphone. In this case, if the rules of the contest clearly indicated what alterations were specifically allowed and not allowed and he broke those rules then that's tough. He needs to deal with giving up the prize. He cheated. But if the rules were vague then he really hasn't done anything wrong.

  • vinnie March 9, 2013 02:29 am

    An ongoing interesting discussion that always brings in comments from all angles of support for their view...
    I happen to find two things of note aside from the actual subject.

    1) How lame are the judges for such a "prestigious" competition?
    "Luckily, his alterations were brought to the attention of the judges who had been unable to detect them for themselves."

    2) Absolutely ridiculous and uneducated comment here in the article:
    "Ansel Adams had no need to add clouds or alter tree shapes because his images were honest and beautiful."
    I am a HUGE Ansel fan, but he was the MASTER at manipulating his shots. He just did in the darkroom what we now do on the computer. There are NO shots of his that are right out of the camera.

  • Thorstein K. Berg March 9, 2013 01:47 am

    To make a point that Ansel Adams made "honest" images is bending the truth somewhat. If one takes Adams' negatives and print them straight, I think not many would find them either interesting or beautyful. In Ansel's own word: "The negative is like the score, and the print the performance", and in that quoat lies much truth of landscape photography. We're not out there documenting what we saw for either Magnum or National Geographic. As most landscape photographers we aim to make a picture of what we felt and saw in our mind. So as long as we use photographs to create our images, we're still photographers. All we do is using the tool we're presented with. If one should say that filling in what nature didn't provide that day as cheating, well, I think most of us taking landscape should rather take up flyfishing, as we start our manipulation before we go "click" on the shutter. Both polarizers and grad-filters are used. I don't know about you but I never encountered polarized skyes and water surfaces in nature. So wouldn't that constitue as lie just there? And applying grad-filters to make silky water or hold back the exposure in the sky to make the sky more dramatic is also something I've never encounted in nature. Well back in the "darkroom" we tweak the image to make it better, by moving the exposure and contrast.
    There's also the powerlines we clone out. Shouldn't we get those out at the point of capture? Most of the time it would only take a quick rethink of the composision and moving our lazy a*** a few footsteps and the problem would be solved.
    And back to those who think that Adams didn't have photoshop. Well what he did in the wet darkroom with dodgeing and burn is just the same we do with photoshop today, and if he were alive today, shooting, don't think he wouldn't be in photoshop, using all the tricks of trade to make the image that he saw (in his own words) minds eye.
    So, until there comes a standar set of rules of what is allowed and what not like photojournalist live by, landscape photography is an art, and not a documentation of the truth.

  • David Sargent March 9, 2013 01:40 am

    It's so sad to see this argument come to life as it has. In terms of the competition, you really should study up on what is and isn't accepted in the realm of editing.
    When you are shooting for yourself, who the hell has the right to tell you how you MUST shoot, or MUST edit, or how you CANNOT edit or how you HAVE to represent yourself. Have some of us forgotten that photography is a creation that allows us to create for ourselves? "Light-Painting", as it can also be called, is most certainly an art. Whether you claim to do no post processing at all or feel passionate about manipulating colors and removing distracting elements, one thing should remain true. You should NEVER feel pressured by any single person to create art as you are. Someone telling you how you MUST create a photo is like someone telling a canvas painter how he MUST paint.
    I love the conviction in this article, but it really isn't about what he did; it's about what he believed to be art, and you should never put an artist down for their imagination.

  • Phil March 9, 2013 01:29 am

    Dude gets caught cheating and complains that everyone's doing it. He should try cycling. Or politics.

  • Karen March 9, 2013 01:18 am

    There was a time when the biro's replacement of pen and ink was seen as the potential end of life as it was!!!!!
    Photographers have messed with images forever. Just spent an afternoon with Jerry Ulesman and Olive Cotton originals - very much altered images!!!

  • Joseph March 9, 2013 01:00 am

    I love this. I shoot for money and for my clients. And for myself. I do not shoot for other photographers. Outside of a small group of honest friends and professionals, I don't consult with photographers, particularly online.


    Because it always ends in a ridiculous argument, evidenced by the discussion above. I see no point in pushing back and forth over a topic that clearly has no right or wrong answer. In fact, the entire article is nothing more than opinion, designed to instigate and increase web traffic. Well done, on that count.

    Clearly he violated rules. If he hadn't then he would have a lawsuit, maybe he does. I don't know. I shoot however the *heck* I need to shoot in order to satisfy the project or client I am working on. Sometimes that involves moving a person three feet to the right or getting rid of a tree. Very often it involves replacing the entire sky with one I shot six months ago over the ocean. Other times it involves nothing more than a slight highlight adjust. I don't know. I don't enter contests. If you do, then you are subject to the rules. If you feel the rules were not laid out, then sue for it.

    In the meantime, I'll just keep my head down and go to work...

  • Christy Nicholas March 9, 2013 12:47 am

    I think this should be a matter of the rules of the contest in question, not a basic 'moral' judgment on whether we should manipulate images or not. Adams manipulated his images. If he was alive today, I will bet hard cash money that he would love playing with Photoshop. He was experimenting with instant polaroids when those came out. Uelsmann is another great example - extreme manipulation in the darkroom. i got to work with his son, and have been a big fan for years.

    When I take a photo, I see one thing. As an artist, my mind transforms what my eye sees into a magical image. The camera catches something completely different. I have no problem with the fact that I manipulate the photo that the camera catches until it matches my mind's image of what I saw. This is art - whether it be via the camera, the canvas, the software, or the sculpting tools. It is the creation of a mind's image to share with others.

    If a particular contest wishes to ban manipulation in their photography images, that's perfectly fine - do so. And yes, if someone tries to circumvent these rules, they should be disqualified. But make sure the rules are in, and please don't push the judgment that manipulation of any kind makes the photography less 'pure'. It is simply a particular aspect of the craft that is photography. Non-manipulated photographs are not better or worse than manipulated ones. They may be more acceptable in a particular contest, but not 'better'.

  • Bruce Lee March 9, 2013 12:38 am

    I've read about 20 comments, I agree with STARGATE the most with alot of his points, but then I started asking myself, HOW and WHY did this photographer even win in the first place if the "power lines" were clearly out of balance? He must not be that good at photo manipulation!

    I believe that every great photo has some luck, some editing, some cropping and alot of photographic genius to pull off great pictures! I also believe that there are no "purists", when I hear "purists" used it reminds me that there still are people out there who are unable to learn how to manipulate their photos and are jealous of other photographers that can do so with amazing capability!

    As for the public stripping it just shows that public contests should never be taken at face value!

  • David Hardman March 8, 2013 11:49 pm

    It's unfortunate that the problem with the winning picture was spotted after the judging, because the book accompanying the competition still shows David Byrne to be the winner. It doesn't really matter what your opinion is as to what is and isn't generally acceptable outside of competitions; but in this specific situation the simple fact is that the competition had clear rules and David Byrne either didn't read them, forgot them, or ignored them. As others have pointed out, the competition allows for a higher degree of editing in some of its categories, just not in the category that this particular picture was entered into.

    Perhaps in competitions the judges' ruling should be provisional for, say, two weeks, during which time viewers can challenge the decision if they feel rules have been breached. After that period is up the winners are declared and that decision can't be reversed.

  • Rhonda March 8, 2013 11:44 pm

    FINALLY!!! Some people take photoshop to an extreme!! Ansel Adams did not have photoshop, and his photos were absolutely beautiful!!!

  • Phil Bagnall March 8, 2013 11:22 pm

    It could be argued that it is how we view the photographer rather than the photograph. If the photographer is an "artist" then s/he should strive to make the photograph as "artistically perfect" as they consider possible. If the photographer is a "recorder" then they should record the scene and present it without any form of manipulation. Even here we run into difficulties: different lenses will produce different images, of course, and what about working in RAW? I am not sure we can totally reject the photographer as an artist. Perhaps in the case of David Byrne the photograph should have lost points because the shadows lay in different directions? - an artist not fully up to the standard required.

  • Tony Tyler March 8, 2013 10:21 pm

    At last the over manipulation of a photograph has been exposed for what it is. I do not claim to be anything other than a serious amatuer photographer and have always said that a photograph is in effect a 'snap shot of a moment in time' that will never come around again. When a photograph is manipulated (removing powerline ect excepted) then it is no loger a photograph it instead becomes a form of art.

  • lh March 8, 2013 10:19 pm

    To me creating images is all about using tools that are available. Photoshop is todays dark room. But in this sort of competitions it seems even strange that the image got as far as it did. It is a beautiful image im not saying that, but maybe not apporpriate for the competition that it is part of. Immediately when you start removing or adding stuff in a landscape or wildlife competition like this you are bending the rules a bit too much.

    But as said not quite sure how the image got so far. Usually in this calibre competitions you need to send your manipulated image, and the original unaltered jpg or raw image, which will immediate show any major edits.

    I think the similar happened in the national georgaphic competition. The winning image had a small plastic bag removed that really did not effect the image in any major way, but since the rules state that you are not allowed to add or remove any iteams the image was disqualified. If he would of decided to simply darken the plastic bag to blend it into the image he would of been fine.

    Using photoshop is part of digital photography. But as said the rules have to be pretty clear where the line is. If you are shooting raw you will need to use photoshop/lightroom/other program to bring back the colours anyway.

    Maybe there should be a separate category that is free for all sorts of edits, but also a category with absolutely no editing straight out of camera and the normal competition where a reasonable sharpening, darkening/burding is accepted. That way everyone can have chance to show their vision.

  • Rob March 8, 2013 10:00 pm

    Sorry but I'm definitely on the side of Mr David Byrne.
    The picture was superb and he deserved his prize.
    Even the great Ansel Adams dodged & burnt his photos.
    Photography has moved on, and processing is here to stay.

  • Mike March 8, 2013 08:39 pm

    Ansel DID modify and alter his photos. Anyone familiar with his work would know he removed the letters "LP" from his image Winter Sunrise. http://focusonphotography.blogspot.ca/2008/07/ansel-adams-and-lone-pine-photograph.html

  • David J March 8, 2013 08:31 pm

    If what Tim says is right and I have no reason to doubt his words, then the decision was also right and should be upheld, not because it wasn't a photograph but because he crossed clearly defined rules of the competition. I still think it is a great image.

  • Greg Peat March 8, 2013 05:22 pm

    I also feel that a lot of photography is fake as one does not have to be very accurate with your shots as you can always fix it up later in P.S.. you don't need to be a good photographer just a good computer operator.

  • Richard Jones March 8, 2013 02:13 pm

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/aeros4/6144629985/in/photostream link for previous post re: changing sky in landscape.

  • Richard Jones March 8, 2013 02:03 pm

    I just can’t not respond to this (grammar intended) article. Very pious in my opinion, don’t know if the climate in New Zealand may have anything to do with it. It is very interesting to me how both sides of the argument present to me many valid points.

    I am firstly a painter, high realist published and collected. I would love to have as much success at photography as I have experienced with painting, although I did recently sell a landscape photo for $1200.00. It was about 19” by 72”. A panoramic composite of four frames and added a skyscape that better suited my vision. The collector didn’t know and I bet he wouldn’t care if he did know. I take the position that I had the artistic right to improve my image (took twelve hours of PP) and it was purchased because of the final result.

    Now here is something else to ponder. I started a Linkedin thread about people printing giclee’s on canvas and painting over them and selling them as original oil paintings or acrylics, when in fact the under drawing was not a drawing but a photo. I take a huge objection to this practice as out and out fraud. Anyone buying this type of work in most cases is not aware of how it’s produced, as was the case with my cousin. He was furious when I told him what he had bought.

    This begs the question. Is what I did with my landscape as deceptive as painting over a photo? My answer is NO. There is a huge difference to me. I intended only to enhance a photo by changing a boring sky with one that was pleasing; the sky I used was one from my own archive. Painting over a photo is only to disguise that the painter? In this case cannot draw.

  • jon cummings March 8, 2013 01:15 pm

    Seems all this boils down to "enhance" but do not add things.

    Now the real quandry....define "enhance" to satisfy both (all) sides of the argument.

  • Tim March 8, 2013 01:02 pm

    He got busted because the rules explicitly prohibited exactly what he did...he included something that was not in his original image. In other words no composites....removing stuff is okay, adding stuff that was not there when you took the image is not. When this story came out months ago there was a big uproar over it, until folks actually started to read the rules of the comp. and found out he basically cheated...and even then he was defending what he did...

  • ZachH March 8, 2013 12:39 pm

    I just love the fact that these "purists" (who are probably too old to understand photoshop, or too hipster) LOVE black and white images and talk about how pure they are... um, really? Desaturating the image is a pretty heavy form of manipulation. Aperture control and shutter speed manipulate the image. Using filters is accepted practice in Landscape photography, and that is DEFINITELY manipulation. As was already mentioned Adams would sometimes spend weeks on a print in the darkroom.

    "Purists" make me roll my eyes, they are either stuck in the past or haven't thought through their position.

  • Noel Mockford March 8, 2013 12:06 pm

    Pretty simple really. I should have thought that a fellow NZer would have been able to work out that there are those who create records and those who create art. Both can be achieved with the use of a camera. Just as my artist friends include some elements and omit others to achieve their perceived "best look", as a photographer, I have no qualms about creating my own compositions when I believe it will enhance the result. You just have to compare apples with apples.

  • Johannes Compaan March 8, 2013 12:00 pm

    First of all, it seems rather naïve to organise a competition and not clearly set the rules for it. It is like an air race in which the organisation states to accept the use of any aircraft, but later on disqualifies the winner for having used a twin-engine plane...

    If it turns out to be impossible to draw a line between what is acceptable and what is unacceptable post-capture manipulation, it might be best to ban any manipulation, or perhaps even wiser to not hold any competition for that matter at all.

    After about two decades of ever growing digital manipulation, it may be clear that there is no way back, and why should there be? Photographers have always manipulated images to the maximum. The only truth is that in the traditional darkroom this maximum was pretty limited, whereas it today enables us to do whatever our imagination comes up with.
    Some of us have a broader imagination than others. Some of us have developed advanced technical skills in post-capture image manipulation, whereas others have not come much further than fine-tuning contrast or making changes to white-balance. Might the latter group be inclined to criticise the more technical advanced artists for being too creative? Surely the easiest way to hide something that you experience as your shortcoming is to attack those not suffering from it...

    Why is it that we always have to justify what we did and why we did it? Even in creativity, in art, and even though it was the most eye-pleasing to the “expert” jury, David Byrne's piece of art was sentenced to silence by the "Purists" like Galileo was by the Roman Inquisition.
    Funny how the evolution of mankind continues to not keep up with its own technical advances.

  • Marco March 8, 2013 11:49 am

    The new cameras are doing HDR in-camera these days!!! Just try printing a RAW image WITHOUT any adjustments to see what the sensor sees! Anyone shooting JPG has no clue on manipulating images because the camera DOES IT FOR YOU!!!! Get real folks! However if the rules of the contest EXPLICITLY excluded composites then this is the correct action. If not, this is just wrong.

  • Bruce Bidinoff March 8, 2013 11:31 am

    As Ansel Adams once said, “ You don’t take a photograph, you make it".

  • David J March 8, 2013 11:15 am

    I remember a time when the "Judges decision was final". I personally love this image and even without seeing other entries in the competition I can appreciate why it got the judges vote.
    I feel that there is a degree of Sour Grapes here among the losing contestants and that is sad. If the judges got it wrong then replace them, don't punish the photographer for producing an image of his vision.
    I read recently of a similar incident occurring in a National Geographic Comp., where the winner was stripped of his title and prize money because some "Purist" noticed that he had cloned out a plastic shopping bag...how sad that a panel of judges can be made to reverse their decision by such people, how anally pedantic can it get.
    To site Ansel Adams as an example of Purity in image production is a total nonsense. I learnt my Wet darkroom skills from studying his methods and that of Gene Nocon, perhaps I shouldn't have bothered, perhaps both of these darkroom geniuses were leading me down the road to deception, perhaps I should return to my childhood days of running a roll of film through the old box Brownie and send it off to the chemist for processing into little prints. That would be as pure as I can imagine,it would produce total rubbish but I'd be able to claim to be a photographer as opposed to a photographic artist. Be still my heart.

  • JL March 8, 2013 11:13 am

    It is an interesting topic, isn't it? For art, for yourself or for the sheer hell of it, I'd say anything goes. I photograph commercially amongst other things, and we have both written and unwritten rules/guidelines on what is acceptable. For example, if someone has a villa for sale in Spain and the outside shot I want is marred by a scaffolding rig, then this can be shopped out as its not a permanent structure. The sky can certainly be altered to save me coming back another day. I personally would never take out a water tower or 'Power lines' in the background as they are permanent structures and it would be misrepresentational to remove such structures.

    Is correcting red eye a step too far? What about your choice of film, the iso on a digital, how about a filter, a gel filter, a flash gel filter, a remote flash, a remote camera (trap), a range rover to get places others can't get and a budget to go with it. I agree with an earlier comment about the competition rules should involve sending in your film, to keep a level playing field. Except they should also state what camera to use, which film, which lens, at what settings and where to fecking stand/squat/sit - or tripod height.

    I still shoot 5x4 film too ( medium, not large format). Developing & Processing is a skill, not a mathematical absolute, and try getting two images exactly the same! Good luck with that!!
    Food for thought.

  • Bruce Bidinoff March 8, 2013 10:52 am

    Photography as Fine Art. Hmmmm. Sounds fine to me. Or is it incorrect for a painter to paint a scene which has no clouds clouds, but add them, sees one tree, but adds a few more, make it dusk rather that a bright day.
    Oh for shame.
    I enjoy the art, and whatever technology makes it possible.

  • Norm March 8, 2013 10:41 am

    Well put Leroy.

  • BAN March 8, 2013 10:35 am

    Photography is not only what the lens sees, but it is also what the photographer sees. Not only does the photographer see through eyes, but also through imagination. If a tree is removed from a scene in photoshop it is still a photograph. And is photography not an art?

    However, if a contest has a rule stipulating that nothing be added or removed in post, then so be it. But almost every photograph has been manipulated in some way whether it be computer software or by camera software. Who will play the photography God and decided what's true and what isn't?

  • Wyatt Wellman March 8, 2013 04:26 am

    @Nathan, I agree with your post. Thanks for the mention of Sandy Skoglund's work to illustrate your points. Maybe this link will work:


  • Nathan Franke March 8, 2013 04:07 am

    That link didn't work, apparently. Needs more idiot-proof xhtml instructions.

    It should read: "Then I remembered Sandy Skoglund (link). [everything else]"

  • Nathan Franke March 8, 2013 04:06 am

    I thought of Ansel Adams and his darkroom maniuplations. Then I thought of Jerry Uelsmann and his more drastic darkroom manipulations. Both are considered "photographers," despite editing reality to suit their artistic vision.

    Then I remembered . Is creating an indoor "landscape" from scratch (otherwise known as an "installation") and then photographing it not capital-P Photography? Or is it graphic design? I could create something similar in software with judicious use of cloning and hue/saturation sliders--is her installation more or less real than my digital creation?

    On the grading scale of photography, is the process more important than the result?

  • Staj March 8, 2013 03:35 am

    Reading all the comments from all you Professional Photographers has really helped to enlighten but yet slightly confuse a photography Newbie like me.

    Are there any Photography rules carved in stone? Has Art seized to be Abstract? Is Art appreciation not dependent on the proverbial "eye of the beholder" ? Doesn't it feel like PS has been embedded in modern Cameras?

    I personally don't like to PS photos but the beauty for me is being able transform an image that may have been discarded into a spectacle. worthy of note.

    Ultimately I've learned from this that we all tweak something, but more than anything i won't forget "be passionate about your Art".

  • jp March 8, 2013 02:37 am

    I think the decision was right.
    He can't truly be considered a landscape photographer if he adds things to the composition (digitally speaking)
    You just wait for the right moment to happen and then you click...

  • Caitlin Ertz March 8, 2013 01:59 am

    For fear of being a "purist" ... removing powerlines not only is a (in my OPINION) large no-no in many competitions as well as in many groups but is also an extreme altercation to an image. Move your camera or vantage point to photograph around the powerlines or embrace them! Many serious photography competitions line out what is and is not acceptable altering of the image. Many even request the original un altered photo as a comparison. Although I do not agree with the article in whole; there are valid points made

  • Regan March 8, 2013 01:27 am

    Edit and manipulate to your PAYING customers delight! If you didn't do it well, you lose. Got it right in the camera, bravo! It looks garish, there may be customers that have garish-appeal. Client doesn't like it, don't do it. But, in all cases, be passionate about YOUR art.

  • Harry Sandler March 7, 2013 11:21 pm

    An age old discussion with no real answer. First of all the competition rules should have stated that no altered photos be accepts (whatever that means) similar to iPhone enthusiast contests where they want images processed only on the iPhone of iPad. But then again they use applications to alter/manipulate/enhance their images. In the end, for me, it is all about whether I like the image - i think that is all that should matter. This is all too similar to when Bob Dylan went electric and the music business was going to fall apart - how did that work out? It is also similar to those who think the iPhone is not a 'real' camera. Heck the iPhone is 8MP and that is more then some of the early digital beasts.....nuff said...

  • David March 7, 2013 05:06 pm

    Some good points here.
    When a photo is manipulated via ps or what have you ie: removing power lines or adding clouds as in this case then it only ceases to represent the physical scene of the photo location.
    This in its self does not make the photo any less of a photo all it means is that the artest/photographer has simply changed the captured image.

    Colour is surely an entirely differnt thing in this argument.
    We (the photographers) may choose to shoot in monochrome or colour etc.
    Colour manipulation is so very differnt to physical manipulation of physical elements (adding or removing)

    To draw a line in what is a photo is hard indeed. Perhaps the argument here is what is the photo representing?
    Is it a representation of what is in the location or is it representing what the photographer want the veiwer to see?

  • Leroy March 7, 2013 03:29 pm

    Maybe the photographers that do not enhance their images are the ones due for a name change. Perhaps, documenters? Photo-journalists? I'm not entirely serious - I think we're all photographers - but it does get old to read that if you don't produce images like I do, you shouldn't be called a photographer.

    Will you throw your filters away? Will you throw your flash away? Your lens hood? Will you leave that chewing gum wrapper there by the bench? Will the only things in your camera bag be a camera, lens and memory card? Will you shoot only JPGs in Neutral picture mode and neutral settings? Will you only shoot at 35mm and at f/8 to mimic the human eye (or whatever FL and aperture you determine to mimic the human eye)? You're kidding yourself if you think you aren't modifying what you see.

    Maybe you think what can be done in camera is okay and that is where the line should be drawn if you want to be called a photographer. Many of the new cameras are becoming editing boxes and can edit RAW files and do HDR. Is that okay?

    I think the camera is only a tool to make my images. As are filters, flashes, software, maps, magazines and being there at the right time. Simply tools to make images. There is nothing sacred about any of them.

    This debate began in the first darkroom. It will not be solved here. Some of us get the biggest thrill by documenting what we see, for the rest of us that's only the first thrill. It's all fun and it's all art.

  • Josephine March 7, 2013 11:45 am

    I read the article, and read all the comments and all of you have very good points. I enjoy taking landscape photography more than anything else. And I would have to say that I have always tried as much as possible not to use PS or any other software. I have cropped images but for the most part what you see is what you get. The point no one has brought up which I find incredible is what sort of qualifications did the judges have if it took other photographers to point the misuse of PS. I think what we need is either clearer rules or maybe simple have two categories. One for certain amount of use of PS and the other for those who can go to town with it. As I see it if you have to add and change things your not much of a photographer to begin with and if you are able to use PS that well then I think you should be called a digital artist or something like that, not a photographer.

  • Bret Linford March 7, 2013 09:06 am

    Talie, if you use your stated criteria, Ansel Adams was NOT practicing photography. In fact, NONE of us are because your definition completely leaves out the processing of photographs (either analog or digital). Please try again.

  • Jason Weddington March 7, 2013 08:40 am

    It makes no sense to dictate which tools are acceptable and which are not. Those who make such arbitrary distinctions find themselves labelled purists. Go figure.

    I suggest we take a look at the work of Jerry Uelsmann. He did it all in the darkroom, before the days of Photoshop. By Mr. O’Neill's definition, photography was "ruined" long before the days of Photoshop.

    Ten years ago, internet photo forums were full of film snobs bashing early adopters of digital. Now that pretty much everyone has gone digital, the film vs digital argument is mostly dead. Good riddance. Let's get back to the business of making beautiful pictures.

    But wait, the purists have found a new thing to be snobbish about. Now they decry post processing and "the crude lipstick of Photoshop."

    Photographers always manipulate the scene. The very act of putting a 3:2 frame around reality and the choices we make about what to put in that frame and what to leave out is a manipulation. We use wide-angle and telephoto lenses to further manipulate reality. We use long exposures to blur motion. We use polarizing filters to darken skies. We present colorful scenes in black and white.

    Double exposures. Sandwiched negatives in the enlarger. Holgas with light leaks. It's all manipulation. But the purists don't seem to mind manipulations that happen in-camera.

    To arbitrarily decide which manipulations are ok, and which are "bad" seems, well, arbitrary. That thinking usually leads to the rather tired "burning and dodging is OK, but nothing else" line. Is it necessary to restrict our creativity to the limits of last century's technology?

  • Talie March 7, 2013 08:26 am

    Let's all remember what photography is "the process of recording images by exposing light-sensitive film or array to light or other forms of radiation". If the images and colours were not there to be recorded in the original instance then they certaintly shouldn't be there after processing.

    If you use your imagination to create a picture, that is not photography. When Andy Warhol created Pop Art did people say that it was photography. No. They called it visual arts. Let's call a spade a spade.

  • Jesús March 7, 2013 07:12 am

    I am a landscape photographer, and I absolutely agree on this one: it is so much more interesting and exciting to chase and capture those very rare moments where place and light combine to create a wonderful scene. There are turquoise lakes and orange sandstone like it's glowing from within, no need for ps. And if you are there to take the picture, you can stay for a while and just absorbe the scene. You will never live those moments if you create those colors in ps. I guess I must be a purist.

  • mike March 7, 2013 06:46 am

    Rules are rules and if the David Byrne broke the rules and had to be stripped of the award and title, that is fair and to be expected...

    But to attack David Byrne because he used Photoshop, defended his actions, and then allude that he is "ruining" landscape photography?

    Your ego is getting the best of you.

  • Wayne Mathews March 7, 2013 06:37 am

    Let me start by saying thank you to DPS for posting this article. I am relatively new to 'serious' photography, and I am learning a great deal from this site. This article, and the comments that followed, have been very enlightening. I had no idea this debate even existed within the community of photographers. And, I am very surprised at the degree of emotion expressed in both the article and the comments that followed. It is obviously a hotly debated topic. So, I learned something new today. Thank you DPS. That's exactly why I'm here.

    Let me also say, I believe many people here are missing a key point. The title of the article clearly states that this is one man's opinion. One is free to disagree with a person's opinion, but an opinion is never wrong - it's an opinion.

    I will refrain from expressing my opinion on the topic, because that would detract from my original intent. My intent is to point out that Mr. O'Neill should be free to express his opinion without fear of reprisal. And, of course, everyone else should also be free to express his or her own opinion in response. But, in the spirit of free expression, I would hope that everyone would accept those opinions at face value, without resorting to judgement, and personal attacks. That is my two cents' worth.

  • Rick March 7, 2013 05:34 am

    If you're editing for a competition, you might want to check out how much Photoshop is acceptable. If you're editing for yourself, you only have to look inward.

  • Alice Woodrome March 7, 2013 04:07 am

    If an artist uses photography as one of their tools in creating an image, they get the same sort of complaints from the purists among their peers. I don't enter photography competitions, but I do get tired of having to explain myself to those narrow people who feel that mixing the media is somehow cheating. Mostly I write it off as ignorance, but when it comes from a professional in either camp, it is a harder sell. There are photographers (and painters) who are artists and there are those who are technicians. So good for you... You have learned to use the equipment to faithfully record what you have seen. An artist is more concerned with conveying the feelings associated with what they have seen, and should feel free to use the tools available.

  • sharin March 7, 2013 03:27 am

    Had this image been dodged, burned, and toned in a chemical bath would it then be acceptable?

  • marc March 7, 2013 03:26 am

    "Why can't we all get along?" Thank you Rodney King! Seriously, perhaps the core issue is the lack of clear definition by the contest organizers. It stings when you go to all the effort to produce a "finished" and "natural" looking image, no matter the subject, and then see the "winning image" to be a super HDR or "fill in the blank" (not that there is anything wrong with HDR, etc!) despite the contest rules stating otherwise. In reading additional articles, Charlie seems to have accepted the decision but still the debate about what is or is not a manipulated photo rages on. Perhaps someday, as they do in court cases, we will have to submit images with certifications of all steps taken from "in camera" to final image, then the judges can decide what is too heavily baked and what is not...or maybe the contest will specify "no baking allowed" but does that mean no more ND filters??? :)

  • Jack Larson March 7, 2013 02:58 am

    We have been through these debates before: B&W vs. Color; Film vs. Digital. I support using all of the colors on our palette. What counts is the results. Do you value art, or a particular way of creating that art? Other than photojournalism, the door should be wide open.

  • Rick Mays March 7, 2013 02:55 am

    I feel very bad for Mr. Byrne. It sickens me that the author of this article would dare say, "Removing power lines from a landscape is one thing...." and then proceed with his self righteous rant about how his personal choices should be the ethos of our art form. All the while bashing and destroying the reputation of a very skilled photographer.

    When we first got DSLR's, this elitist group or ahem "purists" that the author belongs to didn't even consider images produced as photography.

    I am rather surprised to see this article on a DPS, especially with the title Why is Photoshop destroying Landscape Photography? IT ISN"T!!! Zealots like Mr. O'Neill are attempting to destroy legitimate photographers. Well despite the bad link provided, I found Mr. O'Neil's online portfolio. I must say he has some beautiful subjects available to shoot. I think he could learn a lot from Mr. Byrnes and even here on DPS about how to make his images more realistic and appealing by not being limited by his idealism and zealotry.

  • Ernie Schweit March 7, 2013 02:51 am

    Great points! Big difference between enhancing and altering in photoshop or any editing program

  • katansi March 7, 2013 02:24 am

    "enhance photographs but they do object to its use in altering photographs."

    Enhancing IS altering. If you didn't properly expose, if you bracket, if you stack, if you cross process, if you vignette or some other small thing that does not add subject matter but does change composition by changing any other value that makes a photo you are altering the photos. It's inane to argue over adding clouds but allow levels changes. Before photoshop, photographers painted directly on their finished products or messed with chemicals. If you don't want that happening then you need to tell photographers to submit rolls of film and develop it for them under the same conditions and judge them on that.

  • James Stearns Sr. March 7, 2013 02:13 am

    I disagree, that Photoshop or any other post-processing is destroying photography. That’s like telling “Painters” that they can only use certain brushes, colors, must set at least 23 inches from the painting, type of paint, etc.

    Go with what “You see…!” Not through someone else’s eyes or rules.”
    Jim Stearns, Freelance Photography, 1983

  • Dave A March 7, 2013 01:53 am

    Well said and RIGHT ON! Sometimes we are given toys and play too much with them!

  • Jez March 7, 2013 01:33 am

    Is overuse of Photoshop or other editing software wrong? The answer is no. It is OPINION of the person who is looking at the photo who thinks that. I think that the picture is a excellent piece and would love a copy hanging on my wall. The question here is "Did he break any of the rules of the competition?" If he did then fair cop, he should be stripped of the title and money. If he didn't then it is bang out of order him getting stripped because other people moaned about it. There are many ways to skin a cat. There are many different techniques to many different arts out there. Some people use an hammer and chisel to create art, some use a brush and some use a camera. You can't tell people what you are or are not allowed to use to create art. You need to use some form of processing even with film. Do you submit the negative for a film competition? Surely different chemicals, paper and light you use to PROCESS your film will have a effect on the outcome of how the photo will look. If the competition runners want to have a pure photo then would you have to wrap up your camera and send that off to them with a sealed storage card? To what extremes do you have to go to? It is down to the competition creators to provide detailed rules of what they want.

  • Justin March 7, 2013 01:16 am

    I think that this opinion piece is going to cause an even greater rift between your audience and other folks who use photoshop for general practice. Just reading the comments section alone, I see a lot of people 'humblebrag' about never using photoshop or using manual mode only. While I dare to bet those same people will use Lightroom quite liberally.

    I agree that there is probably a line between photography and art, and while I'm no scholar in the matter, I would argue that your predecessors didn't not think of themselves as artists. otherwise you, the photographer, are meerly a button pusher in the right place at the right time (kind of loses its charm in a way). Photoshop is an amazing tool, and I would like to see a counter-opinion piece to yours that exhibit the benefits of using the program. Maybe on how spurring imagination in the photographer is a good thing? How imagination is critical to the process of composition, color, and content?

    Where is line drawn, though? What if I cloned an area of sand in the background that had an unsightly rock or piece of garbage that I missed while composing the scene? Even shooting in RAW and adjusting your photos in post-processing is something that may be considered 'unpure'. Point is, where is the line, who gets to define it, and how far can one step over it before being inevitably labeled a photoshopper.

  • Gene Tewksbury March 7, 2013 12:48 am

    I would agree with your premise; however, I do not agree that his awards should have been taken from him.

    If the awarding body is unable to id manipulation themselves, then that's their own fault. THEY should be the ones to take the fall, not the guy who sent in a manipulated image when as you already noted, , this is considered standard and routine in today's world.

    Unless the rules clearly stated that such manipulations were not legal... but you made no mention that such rules were in place, so I can only assume that the judges essentially "changed their minds"...

  • chauncey March 7, 2013 12:12 am

    This topic has been debated ad nauseum...I defy anyone to show me an image sans PP of any kind.
    The very fact that an image has been printed requires some element of post processing.

  • Lisa March 6, 2013 11:32 pm

    I completely agree! It's also nice to hear someone stand up and say what many of us are thinking. Overuse of Photoshop and programs like it is destroying what photography really is. I'm not saying you shouldn't be able to do small edits, but so many pictures now are so changed that you can't tell what the picture was to start with. And it destroys the need to go out and practice and take GOOD pictures. Why bother when you can just Photoshop in clouds, colors or people or take out what you don't like?

  • Alan Shaw March 6, 2013 09:54 pm

    Well done Declan, really stirred the hornet's nest!!

    Looking forward to your articles on sunsets and milky water. Haha.

  • Vicky March 6, 2013 08:14 pm

    Totally agreed .... thank u for your knowledge.. :)

  • Mike Panic March 6, 2013 05:30 pm

    Like others have said, when you bring in Ansel Adams, you bring in all kinds of questionable materials too. You're talking about a guy who would spend hours printing in the darkroom, with custom cut templates out of cardboard and paper to dodge and burn, and a huge notebook of exposure times while creating these prints, so he could easily reproduce them later. To say he didn't manipulate what was there, or burn away things he didn't care of and compare that to enhancing, removing or adding things in photographs, that's just silly.

    What drives me nuts honestly is the committees who juror these such contest, expo's and calls for work, who don't plan out proper rules and information and then determine after the fact what is and is not acceptable. "HOW" the image came to be is irrelevant anymore, yet it seems to be a larger debate than even Nikon vs. Canon.

    What's next, requiring all photographers who enter such contests to shoot RAW + JPG and hand over the original JPG file, untouched, along with their final edit?

  • Barry E. Warren March 6, 2013 05:05 pm

    I don't even use photoshop, or anyone of the other programs. All of my photo are what you see is what you get. I shot in manual 99% of the time.

  • Mridula March 6, 2013 03:33 pm

    I never had a clue that altering images is so commonplace. Editing for tone etc I understand but altering them by adding or reducing? Oh well what do I know!


  • Jason Racey March 6, 2013 02:01 pm

    The less I have to do to post-process a photo the better a job I did as a photographer.

  • Wyatt Wellman March 6, 2013 01:38 pm

    Does the word "photography" always mean "reality capture"? When I studied photography in art school (I primarily consider myself a painter), that's not what I took it to mean, nor was it taught that way. There are many ways to judge art, many ways to critique, and even though there can be consensus among critics that a work of art has any particular merit, there are always edge cases. Life is a bell curve; there are no absolutes. As a practicing visual artist, I personally avoid competitions, and shy away from labels to begin with. I take photographs, some of which I manipulate or alter, some of which I do not. I also paint, draw, create assemblages with mixed media, and just generally explore creating images in whatever way feels right at the time. I do it all because I simply have to; I do it for life. The title of this post to me seems overly dramatic. I guess I just want to say that whether or not I find this image appealing to me, I very much do not care if whoever created it used a process like Photoshop or not. And I would not care if the entire world got all up in arms about using a tool like Photoshop to alter photographs to be presented as "art." The point is, nothing anyone else can say or do will keep me from using any and every tool at my disposal to create what I believe in, what I absolutely have to create. To be an artist is to do art, no matter what anybody thinks, no matter what "awards" are merited out. To heck with awards. You do what you gotta do. You don't necessarily need to isolate yourself, or not hear what other people have to say. But you do have to listen to yourself. And when your soul tells you something is right, it's right.

  • Joe Shelby March 6, 2013 12:49 pm

    My take on this is here, 'What Is Real, Anyways?'. tl;dr, I show 7 different versions of the same shot, including the 'raw' original, to show that what is raw-captured in the camera is actually the least interesting shot possible. Not only do digital photographs encourage adjustments in the digital darkroom, they require it.

    The issue then remains the key word that nobody has mentioned here, not least of which the original article: sincerity. Is the artist being sincere in what they present? Sincerity is not 'reality'. It never has been in any other art form, and there is no reason photography should be any different?

    Now if you judge that the artist isn't being sincere with their use of the tools to present their vision to you, that's is your own judgement and you have to live with it as much as the artist does. But therefore you should be explicit: you are judging the artist's sincerity in your judgement of his work, not the tools themselves.

    For myself, I've only ever entered one contest, and lost to those very same hyper-saturated, white-shadowed unrealistic-looking, uber-HDR things that remain fashion-trendy (even as much as many of the original HDR pioneers themselves no longer produce that kind of work), and decided never again. My work is for myself, my child (who wasn't around when we went on these trips), my parents (who can not travel), and my friends. If strangers stumble upon them and enjoy them, I'll take that as a bonus. But at 42, I've got better things to do than reinvent myself and my personal idea of beauty and sincerity, just to meet someone else's judgement that itself might be as inconstant as the fashion of clothes people wear.

  • JL March 6, 2013 12:09 pm

    Photo manipulation goes back 100 years and more, Lenin employed these techniques for propaganda. It's as old as photography itself. The real question is, does the image intend to deceive? And is that deception detremental. Photoshop just makes it easier.

  • Jeff March 6, 2013 12:06 pm

    So...let's say that a photographer has a camera with a blemish on the lens and this blemish goes undetected by the photographer and yet it yields some outstanding results (stay with me here). Is this still pure photography according to the description definition espoused by so many? Or rather would it be some sort of artistic manipulation even though it was unintended?

    How about snowflakes on the lens as winter scenes are photographed; just sayin'!?

  • Leroy March 6, 2013 11:43 am

    Is art only what you see when you're there? Or can art be what you envision and create?

    If you are of the former camp, you might want a photography only competition and accept only RAW files (even at that, the photos may be manipulated by filters, lights, gobos, etc.). If you're of the latter camp, let the photographer perform his craft.

    At one point in the article Declan says it is " a vision of what they wish they had captured, but failed." I don't think the photographer failed. In reality, there weren't any dramatic clouds when the photograph of the boats was taken. That is not a failure of the photographer, IMO (it is not as if the clouds were there and he/she failed to capture their detail). Further, in reality there weren't any boats around when the photograph of the dramatic clouds was taken. Again, not a failure of the photographer.

    Some of my best images have been captured at the right time. As in, the sun was just coming up or just going down, or the clouds were just so. Does that make me a better photographer/artist, or just lucky or persistent? I've always thought I was lucky to be there. It didn't take any great skill or craft to pick an exposure and click the shutter. The beauty was already there - I didn't create it. And if you didn't create the beauty, how much credit do you deserve?

    Back to the subject photograph... Just as Ansel had an artful eye, it took an artful eye to choose the right clouds for the target mood. An artful eye to dodge and burn the clouds, the mountain, the boats. And it took craft to mate the images in a seamless and moving way.

    It doesn't take much of an artful eye or a lot of craft to clone out a power line.

  • Tim March 6, 2013 11:41 am

    roberto says: Photography must capture reality, this should be a basic rule.

    Aye, right. Whose reality? Y'know, the one thing that put me off landscape photography for over a year was a particular chap telling me he used Velvia "because it captures the way he feels at a place"; don't tell me he and half a dozen others I could name *all* use Velvia, 5x4 large-format in portrait orientation, low down, grad-ND down the sky, ... as stylized as it comes, because they all feel exactly the same way? Anyways, the point is reality is always modulated by individuality. There is no absolute. SOOC is synonymous with abrogation of responsibility to whoever made the hardware to choose the appearance.

    Rather, the basic rule should be to recognize that photography is art with the limitation that it must start from reality (otherwise it's not "light-writing"). Whatever happens thereafter is a different matter...

  • Tim March 6, 2013 11:28 am

    Nathan says: adding clouds is NO DIFFERENT than removing powerlines;

    Actually, I think removing powerlines is worse. It's unlikely that anyone cares what the clouds were in a scene, as long as the result is aesthetically suitable; it's more likely that people will care that they can never see the scene for themselves because the blasted things were removed.

    I definitely agree with:
    Manipulation of images is the name of the game, and it’s what separates the landscape photographers from lucky snapshooters to skilled artisans.

  • Tim March 6, 2013 11:25 am

    I sort of mostly agree. Landscape photography is a contrivance at the best of times - in order to choose the best of times, for starters - time spent poring over maps, previewing areas with Google Earth or Streetview so you can spot an "optimum" composition and time of day to visit, you name it. The process of making art starts well before hitting the shutter button, and continues through whatever post-processing you feel like. The process of making a photograph... well I'd be very hesitant about drawing a specific line of things that one might or might not do to an image before calling it "no longer a photograph", although I concede that there probably is a line somewhere. There are also issues of labelling (eg titling the work after a placename might connote fairly realistic representation) and expectation that a viewer will recognize the genre in question (eg a photo processed with a Van Gogh filter for watercolour painting effect - merely looking at such a thing, you know how to classify it automatically).

    The argument about "Ansel didn't" is unfortunately only of limited use. He did quite a lot anyway, localized darkroom operations such as dodge & burn, and no doubt more. The rant about Just leave photography to record what the camera sees not what the photographer wishes it had seen is only your opinion, and fails to take into account the control that a photographer exercises over the camera.

    Mr Byrne was not wrong in seeking "the best picture", even if that picture is a composite. If you restrict yourself to sitting around waiting for landscape to look just-so, as per the "contrivance" above, then you're missing out on a set of potential images that might be nice, that might retain what you consider the essential elements of the scene, but that arise from composites by switching-in a replacement sky. I don't say I'd do that, but I wouldn't generally object as long as the result is good enough to suspend disbelief.

    What matters here is that the competition has drawn its own line somewhere fairly reasonable in the sand, which was overstepped. Plus I spotted the angle of the shadows myself, so can't say it worked anyway.

  • Nathan Franke March 6, 2013 11:17 am

    Jerry Uelsmann would probably be a better example than Ansel Adams. Completely analog photographer, famous for composite images, combining multiple negatives into one surrealist print. Is his work photography, or graphic design?

    I agree with John (and others)--adding clouds is NO DIFFERENT than removing powerlines; using a yellow, red, or grad nd filter on the lens; or changing development time to increase or decrease tonal range.

    Manipulation of images is the name of the game, and it's what separates the landscape photographers from lucky snapshooters to skilled artisans.

  • Barry March 6, 2013 11:11 am

    Surely it depends on the rules set for the competition. If the winner was found to have broken those rules then I can understand the outcome. How much manipulation is acceptable? That is very subjective. Removal of power lines seems to me to be a quite serious alteration. Personally I think it would be better to find a position where they do not get in the image in the first place, if that is at all possible. But then what about dust particles on the lens or sensor? Technically the dust is what the camera saw also so should that be kept as well? Personally I think not. I'm trying to illustrate that some post processing may be necessary to improve an image. Other manipulation may alter it significantly. How much is acceptable may depend on the contest or perhaps how good the final result is. I don't go into photo contests but if I did I would like the rules to be clear. If the above image was the winning photo, then I think it is far too processed for my liking.

  • Dave March 6, 2013 10:39 am

    What a load of twattle. Moons and clouds have been added to skys long before digital cameras were even dreamed of let alone produced in a price range that the average person could afford them. Go back to the photo magazines in the 50's, 60's, 70's and read about all the techniques to put a moon into the landscape. Or how to add clouds to a bland sky. You could do a double exposure, shooting the landscape with a normal or wide angle lens,and then later using a long lens to put the moon into the scene.

    As for Ansel Adams - he has probably some of the most intentionally manipulated photographs in history. Each one of them is his interpretation of the scene, he played with the exposure, the developing, and then the actual printing to create not what was there, but what he saw in his mind. Read his books so you can see him tell you in his own words.

  • Arch March 6, 2013 10:37 am

    EVERY image is manipulated. Even point and shoot cameras make best guesses about sharpness, saturation, etc before creating the jpg. So let's just put that argument to rest. The real issue here is the level of manipulation. I believe in trying to make your images as close to what you experienced when you took the shot. Something that cannot be done with today's cameras alone when compared to the human eye. So if PS helps me get closer that that reality then I'm doing it.

    Competitions should define strict rules about what is acceptable.

  • Bret Linford March 6, 2013 10:30 am

    Eric, you got me! Ouch! :-)

  • Eric March 6, 2013 10:12 am

    Bret - a well exposed color film photo doesn't need any post-processing :P

  • Bret Linford March 6, 2013 10:04 am


    You may not use Photoshop but you DO process your image (whether you know it or not) either in analog or digital form. I guarantee you that the image you last took was not exactly as it was in reality. Maybe black and white photography should be shunned? It's definitely creating something that 'wasn't'.

  • Danny March 6, 2013 09:53 am

    I was so glad to see this article.. I have been arguing these points for a long time.. Although I have nothing against photoshop, (I however do not use it), it is its own art form... It is not photography any more than painting is...Its a tool to create something that wasn't.

  • Bret Linford March 6, 2013 09:44 am

    Barb, I totally disagree. I'm not sure if you've ever spent time in a darkroom but the darkroom IS "analog Photoshop" and has been around a LOT longer than P-shop.

  • Barb March 6, 2013 09:05 am

    IMHO photoshop is an artistic tool therefore should have a disclaimer on photos where it is being used. Ansel Adams was a genius in the darkroom as well as Clyde Butcher is a genius in the darkroom.

  • Kerry Stratton March 6, 2013 08:52 am

    Critics are everywhere.

    I can understand if the guy "pushed" the rules a bit too far that he could be eliminated from the competition. My first thought was he must have done a very good job if he fooled the judges. Maybe the judges should be removed if they cannot determine if an image has been manipulated by software to the point of stepping outside the rules of the contest.

    Sometimes I wonder how some people give themselves the authority to tell the rest of us that what is acceptable and what is not.

  • Canon Maiden March 6, 2013 08:52 am

    Well written. Bravo!

  • John March 6, 2013 08:50 am

    I really don't think you've thought your argument through very well.

    You bring up Ansel Adams who is well known for his darkroom work and the alterations he did to his photography - I'd bet money that if he had access to photoshop when he was taking photographs he would have used it to the best of its ability.

    You say that removing powerlines is okay, but adding clouds isn't? Why's this? Are we allowed to remove objects that are only man-made or are we only allowed to remove distractions from the scene but not add into it?

    Photography is art.

    The work done both behind the camera and behind the computer or in the darkroom is what makes a photograph unique and it is also what gives a photographer their style. Sure if you are photographing for documentary or advertising purposes alteration is not your best route, but if you're photographing to create beautiful pictures that people would want to hang in their homes than it's a free for all as far as I'm concerned.

    But, you're entitled to your opinion.

  • Karen March 6, 2013 08:19 am

    On the other hand, it is a beautiful image, a work of art by the person who created it. So basically we need to look at photography with an objective eye, and, as with other things in this world, try not to critisize what the other person is doing.

  • Karen March 6, 2013 08:10 am

    The clouds look like they have been added, which they have. I totally agree with what you said, and I really don't like above image as it looks false.

  • stargate March 6, 2013 08:07 am

    WOW! It's been a while since I've become so enraged with an "opinion" article.
    I can accept that perhaps for documentary or advertising photography you should not alter a picture (even there dodging, burning, adjusting contrast etc should be OK but not altering the content). Apart from there, there is absolutely no reason to discriminate against altered pictures. The photographers are the artists with the desire to produce beautifull images (according to their taste) that other people will hopefully like too. They use the camera, the lens, the film/sensor, the darkroom/computer and even the color of the frame (for hanged prints) in order to produce the most pleasing effect. Everything is acceptable. They do not try to deceive. It doesn't matter if the color of that car was red or blue. What matters is the image. If you are a forensics photographer taking pictures of a crime scene, yes, you should not alter anything, but for art? Come on people! Next they will tell us that only a normal lens is acceptable because all other lenses alter the image perspective in one way or another (and God forbid it was not like we usually see it).
    So I think that everybody should be less judgmental and see the pictures as what they really are. Just images that we like or do not like for what they show and how they show it. Leave the reportage to the reporters and learn to appreciate art for what it is. Landscape photography is art (unless you are trying to sell that mountain or that beach front property). Enjoy the images you like 'cause life is too short to spend it arguing about stuff of absolutely no importance. If you see the image of your dreams in front of you, by all means shoot it well and show it to us. But if it is not quite as it should be make it so and show us your vision. We might also think that it is wonderfull!
    Well, I got it off my chest! I know that many people might not agree with me, but that's OK. No one is perfect, including me!

  • Bruce Lindman March 6, 2013 08:03 am

    Perhaps the real WTF here is the concept of holding competitions for artistic endeavors.

  • Darrell March 6, 2013 07:57 am

    Sounds like somebody who's never stepped inside a darkroom before.
    When you draw a line in the sand, you should know what beach your standing on.

  • Jeff March 6, 2013 07:52 am

    Anyone who believes that a digital image of any scene is "exactly" as it is in reality themselves. The sensors and chips that photographers use to take the picture, download them to a computer and print them alter the images in some form or manner.

    The argument can be carried a step beyond by questioning whether colors should be balanced to better reflect reality before printing. I think, as suggested above, everyone should design their own rules according to what they believe their style of photography might be and let it be judged on that basis. Contests should set the rules clearly and then let everyone submit according to the rules.

  • Warren March 6, 2013 07:31 am

    Thank you, Bret. I was going to make exactly that point. Ansel Adams was a master photographer AND a master artist when it came to processing his pictures. He did not, however, add anything to his pictures that wasn't there to begin with as far as I know.

  • Roberto March 6, 2013 07:01 am

    I do agree with Eliot that removing a power line should not be accepted by true reality capture photographers, aka "purists" either. The example of Ansel and many others that do not photoshop to alter, but to enhance can be used as a benchmark. If you are able to incorporate that power line into your composition, then you have made both art and photography, but if you have to photoshop it out of your composition then it is not photography, it's something else that we have not yet defined clearly.

    There was another award striping example in a Natural Photography award in Spain, where the photograper used a tamed wolf to make it jump on a fence, rather than capturing the natural action which would have been crossing through a hole that was available nearby. Photography must capture reality, this should be a basic rule.

  • Peter March 6, 2013 06:42 am

    Hilarious the writer claims that removing power lines...something very difficult to do without photoshop...is acceptable whilst changing the color of a sky...something any graduated filter can do in the optical realm...is not.

    All is fair in art and craft (other than serious things such as child exploitation), and if Byrne broke the rules of the contest that specifically banned certain manipulations, then that is all this is. The writer is declaring their opinion and definition of the term "photography" as well as the nature of its "true joy" as sacrosanct, and that act has to be more objectionable than the act of making extra efforts to impress the observer however performed.

  • Bret Linford March 6, 2013 06:35 am

    To bring Ansel Adams into the discussion to prove your point is not telling the whole story. True, he did not add clouds or alter trees but he DID alter his images IMMENSELY. The incredible 'craft' he used to burn and dodge were amazingly intricate and totally MADE his great works of art what they are and defined his work. If one is having a contest, simply state that 'only burning and dodging is allowed. No adding clouds" etc.. Photography is most certainly a craft but just as certainly art where we use brushes, effects, etc. To say that is 'ruining' landscape photography is very close-minded, IMHO.

  • Mark March 6, 2013 06:33 am

    Did not Ansel Adams burn and dodge his prints in the darkroom? Did he not control the chemical process to get more or less contrast or other things? Photoshopping is simply our age's technological equivalent of those earlier processes.

  • Eric March 6, 2013 06:06 am

    I'm glad a distinction was made. There are graphic artists who use photos as a foundation for the final image, and that is completely fine, but that is not photography any more than painting is.

    The real lesson for me in this story is how stupid photo competitions really are. They come down to what the judges like, so how is there any meaning in that? If these so-called "expert judges" were so easily fooled, then I really don't value their opinion very highly.

  • Elliot Hook March 6, 2013 05:53 am

    Interesting article, and a subject very close to my own heart. It's a brave person to state what the boundary of acceptable editing is, as that itself is subjective. If we are craving that truth from landscape photographs, I'm curious as to why it is judged acceptable to remove a power line as even with that step, reality has been altered.

    Landscape photography is a beautiful art form, that I personally believe does benefit from being constricted within the realms of reality, however, each to their own. Each photographers artistic vision shapes their work in its own way and who am I to argue with that. Also, let's not forget that all images are manipulated to some degree. Show me any photographer that takes raws straight from the camera to the printer; it just doesn't happen. It didn't happen in the darkroom either. So then we're back to drawing a line as to what is/isn't acceptable.

    My only issue with the above is that there are clear rules that state the degree of manipulation allowed within each category of the competition (i.e. within the 'Your View' category digital manipulation such as composite images are perfectly acceptable), and so the image was actually technically ineligible of being the winner. This is unfair to photographers who have adhered to the rules, but ultimately that is down to the conscience of the entrants and the scrutiny of the judging panel to police.

    I think it's a shame that the 'title stripping' was done in such a public manner, especially given the past history of the competition and previous winners, however I still find David's work to be incredible and inspiring to me none the less.

  • Jake March 6, 2013 05:52 am

    Totally agree.