That's a Photoshop!

That’s a Photoshop!

A Post by George Maciver from the Highlands of Scotland Photography

‘That’s a Photoshop!’ she cried, and left the group.


The photograph in question had been popped, but that was all. Well, I didn’t really know what to say. I mean, every photographer on the planet uses photo editing software, even the Martin Baileys and the Jim Brandenburgs. Had a wee think about this and called in a few photographer friends for a chat.

I’m a writer, so I know that if a writer simply churned out first drafts and considered them finished, no one would print his work because it would be rubbish. Dancers, musicians and actors rehearse before they submit a final effort. All art is refined.

The word photography derives from the Greek photos, light, and graphé, to represent by means of lines or to draw. So photography is to draw, or paint with light. Photography is art by definition.

Photographs require post processing. What use are RAW files without processing? If you shoot jpgs, your camera has processed your images for you inside your camera. They have been post processed. Every photograph requires something, even if it’s just sharpening and removing specks that would ruin a print. All photographers post process their work.

Yes, there are arguments regarding the overuse of Photoshop, which it is claimed can turn photographs into digital art. However, this argument makes no sense, because by definition, digital photography is digital art. You may strive to capture the perfect photograph, true to what you see in every detail, but what you produce is still digital art.


There is no such thing as an untouched photograph. Changing the settings on your camera alters the way an image is presented. We use flash to add light, reflectors to bounce light, doors and umbrellas to direct light; we introduce light which was not there in the original image, we manipulate the image to make it better. Does it really matter then if we manipulate images on location, or do it afterwards in Photoshop?

What comes out of a camera can never look like what your eyes experience, because your eyes see with a much higher dynamic range than a camera. The eyes see in HDR, and cameras do not. However, software now allows us to bring a higher dynamic range to photographs so they are more realistic and true to life than any ‘untouched’ photograph can ever be.

Yet, some say HDR isn’t photography. Well, the new Canon 1DX takes HDR shots in camera. Are we saying now that the new generation of DSLRs are not cameras and that they are not taking photographs? That is absurd. If we are working with light captured by a digital camera then we are photographic digital artists.

Can Photoshop turn photographs into paintings? Painting is usually done with paint and a brush. How then can a photograph become a painting? A digital photograph, by definition, can never become a painting, any more than a painting could ever become a photograph.


Personally, I wouldn’t hang a Picasso on my wall. I’d enjoy the proceeds from a sale of his work, I guess, but there is no way I would hang his stuff around my house. However, just because he didn’t paint things as they were in real life and I don’t like his work, does that mean he is not an artist?

The same is true in music. No matter the amount of post processing that goes into raw music tracks, the final piece is still music, even though it doesn’t remotely resemble the original sounds that came from the instruments. For classical musicians to claim that rock isn’t music, and jazz musicians to claim that heavy metal isn’t music, is ridiculous.

Taking all this into consideration, the question we should be asking then is when does photographic digital art cease to be photographic digital art? Answer? As long as you’re working with light captured by a digital camera, it doesn’t. Once you start incorporating things like clip art into images, okay, perhaps now you can claim an image is no longer pure photographic digital art as it has been mixed with graphic art drawn by an artist.

Of course, as with any field in life, there are those who would defraud us, in this case by presenting manipulated images and claiming they are genuine representations. Yes, this is wrong. Fraud goes on in the art world all the time, but is a copy of a Picasso not art? Art isn’t the issue, it’s fraud, which is a criminal offence. Manipulated photographic images which are fraudulently sold as genuine is fraud, but those images are still photographs, they are still digital art.


Post production adjustments by whatever branded software you enjoy, is in essence, the digital darkroom. Tools such as toning, contrast adjustment, dodging and burning, are all replicated darkroom techniques. We may not personally enjoy some aspects of photography, just as we may not enjoy some styles of music, but it is all digital art. Photography means painting or drawing with light, so there are no rules on what can or what cannot be used to draw or paint with that light.

The bottom line is that people will decide for themselves if they like a particular genre of photography or not, but for someone to claim a genre is not photography because they don’t like it is just snobbery. Photographers should be encouraged to pursue their passions without all this nonsense about being frauds because they use Photoshop.

Let your talents shine guys and gals! Indulge your passions! Let your artistic natures flare, have fun with whatever photo editing software you enjoy, and flaunt your genius to the world. Show us your Photoshops and be proud of them!

George Maciver is from the Highlands of Scotland Photography, located in Brora, north of Inverness in the Highlands. Also connect with him on his Facebook Page.

Read more from our Post Production category

Guest Contributor This post was written by a guest contributor to dPS.
Please see their details in the post above.

Become a Contributor: Check out Write for DPS page for details about how YOU can share your photography tips with the DPS community.

Some Older Comments

  • Keebler Studios March 19, 2013 02:30 pm

    I personally don't have any issues with processing my images through a photo program to help enhance the photo's true capabilities. I mean, when I used my SLR I processed my images in the darkroom in a way to help enhance that photo into a better photo. I feel it is the same process in digital (minus the red light but you could always sit near one!)

    When it comes to the manipulation of a photo to adjust an image to create something that wasn't originally there, that in my opinion has it's own artistic category and shouldn't be compared to a photograph, much like how you shouldn't compare a photograph with a painted image of the same thing. They are two different worlds.

    But what people are capable of with editing software is amazing and their talents shouldn't be diminished because their image isn't "pure". It should be appreciated for what it is, a well manipulated photo.

  • Trevor February 4, 2013 10:34 pm

    I wonder just how much manipulating a photo can take before you need to start calling it a manufactured graphic instead of a photo. It was said in a post above that RAW files a processed. Of course you need to process a RAW file because your camera does not do it for you like other formats. It would be like taking a photo on film and not getting the film developed. I feel that most people would find it difficult to object to enhancing the brightness, contrast and saturation etc. This was done with film processing. I feel that most people would also not object to temporary blemishes like pimples, smudged lipstick or similar being removed they are not permanent, but when it comes to adding or removing items from the images it stops becoming a photo and I my opinion a work of art maybe? because it is a manufactured image that is not a true representation of what was originally photographed. Remember the days when a court of law accepted photographic evidence? That was before Photoshop came along.

  • r peterson January 4, 2013 09:12 am

    The problem I have is with people who enter contests and they win not because their picture is the best, but because they are more adept at photoshop or lightroom or whatever. It is not fair to folks who wait out in the cold or rain or heat or whatever to get that perfect shot of colors or contrasts or whatever, if you can just take an average or even poor picture and manipulative it to achieve those same results. They should be judged separately from those who have an honest "perfect shot". Maybe if they spent more time out in the "field" honing their craft, they wouldn't have to spend so much time at the computer creating. These people are not photographers, they are digital graphic designers.

  • Somu January 4, 2013 04:30 am

    After getting used to post processing I find that whenever I take a difficult shot I plan on what I will do with the picture during processing. One could almost say that I plan the process before I take a shot so this article is exactly in line with my style -- Thanks a Lot

  • Dan December 31, 2012 09:24 pm

    So bored with the whole Photoshop debate. If you look at a picture and don't like it, move on! If I like a picture I don't care what's been done to it as long as it evokes a poitive emotion. If I don't like, I don't look at it.

    Debate settled. Next!

  • David J December 5, 2012 11:04 pm

    Thank you, thank you and thank you again. I've listened to this drivel from the so called purists for nigh on 50 years and it infuriates me. In my "wet" darkroom days I manipulated images mercilesly in order to get the best out of them, as did Ansel Adams and every other legend of photography. Mr Adams himself described the negative as the musical score and the finished print as the final performance (to paraphrase him). I think of the raw file in the same vein, it is the basis from which we attempt to get "our vision" onto our chosen medium and, if we're honest, we produce a final work which pleases ourselves, should that work elicit positive comments from our peers then so much the better, if not we evaluate and deal appropriately with what we judge to be constuctive criticism and reject the rest.
    Can you imagine anyone running from the room screamig "It's a Van Gogh" on the grounds that his sunflowers don't match reality, of course not and yet I have the sneaky suspicion that they may well have been the HDR of the day :)
    I have so much by way of photographic software, PS-LR-Photomatix- Paint Shop Pro- Silver FX pro etc., and I use them all and do so unapologetically. After years of splashing about in toxic chemicals in the darkroom I feel liberated and intend to use that freedom to produce what I like, when I like, layers and selections included.
    Was the "Hay Wain" actually there when Mr Constable painted his magnificent work, was a touch of romanticism added by Mr Turner to his "Fighting Temeraire" ?
    Digital photography is Art and art requires something of the self, heaven knows the art critics of the black tee shirt brigade wax lyrical about some of the most appalling offerings ever to have disgraced a gallery yet we as photographers are to be denied our creativity by those self appointed purists who would have us confined like robots to a purely mechanical process.
    So glad that you posted this excellent blog, I'm reassured by all of those who have replied. I no longer feel alone.

  • Joe August 3, 2012 02:16 pm

    Processing is just part of the workflow. It's just another step along the way to creating the best image you can create. This is a good article, and I love the way George makes his case. It's about the finished product, and the editing software is just another tool: like the camera, the lens, the lights. The editing is a skill that should complement the composition and capture of the image...

  • Mei Teng July 2, 2012 03:54 pm

    Very good article and I share your thoughts.

    Very much agree with your statement on "The bottom line is that people will decide for themselves if they like a particular genre of photography or not, but for someone to claim a genre is not photography because they don’t like it is just snobbery."

  • Colleen May 25, 2012 09:00 am

    Wow, that is the most well-written, thorough, insightful and commonsense treatment of the "Is Photoshop art?" issue that I've ever read. I will be linking to this page to share with my friends. Thank you for saying so eloquently what I've tried to say again and again, with little success.

  • K Yong May 25, 2012 06:54 am

    I believe you've missed the point. Yes, all art is a process and subjective, including photography. However, when the recognizable artifacts of Photoshop tools become overly evident in the image, it makes the work generic and artificial (as opposed to digital–which is a "media" itself). The aversion to overly Photoshopped images is due to the fact that it looks unnatural and distances the photograph – which is the event of the image itself – from the viewer. In other words, the viewer ends up seeing the process, not the photographic reality that is captured. All the tools available to the digital artist is available to anyone regardless of each person's Photoshop skills; and when certain effects are overused they become recognizably clichéd. Consequently, the viewer becomes distracted by the image surface (i.e. effect or appearance) rather than being immersed in the intrinsic meaning (i.e. content) of the image itself. Anyone can add a filter effect on an image, but the goal for any artist in doing so, IMHO, would be to support the content of the image, not supersede it. So yes, I'd agree to the insinuation, "it's Photoshopped" if an image draws attention to the digital manipulation process and away from the photograph's own intrinsic reality.

  • Jack May 22, 2012 05:48 pm

    Of course if you really want to trip people out, explain to them that even before you set up a shot, before you adjust lighting, functions, or anything else, that the act of simply observing a thing can change it. They won't understand that, so you will have to give them this link to explain it:

    See also Observer Effect on Wikipedia for Physics and other examples.

  • Victor May 22, 2012 01:28 am

    A really hot topic ! The point is that with photoshop you can take a snap of a static car & then create a background to emulate panning .. so even if that may become a great art , will it make a great photograph?
    Bigger question , will it make you a great photographer or bring you at per with a photographer who can produce the same panning effect with the camera itself ?( Jpeg making included, since that does not make any selective editing across the frame)

  • Fredric Ciner May 18, 2012 04:57 am

    The final piece is still music... so well said. I also think that not everything taken with a camera is still "photography" if it is so overmanipulated it becomes a painting or generally "artistic representation". I love that HDR can capture what I see with my eyes but is hard to get onto film, but then tons of people make it more painterly than realistic too... ah the debate is grand

  • Christopher-Paul May 17, 2012 02:38 am

  • Trish Dixon May 9, 2012 05:48 pm

    Some of the best photography I have seen have been produced as monotone. Well, isn't that classed as "Post Processing" when the actual image is in living color?. I distinctly remember my father owning a camera that only shot in monotone. Isn't that post processing at it's highest level?. Let's get on with enhancing our art with post processing if we desire.

  • Christopher-Paul May 8, 2012 08:05 pm

    Why is the word, "Handmade," such a marketable characteristic for a product? It's because people relate that to detail and quality. Sure, shoes for example, made by hand or on the assembly line can produce the same standards of quality, but it's the process that is valued. I agree with this article that music is music despite the genre and the post-production input however, they (the music industry) are also witnessing how less talented artists are able to produce music because of the advancements in post-production technology. There needs to be a balance; some degree of knowledge behind the buttons and dials of post-production developing.

  • Robert Rosen May 7, 2012 10:30 am

    Processed photography is art. The purists of the world can be so narrow minded. They have no answer to what Ansel Adams did in the dark room. I used to be one of those purists. I have done a lot of cooking over the years. One year I was cooking a turkey at someone elses house. They handed me an electric knife to use because they didn't own a sharp knife in the entire house. You know what? It was perfect. Not quite the same but the same.

  • Nicole Pawlaczyk May 5, 2012 11:57 pm

    Fantastic article!! Well stated and I agree 1000%!! :) Love how you compared photography to genres of music... hadn't thought about it like that but so true. Thanks for the encouragement! :)

  • Marco May 5, 2012 02:52 am

    You can view RAW files in some Adobe products, but that is Adobe's representation of what the RAW file contains (Adobe's translation of the computer code in the RAW file) and is not a true image file until you export it as an image formatted file like JPG or TIFF. But who would demand that a dull, boring, flat image is the end result that you prefer????

  • Marco May 5, 2012 02:46 am

    It just amazes me the number of times in this comment section that people refer to a "raw image" usually commenting that it is very flat. YOU CANNOT SEE A RAW IMAGE!!! A RAW file can be read as a series of symbols that represent computer code, but you will have no idea what the image will look like unless you are a computer!!!!!

    I suspect that they are talking about the JPG image file that the camera created from the RAW sensor data file. And yes since that image is manipulated by the default settings that the camera maker put into the camera software, they are often dull and flat. The bottom line is that all digital images are manipulated either by the camera manufacturer or yourself in an image editing program!!!! IF YOU INSIST ON UNMANIPULATED IMAGES YOU MUST USE FILM AND DEVELOP IT YOURSELF TO AVOID THE DARKROOM MANIPULATIONS!!!

  • Marco May 5, 2012 02:23 am

    Michael Says:
    April 24th, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Read more:

    quote: "The real art is in the original raw photo. My opinion."

    There is NO ORIGINAL RAW PHOTO that comes out of a digital camera!!!! You either have a RAW file which is a computer language representation of what the sensor detected and not an image(computer code) OR you have a JPG file that is an image that the CAMERA PROCESSED from the RAW data!!! The only choice you have with a digital camera is to accept the default settings from the factory to create the JPG or you can open the RAW data in a computer program and TELL IT HOW TO MANIPULATE THE RAW FILE DATA INTO A JPG!!!! Either way, the image that results is a manipulated image file that was created based on the RAW data file the camera recorded!!!!

  • Tom G. May 3, 2012 03:04 am

    I saw an interesting article once about a study that was conducted of how our perception that an image seems "unreal" or "photoshopped" is more often the result of us having been conditioned to the limits of a camera rather than to how close it is, or isn't, to what the human eye is capable of seeing and the brain interpreting. In other words, while we can perceive detail in a bright background and dark foreground at the same time, when we see an image like that, it doesn't seem real because we know that the camera alone isn't capable of recording that.(athough even that is now changing of course).

  • C van Dijk May 2, 2012 07:44 pm

    We all agree nothing wrong with Photoshop. But if somebody can see it has been photoshopped the picture has lost some of it's magic.

  • Rob May 2, 2012 06:34 pm

    Thank goodness there are other people out there who appreciate good photography for what it is - excellent visual images - and not for the ability to stick to ridiculous rules and regulations. And if anyone wants to toss away a non-camera 1DX, let me know. Thank you for a superb article.

  • B. Colt May 2, 2012 01:40 am

    I have just two points to make.

    1. As Caleb Carr wrote in The Alienist "you cannot objectify the subjective." All that we encounter, visually, viscerally and emotionally is subjective. What constitutes art is for the viewer to determine, no other person can make that determination for an individual. Likewise for the manner in which the subject was created.

    2. Van Gogh and the other impressionists did not paint a scene as it was before them. The interpreted what they saw and translated that interpretation to the canvas. Photoshop? HDR? These are interpretations of a scene.

    Love it or leave it, but do not for a moment think that your subjective opinion of art should be shared by another. If art were objective we would still be painting on the walls of a cave.

  • Moe May 1, 2012 12:51 pm

    I have to agree with this article and glad someone put in in "digitial" print ;-P
    I've helped organize a couple of local art shows and I can tell you from experience, the pictures that got the most attention (and sold for cold hard cash) were the ones that had some post processing.
    I took a CS5 course a couple of years ago and in that course the instructor warned us about over processing. But tempered that with a comment saying it's easy to do.
    I've been guilty of that. Since then I've learned to dial it back a bit.
    I've also learned to use LR3 in conjunction with CS5. Sometimes its nice to realize that I don't have to do anything to a picture, but that's rare.
    I have a friend who's just getting into darkroom work. From what I've observed, there's lots of adjusting done in the darkroom. So what's the difference?
    It is what it is and the bottom line is what does your market want?

  • Gene Hilton April 30, 2012 10:39 pm

    Man, you articulated what has been buzzing around in my head for some time; that being issues of 'Digital Purity' and as you have stated there is NO SUCH THING. I want to scream when I hear, "I'm a Purist" or "This is right out of the camera" or "No Photoshop" -buncha BS. Ansel Adams: He burned and dodged his way to fame (based on his interpretation of a scene) -nuff said.

  • Mariah April 30, 2012 03:28 pm

    Interesting article. I definitely used to think that if I had to edit a photograph that I took, it wasn't good enough in the first place. I guess I thought that I should be able to take amazing photos SOOC and then after that I could learn to edit photos. As I began getting more into photography blogs, I realized that a lot of photographers I admire use photoshop or other editing software to achieve the effects I liked so much about their photos.
    I still have a slight aversion to using the software myself, but I don't have the deep-seeded disdain for it that I once had.

  • C Van Dijk April 29, 2012 11:46 pm

    Let's start from the beginning. The word Camera. In the 17th century a Dutch painter named Johannes Vermeer decided to sit in a dark room with a little peep hole and traced the resulting reflection on canvas with the help of various brushes and if he was not happy, waited for the paint to dry and just added another layer. Sounds very familiar doesn't it? He kept his idea a secret because it was considered cheating, this also sounds familiar. Later more people caught on and gave the dark room a Latin name Camera Obscura. Three hundred years later we have the Camera Lumina or light room on the computer. Like Johannes Vermeer sometimes we don't like the reflection this time on the computer screen and we make a transfer to photoshop to add layers which we manipulate with various brushes. The point human nature has not changed much in the last three hundred years. Regards and thanks to everybody I certainly enjoy reading your mail.

  • t April 28, 2012 08:30 pm

    I liken the paint, the brush, and the canvas as a camera and post-processing software. Tools in the hands of person that sees something, with ones eyes and mind, with the intent of capturing it.

    Like it or not, and I do not like some of the things that I have produced, appreciate that the individual has been able to provide what they see. Yes, with their eyes and their mind.

    Simply put, it is their work, not yours.

  • Christopher-Paul April 28, 2012 06:58 pm

    It seems many of the people commenting are all on board for the easy way out. As technology is developing our world is losing its ability to recognize true artists. Musicians use auto-tune, and photographers use photoshop, how do we know then who really has unique talent. I only speak English, but if I use an electronic translator can I claim I'm multilingual? That's ridiculous. Call me a purist, but a true photographer knows his elements thoroughly and that is the gift we should admire. It's about being in the right time at the right place, combined with the perfect analog settings. It is their dedication and persistence of perfection that is admirable, not the artificial result a computer produces that we label "photography." Our world is consumed with quantity and not quality. Don't get me wrong, I believe digital art is art, but it's not photography. Why do so many digital artists have to call themselves photographers, why can't they just call themselves for what they are, digital artists.

  • Tim April 28, 2012 07:15 am

    Photography is an art with the added constraint that, unlike a painting, it has to start from reality. IMNSHO this makes it deserve extra respect for getting something decent out, not less.

    You need some reality to start with and yet the photograph comes from this magic picture-box around your neck. What matters is that you have in mind some way to present your image, and the knowledge to take the scene and control the knobs & dials and, by extension, the sliders and buttons in software, to get that result. To omit any step is to neglect to do the job properly.

    You can follow convention when shooting and keep the ACR sliders on 0 and come away with something where all you have to say for the shot is the technical details, or you can make an interesting photograph and come away with a story. The two aren't entirely disjoint, but mostly are.

  • Xipha April 28, 2012 03:14 am

    Oh I also wanted to add that I have seen some stunning work by a photographer/artist/graphic designer. He has added a whole extra skill set of digital painting to his arsenal of tools and some of the results are great. He still needs to be a photographer to obtain some of his base materials for his final vision. We all make the best images we can with the tools we choose or are skilled in to try and convey our own artistic vision. If your preferred tool set is just to use your camera or minimal post processing, that does not make someone less of a photographer either than those of us who post process. I wish both sides would just appreciate the skill and vision of the others whether or not they personally appreciate the process or final image.

  • Timmy Burciaga April 28, 2012 03:11 am

    michaelhite is correct! Go to some of the museums in Santa Fe and see many of the different prints of the Moonrise over Hernandez. I'm an older guy and we often would use exposure and processing techniques to manipulate tonal range and then dodge and burn and use toners in the darkroom. Manipulation has always been around!

  • Xipha April 28, 2012 02:51 am

    Love this article! I am still very new to photography, and I actually started in Photoshop playing around with other people's pictures (I know better now haha) but wanted more control over the images I was using so when I could finally afford a camera I branched into photography and am developing an addiction to the whole process. I just got myself a new lens and I was talking to the guy in the store and I mentioned how much I love using Photoshop, and he very snidely told me "oh, so you're not a photographer, you're an artist". He made me feel as if I was something less than him because I enjoy editing images. And yes I will admit starting out my use of Photoshop was way over the top and more than the image demanded, but it made me learn what does and does not work, and which pictures needed more subtlety in editing and which ones benefited from a more stylized approach. But photography demands skill and discernment throughout the whole process, and being skillful in Photoshop does not make you less of a photographer, as you still need to go through the technical process of creating a photograph skillfully in order to have anything worth working on in Photoshop. And as for the degree of editing, that is fully dependent on the intent of the photograph. Photos meant as purely documentary in nature should remain true to what the photographer observed from whatever vantage point they placed themselves at, and post processing should serve to enhance the message being conveyed without adding elements that were not present. But if the intended result is an image that pleases the photographer and the audience that appreciates their style, who are any of us to draw the limits on what they can do beyond whether we ourselves appreciate that image. And if that includes blending multiple images, who are we to say that it is disgusting or immoral as long as the intent was not to show a specific time an place in reality but a pleasing image and the photographer/artist is honest in his intent and methods? I would say those who extensively post process or combine are both a photographer since their tools include a skillfully (or at least I hope skillfully) used camera, and an artist since their internal visions in both setting up the shot and in post processing determines the final outcome. And combining pictures smoothly in my experience takes a great deal of additional skill to end up with a pleasing result, not only in planning the photos before taking them so that they are compatible with the final vision, but in successfully combining them for a pleasing final result. You don't have to enjoy the final result or hang it on your own walls, but to say it is cheating, unskilled or not art when it is an expression of that persons inner visions IS snobbery. As long as the photographer/artist is not claiming to represent something by submitting such a photo as journalistic representation when it is in fact artistic representation I have no problem with someone putting photos through whatever post processing they desire, although I do appreciate it when it is done skillfully, and recognize there is a lot of unskillful art floating around out there that I don't appreciate (although if others do appreciate it, even if it is just the artist themselves then I will not say it is not art, after all there is a lot of art in museums and galleries that I don't appreciate one bit!)

  • Eileen April 27, 2012 09:50 pm

    Finally you have admitted that the artist in all of us needs free reign. The purists can demand no re-touching, but as long as we admit what we do to a photo, it should make no difference if it captures the heart and pleases the eye or makes one think. Fraud is the issue.

  • Colin Burt April 27, 2012 11:35 am

    What an excellent article. Just to add I completely agree with an earlier comment by Charlie, ' don’t add elements that weren’t there a the moment of taking the picture,' Adjustments, fine . Putting in objects, different skies, and combining images needs to be clearly admitted to by the photographer in presenting the final 'art work' . For it is no longer an image of a real scene. And my opinion of HDR is much the same - OK in very small doses and not blatantly obvious. Some of the HDR work flying around on the internet is unreal and like some of Van Goghs worst excesses with paint. Psychodelic nightmares aren't in it.

  • Joe Shelby April 27, 2012 11:31 am

    So those who refuse to "add or remove anything", compare these two images and tell me which is better, or tell me why the lower one is not valid?

    I removed lens dust, specs, and a lot of bug-splat on the windshield (it was taken from a moving vehicle), fixed the orientation (the camera was at an angle), cropped a little to get the street reflector out (only cropped, didn't replace it), and did a little boost of the saturation to get the colors closer to my memory (as the original was a 'raw' photo anyways which always look flat when unprocessed).

    Now you want to tell me the top one is more valid, the one that looks like total garbage?

    There is a place for 'photoshop' (though in my case i used picasa exclusively).

  • The Maze April 27, 2012 10:38 am

    In all honesty, the only TRUE photographs out there is in your head! It's called your MEMORY!! Even then, it's immediately distorted to some degree no more than an hour after thee picture is taken.. Come on guys!! Even what we think is edited to a large degree... What's wrong with post-processing??!!

    Great article!

  • Jason Racey April 27, 2012 10:09 am

    I've read a photo book where the author takes you step-by-step how he replaced the sky in a couple of his landscape photographs (overcast) with one that was more dramatic (storm clouds) to improve the shots. I found this disgusting. It's very different from the type of photography that I do. When you look at a shot in my flickr photostream you are seeing what was there. At most I edit the exposure and color saturation. I never add or remove something from the shot.

  • Rex Rickard April 27, 2012 09:36 am

    I guess it really all depends on what you are trying to do. I have separated my photos (in my mind) into two catagories. A DOCUMENT or ART. My goal is to make the pictures I consider DOCUMENTS look good. Sometimes these photos (mostly photos of people) get into the realm of ART. When my intention is ART, then anything goes .Post production is just another tool (like a camera).
    I suppose it is how it is represented. Is a black and white photo better than a color one of the same thing?

  • Bil Palmer April 27, 2012 08:00 am

    I am a retired Psychiatric Home Care RN. I went to photography school in the late 60s long before nursing school. I graduated from college with a BS in Communications in 74. I freelanced for years afterwards because there were no jobs.
    I attended a Rocky Gunn Seminar in 1978 and thus began a serious career in wedding photography. Rocky taught me that there was emotion in each photograph I took and that it told as much about the people I photographed as it did about myself. He was like Billy Graham and Steven Spielburg rolled up in one.
    The types of film, the type of lighting and the quality of that light along with the posing and other devices were all manipulations of the original subject.
    Photography changed in the 80s, video began and I began to lose interest in what I had loved for so long.
    Now that I'm retired from nursing, I'm selling my photographs at art & craft fairs. I use PhotoShop without apology. I try to offer something different but make no bones about my use of post processing.
    When I did my own black & white darkroom work I was happy that I completed the work I started in the camera, and when I dabbled in color printing, making prints that I had previously sent out to a Pro Lab, I was in photographers' Heaven. There is no difference in what I do in Photoshop. I created a T Shirt that says: Some artists work in oils; others work in water colors; I work in Photoshop.

  • Kimo Sabe April 27, 2012 02:13 am

    It's actually hilarious that some believe that past masters of film did not touch their captures at all. Of course they did! Mr. Adams would never have been known without d&b. But the basics will always remain the same: make the best capture (read: gather information) possible, and then manage that information according to your vision. Excellency in post-processing comes from a previsualized idea and concept; a lot of overdone hdr is an example of the opposite. One friend of mine told me: "When I bring any image into photoshop, I don't know what to do." I replied: "Then it has nothing to do there in the first place." Furthermore post-processing and manipulation can not save a bad bad capture. The camera, our capture and various post-processing techniques are simply our tools to translate whatever our eyes, heart and head see, into an image. I finish with the words of Mr. Avedon: "All pictures are accurate. None of them is the truth." Both in art and real life.

  • Anant (The Lensor) April 26, 2012 02:44 am

    The Master says this :
    "Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships. ~Ansel Adams"

    Enough said. :-)

  • Paul McGuigan April 25, 2012 10:29 pm

    Subjective. Objective. Nuff said.

  • Egil Saeboe April 25, 2012 05:57 pm

    We can never do anything wrong or immoral with the photo itself when editing. It is when presenting a photo we might go wrong. We should always ask ourselves if the photo is what we say it is, or if it´s what people expect it to be in the very context we present it.

  • Joe Q. April 25, 2012 02:31 pm

    To Photoshop or not to Photoshop; thst is the question. And the answer is: it depends.

    If your a photo journalist, then Photoshoping should be kept to a bare minimum. Adjusting lighting, contrast and color temp to match the scene are OK. But no creative croping, masking or juxtiposition. The final result should render the original scene as much as possible.

    For marketing, don't render a product to look to be more than it really is.

    But when creating art, the only limitation should be the
    photographer's imagination. If people don't like the result, don't look at it!

  • Jodi C April 25, 2012 12:39 pm

    Before digital photography, you were able to control the outcome of your photographs in the darkroom using a series of films, chemicals, paper and processes. That was the part I used to love, watching the photographs come to life and tweaking them to make them perfect and this was as far as I was aware completely acceptable. Now all these types of editing can be done on the computer. Photoshop is just another medium. One in which there are also many levels of skill and talent in both this digital field and for traditional fine art mediums as well. There is no reason why Photoshop cannot be used to enhance the final product. Therefore I think you can say that editing photographs is not only common, but it is necessary.

  • Jerry April 25, 2012 06:22 am

    My mother refers to photography as "taking a picture". There's your answer. As long as I can enjoy using a camera and computer (as I used to use a camera and darkroom) to make a picture which someone looks at and says "wow" I couldn't care whether anyone wants to call it art or not.

    The only real issue is honesty. If it's a good picture resulting from heavy manipulation don't deny it. I recently watched a presentation by a seriously qualified amateur photographer who had no problem in discussing what he had manipulated and how. He had some seriously good pictures.

  • Doug Sundseth April 25, 2012 02:37 am

    @ michael:"The real art is in the original raw photo."

    The original raw photo is not viewable. Any .jpg interpretation of that raw capture is a manipulation based on choices made by the camera maker, and often with input from the photographer. A given raw capture on a simple point-and-shoot camera can commonly be interpreted in half a dozen different ways depending on the picture style chosen. Which one of those is "the real art"? And why would anyone privilege that choice over a RAW file from a DSLR that is interpreted in post rather than in camera?

    And let's not be too quick to say, "except for photojournalism", either. PJs aren't allowed to make certain very specific edits in post. But they can choose framing, timing, and subject to make a point (or deceive) without consequence. I'm sure you've seen pictures of a demonstration from two different PJs, one shot very tight to make a crowd seem large and one shot loose to make the same crowd seem small. These are manipulations just as much as post-processing.

  • Taran Burrow April 25, 2012 02:20 am

    I hate that word--"art"! It sounds so pretentious to me.

  • raghavendra April 25, 2012 01:47 am

    editing can be fine, unless you don't manipulate the image

  • Jeff E Jensen April 25, 2012 12:38 am

    Well written and excellent points. I'd be willing to bet that a good portion of those that complain about photos being "Photoshopped" have never spent any time in a darkroom. I've spent very little time in one, but I have a good grasp of their importance in the final artwork that we all love.

  • Don Komarechka April 24, 2012 11:48 pm

    I always say that if you believe photography isn't art, you better be taking insurance photographs :)

  • AC April 24, 2012 11:22 pm

    Most of us are amateurs who cannot usually be in the right place at the right time with the right lens. Yet we see potential in the subject and wish to do a little more with it than what we see SOOC. Obviously, we should strive to take the best photo possible, but we should also strive to make the best of our photos.

  • Mary April 24, 2012 11:18 pm

    I agree, and thank you for calling it out as exactly what it is... Snobbery. That is the only thing I hate about photography, all the snobbery.

  • C van Dijk April 24, 2012 10:16 pm

    I started out with a Pentax film camera. How boring fill up 24 shots and bring it to the shop for processing. No input whatsoever in manipulation. Doing your own processing was not considered in our 3 bedroom council apartment. I came of age with a 3MP point and shoot camera and a pirated copy of PS7 given by a mate what fun I had. The ultimate, made even a self portrait of myself walking on the moon. The most important object as long as you have fun in what you are doing. I carried on, now I have a Canon SLR with 3 specialist lenses and a Canon G1X and this time with a legal copy of LR4 and Elements 9 can click the help link without losing my program. I still enjoy what I'm doing in my spare time I doubt very much if I would do photography without my Adobe toys, I don't make a living out of photography but I certainly enjoy my hobby.

  • Martina April 24, 2012 07:52 pm

    Its funny some say Yes to post processing but "just to some degree", if there is too much that is not art anymore. Ha ha ha, and you are the one to decide when it is too much? For the author it probably isnt, so why cant he decide?
    Or I hear "not every picture or every photo is art". Again, who is the one to decide?
    If PP is ok then it is, as much as anyone likes, not to some degree unknown to anyone except the viewers taste. Heck if you dont like it its ok, no one likes every art they've seen. But its doesnt mean its not art anymore!
    I think if the author sees it as such then it is, no matter what anyone else says. Art is first of all subjective, nothing wrong with that. You dont have to like it, but it still exists.
    Art is not something that has to be contained, let it run free and live in as many things possible, choosing which one is for you.
    Isnt that so much nicer than saying art is this and that, nothing more...

  • George April 24, 2012 06:58 pm

    I'm really enjoying the comments and insights offered. Have a wonderful day everyone :)

  • Sam Docker April 24, 2012 06:48 pm

    For me, its knowing where to draw the line, we all use photoshop and lightroom to enhance our photography, why wouldn't we?! We all take the occasional picture that will benefit from a little tweaking, whether it be exposure or cropping, but some photographers don't know when to stop editing. Ultimately, if your composition or eye for a creative shot is poor, no end of editing will turn it into a good image.

  • Yngve Thoresen April 24, 2012 05:47 pm

    A perview or edit functionality is missed... The first link should be: Elusive

  • Yngve Thoresen April 24, 2012 05:35 pm

    Sorry, I can see how that sentence can be misunderstood, even if I included "(if it suites my tastes)".

    I wrote: “Art is something I want to (if it suites my taste) put on my wall. This excludes most HDR and Picasso.”
    You replied: "Are you saying that if a picture or painting doesnt suite your taste then they are not considered art? Or is it just for “you” as your preference?"

    That is not what I'm saying. I'm saying that art that suites my taste can be put on my wall. Art that does not suite my taste is still art, I just don't want it on my wall. :)

    Art is many things. And I certainly don't like everything labelled as art. That don't necessarily make it less art. It just tells me I don't like it that much. I don't agree that everything labelled art is indeed art. A bad picture is not art, it's just a bad picture. Picasso is art, and HDR can be too. In the case of HDR I think most of it is overdone, that's the ones with the radioactive glow and halos. But that can be art too, I guess.

    I'm not saying something have to suit my taste to be art. I'm saying, in the case of photography, that to be called art it should be something more than a simple snapshot. Otherwise, every single image I take is art, and I hope we can agree that this simply is not true. Even if I would like it to. :)

    When I first started with photography I was like many others of the opinion that any manipulation of an image was bad, and "cheating". I was what some call a realism-Nazi, but I soon learned that most images have been edited in some way. Even images in photojournalism often needs some minor post process to show reality accurately.

    Like several have already pointed out, in the post and comments, all images undergo some processing. Either in-camera or post. A RAW image, if left (nearly) untouched, is lacking colours and sharpness. this was one of my earliest lessons with RAW compared to JPG. It needs some darkroom work. Simply exporting an image to JPG from e.g Lightroom does this automatically, even if the person on the computer thinks it is unedited.

    What is art? Defining what is art and what is not can be a delicate (and subjective) matter. A beautiful painting can be art, as can a great photograph, or even a photograph manipulated beyond recognition. Different skills are involved for each. From time to time there is an "artist" in the media with some crazy stunt to get publicity, claiming what he/she does is art. From the top of my head I recall guys painting with dead rats, large displayed aquariums with urine (his own), paintings done with dead human fingers and garbage in a park. I wouldn't call it art, but many would. My point is that it is a subjective matter.

    Some say that anything that creates a discussion is art. Maybe we should stop discussing if it is art or not, and start discussing if it is any good?

    Two examples, one depicting reality and one not:
    <a href=""Elusive. Art? I'm not sure. I don't consider myself an artist as such. But I still like it. Depicting reality? Not even close.

    Cafe Mocha. Depicting reality? Yes, very much. Art? Not sure. Do I like it? Yup.

  • Anant (The Lensor) April 24, 2012 04:58 pm

    Oh what a brilliant piece of writing. I'm sharing this wherever I can.
    I agree with George on all the points. Especially the point he makes about RAW. That's what I've been crying for the longest time. As long as it's not manipulated - addition/deletion of elements foreign to the picture taken by the camera - it's not photoshop.
    Bumping up saturation, contrast and things you can't achieve in-camera are OK as far as I'm concerned.
    Everything is post-processed.
    Pick up this month's Nat-Geo. ALL THE PICTURES are POST-PROCESSED.
    I was going through Steve McCurry's website some days ago and I found two pictures - one on the Nat-Geo website and one on his own portfolio. Needless to say, one was highly processed while the other less processed. The greats do it. You can't question that. And if you do, well, best of luck with you camera.
    No offense meant to anyone. We're all for photography and art.

  • Mridula April 24, 2012 02:27 pm

    This is not photoshop this is edited in Picasa :D

  • David April 24, 2012 01:33 pm

    Post processing is part of being a photographer, just as using a darkroom was when we used film. Sure, some people took their film to a chemist for processing but that just highlighted the difference between a 'camera user' and a real 'photographer'. Today, those users who don't (or won't) post process are only exercising part of the photographer's tool kit; they are only half photographers.

    As to how much post processing is too much; that depends upon the purpose for the image, and the setting in which the image is presented. If it falls at the 'documentary' end of the scale then any manipulation that falsifies reality in a meaningful way is too much. At the 'artistic' end of the scale there should be no limits.

  • Michael April 24, 2012 12:21 pm

    Photoshop has in my opinion ruined real photography. Nothing wrong with photoshopping, just acknowledge its been done. The real art is in the original raw photo. My opinion.

  • Senior Pictures Muskegon April 24, 2012 12:20 pm

    I think the pictures look good, it doesn't matter if too much HDR or post processing is done... The work is done by the artist and published as his art :)

  • Jack Rosenberg April 24, 2012 11:54 am

    Somewhere in the afterlife, Alfred Stieglitz is reading these posts and is either laughing or crying. Get over yourselves people! A manipulated digital image is no different than one manipulated in the darkroom or an artist's view when a modern painting or sculpture is created. There is room for all of us in the world of art. Just move aside and let progress happen!

  • Joe Shelby April 24, 2012 11:36 am

    Leonard Bernstein, Harvard 1973, on Stravinsky's work and Adorno's criticism:

    "Of course, what he's really talking about is the relationship of art and artificiality. How artificial can art be and still be art? Well, it varies from one age to another, from one stylistic period to another, from one culture to another. But wherever or whenever, art always has, and still does, involve the application of certain artifices. An artist is always to some degree or another an artificer; to be artistic is to be artful. So it is impossible to present a clear, black-and-white case, such as Adorno's, where genuine arti is that expression which is subjective and sincere, and all else is artificial, hence false. Art is more subtle than that, and much more interesting." -- Bernstein, Leonard; The Unanswered Question: Six Talks at Harvard; Harvard University Press, 1973. (Lecture/Chapter 6)

  • George Fragos April 24, 2012 11:17 am

    Many of the commentors have clearly never done any darkroom work in the film era. When you made a print exposure times were varied to favor the shadow or brightly lit areas. There was frequently dodging and burning in of portions of the image. Film and even more so digital don't have the exposure latitude of our eyes. What was seen was frequently impossible to reproduce. We also used sepia toning of black and white images. This work wasn't panned for manipulation. If there was a bra strap askew in a wedding shot I retouched it out and was never told to add it back in. Removing blemishes in portraits was also normal practice. These are all acceptable and in fact the craft of skilled photographers. This isn't to say that all post processing results in works of art and much of it is executed in the digital world with questionable skill. And yes putting Obama's face on a pitcher of Koolaid isn't strictly photographic but it might support the theme of an article it appears in.

  • Tom April 24, 2012 10:51 am

    I like the examples Alexander used above. To me the distinction is between photojournalism and art. The former has minimal manipulation and is used to document something - if it misrepresents what it is documenting, then the manipulation crosses the line. Art, on the other hand, is anything the photographer/artist determines it to be, regardless of where the emphasis in the whole capture-to-publish process occurs - forty hours on capture and two minutes on post, or the other way around - does it really matter? Whether or not it is good art, is another question and, for me part of the answer to that lies in the artist's creds. Personally, I don't like picasso either, but I won't deny that his skills were extraordinary. If picasso wanted to do realism, he had the talent to do it. If Ansel Adams decided to swing his camera around while capturing an image and ended up with a blurred, surreal landscape - I would hardly say "Wow, Ansel, you suck as a photographer". But, I would like this image from him a whole lot less than his others because that particular image of his artistic expression would not appeal to me much.

  • Steve O April 24, 2012 10:41 am

    So true. Well said!

  • Mandeno Moments April 24, 2012 10:22 am

    I agree with the fundamental premise here, i.e. that anything an artist creates is art and the method is irrelevant (taste is a separate matter entirely).

    Taking all this into consideration, the question we should be asking then is when does photographic digital art cease to be photographic digital art?

    When I learned the answer to this question I found that it helped my photography greatly because it gave me an understanding of the process in which I was engaged. I have explained this at

  • Chris April 24, 2012 10:22 am

    "‘if you were using film, you would manipulate it in the dark room, photoshop is my dark room!"

    Right on!! Ansel Adams was a genius in the darkroom and one of his most iconic shots, Moonrise, was, according to hid son, the result of a lot of work in the darkroom....I have no doubt he would have become a master of photo shop as well.....the only thing that matters is the final image you produce and as far as I am concerned anything goes....if your intent is to misrepresent or defraud some one then that has its own consequences....but for the sake of art....I say have at it.

  • J S April 24, 2012 10:06 am

    If you're putting a lens in front of film or a digital sensor you're doing as much manipulation of the world as the guy running photoshop (I use Gimp in my post production process though).

    I had this exact discussion with a family member over the recent holidays. Flash, filters, changing f-stops, cropping, rotating, everything is a manipulation. Your eye is a manipulation of real life. Some animals see more or less or a different color spectrum than humans do. Insects see a lot different - care to wonder what a compound bee eye sees? Bats picture their environment using sound waves.

    In the end - does the resulting picture create emotion in someone looking at it?
    Only then has the photographer accomplished art. And Art is what is durable.

  • Andrew April 24, 2012 09:35 am

    It never ceases to amaze me that people are still using this 'HDR is a closer approximation of what the eye sees' argument. It's blatantly untrue.

    Yes, the eye is better equipped to resolve detail in light and dark areas... but not all at once! The eye meters and adjusts, just like your camera (albeit faster and more efficiently). The single exposure is, in fact, a much closer approximation of what your eye is seeing in the same timeframe as your camera's shutter speed in daylight.

    On top of that, I have never seen a HDR that wasn't immediately identifiable as HDR - and not because it seemed more realistic.

    For the record, I'm in favour of post-processing in general and not opposed to people using HDR (although I'm generally far from impressed with the results), but do us all a favour and stop trotting out this fallacy about realism. It's anything but.

  • Katy April 24, 2012 09:32 am

    Well said!
    People often have a go at me about editing in photoshop but my argument is always..... 'if you were using film, you would manipulate it in the dark room, photoshop is my dark room!'

  • Jack Larson April 24, 2012 09:17 am

    With the exception of photojournalism, it's all about the final results. Do you end up with a photograph that you find artistically compelling? If you do, celebrate it. If you don't, delete it. These so-called realism Nazis don't have even the most basic understanding of the history of photography.

  • Alexx April 24, 2012 08:34 am

    I'm pro post.

    Post is a part of the process of photography!

    For example some of my HDRs here:

    They wouldn't be what they were without post.

  • blusa April 24, 2012 08:28 am

    There are a lot of people who cant tell the difference between post product and original.. why? simples untrained eye can see flow of images without seeing every moment individually, photos are individual moments, so for majority of people photo which takes lots of effort: slow shutter speeds, extra fast shutter speeds etc, that for is unnatural although that all aint that unnatural its just captured..
    and same goes to post process, you adjust, improve, enhance call it what you like but you change image, for you its normal for others its which craft. it is, it was, it will be..

  • Framtonm April 24, 2012 08:15 am

    I heartily agree! Modern photography (and that includes "Shopped" images) is a natural progress from cave paintings, through the whole history of art; and I would definitely be pleased to hang some of those Scotland Pix on my walls.
    Wish I'd taken them though!

  • Katka April 24, 2012 07:36 am

    Well said!

  • Brett Burnes April 24, 2012 05:49 am

    There seems to beca lot of very badly done HDR floating around these days and I think it gives HDR a bad wrap. Well-done HDR can be quite striking, but it is all to rare I fear.

  • Adilson Andrade April 24, 2012 05:46 am

    I found the reading of this piece of article so good that I´m going to translate it into brazilian Portuguese and I´m going to post it on my "Photoclub Group on Facebook". Thanks a lot for sharing such clever thoughts on post processing. BTW, I´ll give fully credit and I´ll link it to this page.

  • Charlie April 24, 2012 04:49 am

    So CSI is overdone? I fully agree with the article... As long as you don't add elements that weren't there a the moment of taking the picture, it's an honest intend of capturing our reallity in a specific point in time. Nice article!!

  • Alexander DiMauro April 24, 2012 04:38 am

    I agree completely, the 'art' includes post production. Customers aren't going to pay lots of money for a print that hasn't been processed to some degree. Then there are the surrealist photographers that make a career out of photo manipulations, and they do amazing work! Nothing wrong with it.

    The only place it becomes a no-no is with photojournalism. And yet, even there, photos still need to be processed to some extent, even just minor adjustments. But, photo manipulations in photojournalism are the big problem, and, unfortunately, happening more often than most people might expect.

    A prefect example is one photo I saw about a month ago. I wish I still remembered the link. It was a photo from Afghanistan showing soldiers with someone they had just captured. They were letting him drink water, but right behind him was a soldier holding a gun to his head. In the US, the photo was manipulated to remove the soldier with the gun to his head, so it looked like they were just helping out a local. The middle east media cut the bottle of water out, so it looked like he was just sitting there with a gun to his head. Both sides trying to manipulate the truth to their own agenda.

    That is a perfect example of when photo manipulations are wrong. If it's art, and only supposed to be art, have at it!

  • Stella Brown April 24, 2012 04:32 am

    Art is in the eye of the beholder. I am using the word art for photography too. People are diverse. Therefore art is diverse. We don't need to label someone as a photoshop artist just because they photoshop their image. Times change. Photography changes with it. People are a lot slower to change than technology and some will go down kicking and screaming rather than allow others to change with the times.
    It ultimately doesn't matter. HDR, film, whatever. Art is what it is, whether people like it or not and it doesn't matter what they call it. You define what kind of artist you are. Call yourself what you want. Even if you become famous like Picasso people will fight about whether you work is art or not. Don't waste your time on it. Put in ear plugs. You have art to create.

  • James April 24, 2012 04:14 am

    Argh! I hate that you can't edit your comments.

    My second sentence should read: Taste is subjective, but what constitutes manipulation in photography is more objective.

  • James April 24, 2012 04:11 am

    Don't get caught up in thinking about this as a matter of taste and miss the point the author is making. Taste is subjective, but whether photography what constitutes manipulation is more objective. All photography is manipulative. You intentionally chose an ISO, shutter speed, aperture, and framing to convey the scene as you interpret it or want it to be interpreted. This is manipulation. Until we come up with a camera that captures a scene exactly as it exists all photography is manipulative.

    The issue is has the image been altered in such a manner as to present some false implication of the scene while being promoted as an accurate representation. That is fraudulent and unethical. But manipulating the photograph digitally to convey a certain feeling without altering the reality of the scene is no different than choosing a different aperture shutter speed combination or framing the composition in different way.

  • JAMES April 24, 2012 04:05 am

    @Yngve Thoresen : "Art is something i want to (if it suites my taste) put on my wall. This excludes most HDR and Picasso."

    Are you saying that if a picture or painting doesnt suite your taste then they are not considered art? Or is it just for "you" as your preference?

  • Ricardo April 24, 2012 03:31 am

    A great image is soley the creation of the artist. As a photographer you will bring any tools that you may have to make that image as good as it can be. The journey that an image takes is irrelevant to the final product. The question that needs to be asked is 'does the end product fit in with my ethos and beliefs?'

  • Rolf M. April 24, 2012 03:23 am

    George, I utterly agree.

    As I see it, every picture taken is a manipulation of the real visual object.
    So what's argued is the level of manipulation and that, like music, is a matter of liking... not taste, but liking…

    Rolf M.

  • David marsh April 24, 2012 03:21 am

    Subject matter
    An eye

    Photoshop doesn't have these in it's set of filters

  • Terry H April 24, 2012 03:02 am

    I agree for the most part when it comes to enhancing and touching up photos. Where I tend to have an issue when it comes to Photoshop moving from photography to digital art is when someone starts introducing things into the shot that were never there to begin with. I've seen this done a lot with landscape photography where someone might add in a sunsets and other things that make it into a shot that was never taken. IMO then you're more of a photoshop artist than you are a photographer.

  • RP April 24, 2012 03:00 am

    Ugh... Anyone who claims photographic purity is kidding themselves. Look back to first principles -- photography is about images; not reality. It is a depiction of reality. Purists claim that the ORIGINAL image, not retouched, is pure photography. The truth is a machine called a camera manipulated reality and produced the image. These purists discount the fact that the decisions made by the camera manufacturer are reflected in the quality of an image. These machines are changing in quality all the time. Just as a photographer can change the settings on his "photographic light capturing machine" or manipulate the original image with adding artificial light to the original subject, he cannot reproduce reality, period.
    Photoshop ON!

  • PaulTGG April 24, 2012 02:58 am

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but suggesting that working in digital is justification for any sort of post-processing is over-simplifying. Be honest with yourself about your art! If you're a photographer, don't hide behind post-processing to make good photos - take good pictures in the first place, and spend less time in post. If you're a photoshopper, you don't need to call yourself a photographer, because that's not what you're doing. You're an artist - a painter - so paint! Like the article said, "let your talents shine," just don't use your talent to portray yourself as something you're not. Take ownership of your art for what it is!

  • Yngve Thoresen April 24, 2012 02:41 am

    But Steve, your HDR is overdone. It doesn't look no more real than an episode of CSI:Miami. Still a photograph, though. And certainly art. But also manipulation. Almost every image is to some degree, and all HDR.

    Even if I think the whole art thing is greatly exaggerated. Not every image is art, just like not all paintings are. Some are just images or paintings. Art is something i want to (if it suites my taste) put on my wall. This excludes most HDR and Picasso.

  • Darren April 24, 2012 02:31 am

    Well said, I intend to make use of many of your points in future discussions with friends :)

  • steve slater April 24, 2012 01:53 am

    You cannot get a normal exposure to display all the tones and details that processing in hdr does. It is not manipulation if you are making a final image nearer to what the eye sees.

  • michaelhite April 24, 2012 01:26 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I know a number of people that reject a photo that has been touched by digital processing as less that true photography. You have reminded us all very well that every digital photo has been "processed" at some level. I would also like to remind folks that early photographers Ansel Adams used extensive darkroom techniques to "process" his prints. Even simple film and print tool like dogging and burning were commonplace while working with enlargers and developer. Would we suggest that Ansel Adams did make photographs or any image that was dodged and burned in the darkroom was not a photo? Of course not. I agree that there is an overuse of Photoshop at times, but that is just a another form of this digital medium. It is all still photography.