Is editing "cheating?"

Nov 15, 2019
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I find myself messing with my images a LOT. Do you feel that's cheating, or part of the creative process?
In other words, are there any "pure" photographers out there who NEVER edit their images?
Just curious!
 

sward

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Staff member
Nov 7, 2019
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Can't talk on behalf of the photographers, but as a photo subject, I really hope editing isn't regarded as cheating.

Lord knows those blending tools have worked wonders on my crows feet over the years :ROFLMAO:
 
It is very much part of the process, in the same way it was in the film days. I don't have any specific darkroom experience but a lot of photoshop tools are named after darkroom techniques (dodge and burn being the two i think of immediately). Choices in chemistry or development would also alter the image.


Personally I take the view of "get it right in camera" so you have less to do afterwards, and I do keep edits to a minimum if I can, with most of my photoshop work being adjusting images for a certain look.
 
Nov 15, 2019
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Editing is part of the process now. The only time I can think of, off the top of my head, when editing is not part of the workflow is immediate journalism, sports events etc. When time is of the essence.

Editing also gives you a 'style' I guess. I know my images turned out very differently from friends as our workflow differed quite substantially.
 
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rlawton

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Nov 13, 2019
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If it helps, think about your intention. If you're taking a picture as proof of an event or a claim, then any editing puts you in a dodgy position. But if you are creating a work of art or an idealised view of the world for people to enjoy, then you can surely do what you like to make it work? When you split photography into these two 'aims', it may be easier to work out what's justified. That's what I think, anyway :confused_old:
 
Nov 18, 2019
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I think it's important to differentiate editing from processing.

With film, you must process your shots in order to actually get viewable results. During the development process you have many creative choices with regards to exposure and so on. Processing a raw file is no different from that, with the exception that you have considerably more freedom with what you do.

Editing suggests 'doctoring' the image somehow, maybe adding something that wasn't there or changing something dramatically. I have no problem with that provided there's some honesty from the photographer. Photography can be documentary and scientific, but for the most part it is an artistic endeavour, and there are of course no rules in art.

Remember also that even if you leave your camera on jpeg mode, it is still processing the raw data for you according to the picture setting (vivid, landscape, portrait etc). By processing the image yourself you are therefore taking more creative control of your work.

I am fond of a quote from the American photographer Guy Tal:

A great image is not the same thing as an image of something great. I have a hard time with the premise that the art is in getting there or in getting lucky or in the camera settings or some processing technique, or really with anything that does not reflect a personal and emotional, and by extension, original response from the artist as a unique and creative being. I challenge you to dare to be an artist, and to be more than just a chauffeur for your camera.
 
Nov 18, 2019
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I'm in the 'processing is not cheating' group. I've developed my own film and made prints in a dark room. (In the distant past) A lot of the techniques we use to use back then is basically the same in the digital world of today. Only it's a lot faster today. And as back in the day, some are more skilled at processing/developing than others. :)

All that said, there is a lot more over-processing and over-manipulation of photos these days. I'm not a huge fan of distorting reality.
 
Nov 18, 2019
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All that said, there is a lot more over-processing and over-manipulation of photos these days. I'm not a huge fan of distorting reality.
While I still have the page up, I stopped using Instagram a while back because it was getting too depressing seeing horribly oversaturated stuff getting 10s of thousands of likes and dozens of "OMG SO BEAUTIFUL!!" comments...
 
Nov 18, 2019
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it depends on your intent. if you're shooting for journalism then less is better. there's standards and ethics to abide by. if you're shooting photography as art then to me the question is a moot point.

the camera edits photos before you even see them. all of those saturation, sharpness and wb/tint settings you put into the camera are the same settings you generally edit in your computer. the camera automatically does it for you when you shoot jpgs. if you're shooting raw you set these settings in software rather than in camera. is adding +3 saturation in camera cheating? or is changing your film from provia to velvia cheating? how about adding a color filter to a b&w image to change the tones? where do you draw the line?

check out some history on russian film photography, pretty interesting stuff happened. they had color photos before color film was around. people were removed from film photos. all of this happened long before digital photography was ever even a concept. and the russians weren't the only ones. ansel adams also did a lot of editing. he said you don't take photos, you make them.
 
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I honestly don't think I have took a digital photo and not adjusted it in some way or another. I don't enjoy as much as actually shooting but I do see it as part of the finished image. All part of the process of seeing an image even before clicking the shutter.
 
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Nov 19, 2019
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I think some processing and editing is fine. I personally don't like over processed and edited photos. I recall seeing a photo from a pro photographer several years ago of a lighthouse I had been to and tge scene looked much different than I remembered. There was a nice field of flowers in the photo. When I read the article, the photographer explained all the edits he had made to the photo like swapping out the sky, adding the field of flowers, and many others. I feel this is too much. I can understand making a few changes like color, saturation, highlights, shadows, and such. Even removing an unwelcome item like a pole that looks like it is growing out of someone's head is fine but too much processing and editing ruins the photo for me.
 
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Nov 18, 2019
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The very act of choosing to take an image IS editing. What you choose to shoot, where you choose to shoot from, the lens you choose to shoot with, all these are editing of the resultant image. Editing does not begin in the camera, it begins in the photographers mind. All the manipulations between the mind and the presented image are editing.
 
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Nov 18, 2019
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The very act of choosing to take an image IS editing. What you choose to shoot, where you choose to shoot from, the lens you choose to shoot with, all these are editing of the resultant image. Editing does not begin in the camera, it begins in the photographers mind. All the manipulations between the mind and the presented image are editing.
I hadn't thought of it like that before, thanks for the new perspective!
 

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