Honest Photography

Almost no one posts images straight out of the camera (SOOC) — there’s always work to do, improvements to be made. But how far can you go before crossing an ethical line?

As our photo editing tools grow artificial intelligence, and tricks that used to be difficult become progressively easier to pull off, photography forums continue to erupt in debates over what kinds of edits cross the line from acceptable and unacceptable? How far can you before an image becomes untrue? I just posted this in the /photography subreddit, on a topic titled “No It’s Not Cheating“:

There is only one question that matters as far as I’m concerned (but several ways to ask it): Is this an honest photograph? And by that I mean “Is the viewer being intentionally deceived?

If you convert to b/w, the viewer is not deceived. If you add a frame the viewer is not deceived. If you focus stack, the viewer is not deceived. If you modify saturation or contrast, the viewer is not deceived.

On the other hand, If you remove a blemish from a human face the viewer IS deceived. If you replace out the sky, the viewer IS deceived. If you change skin tone in such a way as to misrepresent, or “heal” out a passing airplane, the viewer IS deceived.

The difference between acceptable and unacceptable editing is easy when looked at this way. Does this photograph still tell the truth, or does it now tell a lie? Am I attempting to deceive or not? For me, this makes it easy to tell the difference.

I’m shacker on Flickr and Instagram if you want to follow along.

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