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Are photo editing programs ruining the beauty of natural photos?

Isn't the increased use of photo editing programs making our photos imaginary or unreal?
Should we use these programs to make our photos look good even if they are not?
Is the use of photo editing tools decreasing the quality of photos?

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    Dec 13 2011: It's the age-old dilemma, isn't it. Do we blame the tool or the one weilding the tool?

    Honestly, the *short* answer is 'no'. An emphatic 'no', to be precise.

    To 'properly' capture an image, whether it be in analogue or digital form, one needs to do so using a 'negative'. Most people don't realise that digital negatives STILL need to be 'processed' in the way analogue ones did (and do).

    Digital editing programs do nothing other than shift the darkroom from the outhouse or shed, to the bedroom or dining room (or home office) *smiles*
  • Dec 1 2011: This is a genie that cannot be put back in the bottle. I wish it could sometimes. I think Edited photos should have some watermark or something on them so you would know....
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    Dec 2 2011: While photo editing programs may seem to occasionally distort or misrepresent the truth, they do not ruin the beauty of natural photos when used properly. In fact, they can enhance the natural beauty by drawing attention to a possibly overlooked quality, or making photos clearer and more comprehensible. The art of photography allows for the interpretation of the world through a camera lens, and part of that interpretation can include editing natural photos to help further express the artist's intention.
    • Dec 10 2011: As you said Juliet, 'The art of photography...' is what most people are not aware of when looking at photos; photography can and is being used as an art form, just like painting, The photographer, 'artist', should have complete freedom in creating his/hers work.

      In news reporting, scientific and other non-artistic fields, image editing can be very constructive or it could be very deceiving and unethical. It is a very extensive and complex area to get into for this post.
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    Dec 2 2011: It can ruin the quality if its done carelessly, but it can also be used to restore pictures. For example if a person who has no idea about Photoshop decides to Photoshop a picture with no prior experience, he can create a smear of who knows what! However a person with experience can restore old worn photographs to their original look. As for film vs. digital. there is always an argument that developed photographs are made that the quality is much better than digital. This might not be the case as technology is getting better and better every year.

    Digital cameras automatically edit the picture quality with a built in software for better file compression. In some cases it can also be used to take pictures in low light without using the flash.

    If you mean it in a literal sense as in the quality of the photos are degrading. Then it depends on the case. Lossey JPEG files will continuously loose quality if edited over and over again. (You really should not Photoshop a JPEG file, though its ok to export a JPEG file from a source file to be used or shared. It really will lose more and more quality if the same JPEG file is saved over and over.)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JPEG

    Here is a wiki article explaining the technical details of lossy compression
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lossy_compression

    There are alternative file compressions that do not reduce file quality at all. Such as PNG or TIFF, but they are better for different situations and different cases.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lossless_data_compression#Text_and_Image
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tagged_Image_File_Format
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Graphics_File

    If you mean the ethical and moral quality of pictures there is this article.
    Someone made a computer program that can detect if a image has been Photoshopped.
    http://www.pcworld.com/article/245085/digital_photo_retouching_quantified_in_new_metric.html

    http://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/farid/downloads/publications/pnas11/
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    Dec 1 2011: No. It's popularizing photography in general which I think is a good thing. 'Natural' & beautiful photographs are surely subjective &within the minds eye & emotions of the person seeing the photo. Editing programs can help an amateur photographer or enthusiast to create emotive images easily. Perhaps in the future this may change our notion of 'beauty of natural photos'?

    I do understand your perceived distinction between real or fake photos. But once a camera captures an image that is subsequently edited should we be the judges of what's real or fake? (Oh, there's a law being passed in some countries, I think, that's encouraging magazine editors to limit excessive editing on their models.)

    Having said that, most professional photographers spend hours upon hours editing their shots!

    Yes, I'm sticking with no... :)
  • Dec 1 2011: Vihn
    This s a great question that I have wrestled with a long time. I now take only digital photos. I do use editing software. But let me tell you where I finally came down. In an old darkroom, a skilled photographer could and did do many of the things that editing software does, especially about contrast, color saturation and light levels. When I take a photo, I strive to capture that point of beauty. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don't. I try to use the editing software to crop, fix lighting levels and adjust contrast and color. I do not like to erase huge things that are there, or make a photograph, through melding techniques, be something other than what I saw. Frankly I do not believe software can take a poorly taken photo (and I have hundreds) and make them beautiful. It can take a good photo and make it a thing of beauty.

    It is a great question to wrestle with however. Where is the beauty? Is it in the object, building, plant, flower, animal, scene or is it in the "box." While taking some photos, I saw a shot that I really wanted. The person with me did not even notice it. What I saw was a beautiful fence line. I got lucky enough to capture it. No amount of software manipulation was going to change that moment.
    • Dec 1 2011: Image manipulation/editing/retouching has been around for many years, way back before the digital age. I have been doing it professionally for more than fifty years, conventionally and digitally for some of the most prominent photographers, publications and advertising agencies. I have also done a lot of my own work on film and on the chip, and I also do conventional art work. My few photos that won first prize were shot on film and were not retouched at all.

      I personally believe that image manipulation should be left up to the 'creator' of the image.

      As far as your question '..photo editing programs making our photos imaginary or unreal ?' I must say that all photographs are not really 'real', they might be a very close representation of something real, but they have already been manipulated by the lens, filters, film, framing, angle, and the day and moment the photographer decided to press the shutter, and then by the printing/framing/displaying techniques.

      With the advent of mixed media and more freedom of expression, I believe editing software has become indispensable and generally has had a positive impact.
      However I have seen more than enough of bad manipulation/retouching work around. For example all cosmetic models have identical skin texture, or no skin texture, (Photoshop texture). Because of Photoshop most of the new generation of photographers, artists and retouchers have bypassed learning the basic concepts of color theory and color perception, and some simple design training, and it shows up in their work. Worse yet these editing software have produced millions of 'technically perfect' but esthetically poor published photos being past as works with artistic value.

      Image manipulation that I believe should be avoided at all costs is when it is done to deceive and cause undeserved harm. It should be also done with caution, if at all, and with good reason, when doing documentary work.
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        Dec 2 2011: We only see a perception of the photo not the actual photo itself. It can get really deep if you think about it.

        I also agree that it should not be used to deceive.
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    Dec 1 2011: Just as we have infrared cameras for visualizing things we humans cannot see, we have photo manipulation for visualizing that which we would otherwise not see in a photo. As well, if one is like me, with an older camera, manipulation puts me on a more level playing field with the big guns. I admit, however, when I get a photo requiring no editing on my part, there's a certain 'wow' factor.

    Another way I like to look at it: My manipulated photo may be just the way the alien sees it.
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    Dec 1 2011: I agree that a photo taken with a film camera has a kind of beauty all of its own. Especially monochrome prints on fibre-based paper.

    Some photo editing software even have the facility to emulate film types simply by pressing a button. It's all too easy, and has the effect of cheapening the once stimulating art and skill of photography.

    That said, I can see both sides of this argument, because as long as there are elements of deep perception and emotional involvement with the subject at the taking stage, it remains an art form - digital as well as with film. If photoshop is used for subtle enhancements in order for the image to match the original perceptual and emotional feelings we saw at the taking stage, then that's fine by me. That would have been done in the darkroom and post-processing anyway.

    When photo manipulation is overdone and obvious it has no value at all, in my opinion.