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Thread: Editing or manipulation? (butchered pig image)

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    Editing or manipulation? (slaughtered pig image)

    Many times when an image has been posted, there are suggestions on removing parts of the image or adding features as toning or vignetting, in order to create a more balanced or more striking image. The digital technique has facilitated editing a lot, and it is easy to accept it as a norm, that the image is created in post production, just as we made our pictures in the darkroom, which has now been replaced by image processing software.

    It is maybe a bit difficult for those that didn't use film and the darkroom as tools in image creation, to understand exactly where editing would not be considered manipulation, if we use a narrow definition of manipulation, and I tend to set the limit at where you alter image content. For example, in a picture of a dog, if you remove the leash with photo editing software, to show your subject without it. On the other hand, removing the leash before taking the picture would be another thing. In some genres of photography, also such altering of the subject might be objectionable, as for example tidying up a nature shot before taking it, removing straws, leaves, rubbish and such.

    So for an image to be a "true" photographic image, in a documentary sense, no alterations can be done that change the content, although normal editing would include adjusting tonal curves, which is not manipulation in that narrow sense suggested in the previous paragraph. For some genres of nature photography, not even tidying up the scene is accepted, and captive animals or arranging dead animals is not accepted.

    My own stance is that I won't ever present an image that is manipulated (narrow sense) without clearly stating what manipulation was done to it. It is a matter of honesty, and I cannot do those alterations that many people suggest to improve my pictures. I have a feeling that the image that's closer to the truth has a value in itself, even if it might in some way degrade the composition of the image. I'll show you an example here. The picture was taken outside our house in Santiago de Cuba, of our local butcher, a neighbour who makes a few extra bucks by slaughtering pigs in the street and selling the meat. The picture was taken with a p&s that has considerable shutter lag, and the man in the background, whose legs and carrying bag can be seen in the upper centre of the image was just entering the image on the screen from the left when I pressed the shutter, although lag made him appear rather much longer ahead when the actual photo was snapped. This image has had the tone curves altered in post production, which I don't consider manipulation, as it does not change the content of the image.

    Editing or manipulation? (butchered pig image)

    Now with digital technique, I can easily alter the image to something I envisioned when I saw him coming into the field of view. It is not only shutter lag that made him advance further than I saw it on the screen, it is also that the screen will not show anything until it has happened, until the person has advanced another step. So as the combination of view lag and shutter lag in a way ruined composition, it is rather easy to pull him back to where he was moments before in PP. So the second image is manipulated.

    Editing or manipulation? (butchered pig image)

    And this is some kind of standard I have set to myself regarding manipulation, that I won't change an image by removing or adding or moving elements in the image, even if it might enhance composition. Although the manipulated one is closer to what I saw when I pressed the release button, I prefer the shot that could be considered a missed one, if only because it is closer to the truth of when the shutter clicked.
    Last edited by Inkanyezi; 21st December 2012 at 02:20 PM.

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    davidedric's Avatar
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    Re: Editing or manipulation? (slaughtered pig image)

    I am in general agreement with this post, though I suppose I could be tempted I am mostly interested in wildlife, and for me what is key is capturing the animal, bird or whatever in it's environment. That means not adding or taking away stuff that was there. If I get a branch in the way of a shot, or similar, then that's my fault. If that was the only way to get any shot at all, then fair enough It may not win any prizes on CiC, but I'm happy with it for myself.

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    Re: Editing or manipulation? (slaughtered pig image)

    Urban, I too agree somewhat but have to say that if the legs at the top are not what you want in your final result then cropping would have fixed your photo. Cropping is a norm within the darkroom world and I believe it is not manipulation of the image even by the guidelines of Documentary News photos. It's a more basic factor than even the tonal adjustments your position allows. Thoughts??

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    Re: Editing or manipulation? (slaughtered pig image)

    I agree that cropping is OK, but from a compositional point of view, what I actually saw on the little screen when pressing the trigger was the guy entering the field of view, and that he was a compositional element that adds to the picture. His presence gives a bit of the ambiance, that this is something going on in the open street, where people are going on doing their business. He is a bit of the ambiance surrounding the slaughter scene. Compositionally, I think he's better where he enters the image, in the upper left corner. He is however more a compositional element than a main subject, so I think it's perfectly acceptable to leave him cropped at the hip. If I painted the scene, I would have him there, in the upper left, which is actually just as I saw it before releasing the shutter. As an image, I would prefer it with the guy just entering, as I want the street ambiance there, Now I took it with the camera, and then I feel a resistance against moving an object in the image, even though the moment before, he was actually there.

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    Re: Editing or manipulation? (slaughtered pig image)

    Urban; This is discussion is interesting to me because at this time of year I have a real problem. The sun barely clears the horizon all day at this latitude. Consequently if I want to shoot something and have it lit by the sun I need to either use a telephoto lens to get enough distance to avoid my own shadow or I have to clone it out. And the telephoto limits my ability to get an image with minimal distortion and compression.

    This is an example. The first is as shot, lit by the rising sun so unless I back off about a kilometer then my shadow is going to be there
    Editing or manipulation? (butchered pig image)

    And this is, in my estimation, a lot better and more "truthful" to the actual appearance of the cabin.
    Editing or manipulation? (butchered pig image)




    Would this degree of manipulation break your rule or is it portraying the scene truthfully?
    Last edited by tbob; 21st December 2012 at 06:28 PM.

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    davidedric's Avatar
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    Re: Editing or manipulation? (slaughtered pig image)

    Not a reply from Urban, but I would like to muse. I agree with Urban's original post, but then I agree with Trevor too. So why? I think it's because the shadow is an artifact introduced by the photographer, and isn't a part of the unobserved scene. Had there been an electric cable running to the cabin that had been cloned out to make a more pleasing picture, I would have been uneasy. I think it is a personal thing.

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    Re: Editing or manipulation? (slaughtered pig image)

    On the other hand, I posted up a photo on this site of St Peter and St Paul in Brno.

    It has ugly overhead electric tram lines breaking up the view, when St Peter and St Paul were built there were no overhead electric tram lines.

    I did not want a photo of tramlines, only St Peter and St Paul.

    I guess I broke some rules by cloning out the tramlines, I guess that I did the wrong thing, but I don't think so.

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    tbob's Avatar
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    Re: Editing or manipulation? (slaughtered pig image)

    I will be honest and say I remove most of what I regard as anachronisms: telephone lines, cars and bits of strewn modern garbage, from my images of these old decrepit buildings. Just seems more to my artistic taste. I can see Urban's point and do agree that maybe moving a component to get a better composition is acceptable. I am sure I never confess to all the things I change however.

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    Re: Editing or manipulation? (slaughtered pig image)

    I think you are being a little hard on yourself. The "right" answer depends on the purpose of the photo. If it is journalistic or for documentation then almost no manipulation is permitted. That does not mean you could not adjust the exposure, for example. Cropping would be okay too, unless it was cropped in such a way that the meaning of the photo changed entirely.

    On the other hand, if the photo was taken for your own pleasure then it is "art" and you can do anything you want.

    For the image you posted it would be much stronger without the pedestrian and without the bucket. They do not add anything to the photo.

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    Re: Editing or manipulation? (slaughtered pig image)

    Maybe I am a bit too hard, and of course, artistic freedom will let me do any alterations that I wish, so I could remove the passerby and the bucket, but I won't. If I had used another camera, for example Nikon 1 (which was not available at the time) or the Casio that my son has, the camera would have saved images from before and after I tried to trip the shutter, obliterating any lag, my own, before I reacted to the background man in the corner, as well as the camera's various lags, view lag and shutter lag.

    And I do think that both the legs in the background and the bucket belong there, as they show some of the truth of the scene. The bucket is the butcher's bucket, with various paraphernalia. He has set up his fireplace, a makeshift stove, there in the street, and the jar in the lower left corner is the one he uses to pour hot water on the pig, to shave off bristles. to me, all elements in the image are there for a purpose, and the only one that I would have wanted to alter is the passerby, to put him back into the position where i "saw" the image.

    And one point of discussion here is buried a bit in the original post. Often when an image is presented, there are suggestions of altering the image by manipulating it, a type of suggestion that I find somewhat objectionable. It happens here, and on many other forums, but for me, I could suggest a different setup if there's a picture of organised static objects, a still life, which in no way would suggest manipulating the image, but the actual scene. However, just as I am very reluctant to alter an image in post production, I wouldn't suggest it to anyone else if not asked for.

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    Re: Editing or manipulation? (slaughtered pig image)

    My approach to photography is that it is an art form, and therefor by definition creative.

    Perhaps someone can define creativity, and if so, where it begins and stops. I think I'll be waiting awhile for a definition.

    This topic was covered extensively on another forum in the recent past, and basically very few people agreed on anything.

    One thing that came out of the discussion was that what the camera "sees" cannot be any more "real" than what the human eye sees because the camera is guided and controlled by the human eye; control of the human eye comes from the brain - which varies enormously between individuals. There is no standard of seeing.

    Glenn

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    Re: Editing or manipulation? (slaughtered pig image)

    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn NK View Post
    My approach to photography is that it is an art form, and therefor by definition creative.

    Perhaps someone can define creativity, and if so, where it begins and stops. I think I'll be waiting awhile for a definition.

    Glenn
    Agreed, until recently, I have not seen photography as art.
    However that has changed and has been encouraged by this forum.

    However I still seek realism in the photos I do PP with.
    But I also want them to "pop".

    Lots more skill needed here.

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    Re: Editing or manipulation? (slaughtered pig image)

    Quote Originally Posted by rawill View Post
    Agreed, until recently, I have not seen photography as art.
    However that has changed and has been encouraged by this forum.

    However I still seek realism in the photos I do PP with.
    But I also want them to "pop".

    Lots more skill needed here.
    That's fine (seeking realism) - please define realism.

    Glenn

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    Re: Editing or manipulation? (slaughtered pig image)

    All photos are manipulated in one way or another. Just deciding on the angle of view and the cropping within the camera is a form of manipulation...

    However, I disagree with "manipulating" an image to make it look like something it isn't. Intentionally falsifying the image...

    There was an image published from the Lybian Revolt which purported to show a revolutionary fighter shooting a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) shot from behind. There was a lot of debate whether this was an actual photo or whether it was manipulated to seem like it was shot from directly behind the RPG...

    If is was a genuine photo (I still have my doubts) then it was quite good however if it was manipulated then it was phoney...

    A somewhat vanilla form of manipulation is frequently used by television news people who tend to shoot smaller groups of people (perhaps demonstrators) in ways to look like larger numbers...

    OTOH... a total manipulation which is obviously manipulation causes me no problems. Like shooting in Infra Red...

    Editing or manipulation? (butchered pig image)

    Of course when I was shooting with my first digital camera (A P&S which cost as much as an entry level DSLR costs now) I had many many images of puppy tails as the little pups exited the frame between the time I pressed the button and acquired the picture. That is why I am so sensitive over shutter lag now!

    BTW: Even with modern DSLR cameras, LCD viewers usually result in a greater shutter lag than TTL viewfinders...
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 22nd December 2012 at 01:33 AM.

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    Re: Editing or manipulation? (slaughtered pig image)

    Quote Originally Posted by tbob View Post
    Urban; This is discussion is interesting to me because at this time of year I have a real problem. The sun barely clears the horizon all day at this latitude.
    Oh I kind of recognize that. My latitude also is rather high, at 5920' (Dawson Creek is at 5546').

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    Re: Editing or manipulation? (slaughtered pig image)

    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn NK View Post
    That's fine (seeking realism) - please define realism.

    Glenn
    Aha - in the "eye of the beholder I guess". So then is there any such thing.

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    Re: Editing or manipulation? (slaughtered pig image)

    Quote Originally Posted by rawill View Post
    Aha - in the "eye of the beholder I guess". So then is there any such thing.
    I think the answer is no. Because every time someone thinks they have a definition, someone else will find the exception.

    We used to hear comments about a painting by a graphic artist that "it looks real". Real? Seriously? And what is the definition of real, I still ask.

    Someone on another forum commented on the sky of a photo I submitted - "the sky is a bit electric", he said. My reaction was, "well the day I was there it sure looked electric to me". Who was right?

    The trouble with drawing lines in the sand, is that the waves soon come and wash them away.

    It's an interesting discussion for sure, but there doesn't seem to be a real answer. Pun intended.

    Glenn

    EDIT:

    There is an interesting comment in this thread that relates to what we're talking about:

    Post No.3 about the crap shoot with colour - this doesn't even take into account how differently we see colour as individuals.

    Season's Greetings + Gift for Color Geeks
    Last edited by Glenn NK; 22nd December 2012 at 04:59 AM.

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    Re: Editing or manipulation? (slaughtered pig image)

    While I have no quibble with anyone who wants to have a photo represent an actual scene from a particular place and time, with the exception of photo journalism, evidence in trials, scientific uses of photography, and the like, I tend to think of photography as art. As such, any and all tools are acceptable as a means to express the photographer's vision and intention (and not simply to record a scene as faithfully as possible as it existed at a particular point of time).

    Nothing wrong (or right, for that matter) with realism. Attaching words like "honesty" to a photo that is an accurate portrayal of a scene is to place a value judgment on one style of photography, and by extension, implies a lack of that value on all other forms of photography (viz. words like "manipulation" which generally has a negative connotation). There is nothing inherently superior in photo realism when compared to artistic photography. That is a bit like saying accuracy is better then vision.

    Whether or not the man's legs are in the middle of the image or in the upper left corner has nothing to do with "honesty" (after all, he walked in both places seconds apart). The purported correction to put him back in the left corner actually ended up removing what appears to be a manhole cover and obliterated a few details in the street while artificially adding a minor amount of smoothness to the street (which is arguably not "honest" in the strict sense of things). Admittedly, this is quibbling as far as I am concerned, because in the end, reality is no better served by putting his legs back in the corner than if they are left in the center, or even cropped out altogether.

    Personally, I would just as soon play with the software and present an artistic vision (after carefully composing a scene inside the camera) as I would do anything else with a camera. I'm not a photo journalist, a trial attorney, or a scientist, so realism is only of minor interest to me. Each to his/her own, of course, and I certainly don't intend to denigrate those who prefer to do otherwise. I simply think it is fair to look at another side of the issue and to recognize the value of art in photography.

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    Re: Editing or manipulation? (slaughtered pig image)

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff S View Post
    While I have no quibble with anyone who wants to have a photo represent an actual scene from a particular place and time, with the exception of photo journalism, evidence in trials, scientific uses of photography, and the like, I tend to think of photography as art. As such, any and all tools are acceptable as a means to express the photographer's vision and intention (and not simply to record a scene as faithfully as possible as it existed at a particular point of time).

    Nothing wrong (or right, for that matter) with realism. Attaching words like "honesty" to a photo that is an accurate portrayal of a scene is to place a value judgment on one style of photography, and by extension, implies a lack of that value on all other forms of photography (viz. words like "manipulation" which generally has a negative connotation). There is nothing inherently superior in photo realism when compared to artistic photography...
    Excellent points.

    It seems reasonable to accept the exclusion from this discussion of those examples of photographs being produced for a specific utilitarian purpose, or for some types of photographic competition, where compliance with certain conditions might be required.

    However, as has been written many times before, photography as a creative art form means "painting (or drawing) with light", and throughout its history it has involved two principal aspects - image capture and image processing. Any actual, implied or suggested imposition of rules or limits or boundaries, regarding how a photographer applies the equipment and skills of those two aspects to the production of a photograph that realises his/her vision, would serve only to stifle creativity.

    Cheers.
    Philip

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    Re: Editing or manipulation? (slaughtered pig image)

    Urban - I think that people somehow think that a photograph represents the “truth” and get offended by even a whiff of impropriety brought on by PP.

    Let’s face it, they are wrong and the interpretation begins with our choice of camera, lens (focal length) and the way we compose the image without even thinking about PP.

    Editing or manipulation? (butchered pig image)

    People that say that you can’t even get close to Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa don’t know what they are talking about…



    Editing or manipulation? (butchered pig image)

    The room in the Louvre in Paris where the Mona Lisa is displayed is always crowded and you can’t get anywhere near the painting.


    People can interpret my two images in two different ways:

    1. I am trying to mislead people with these two images; and

    2. I am trying to demonstrate how lens choice and compositional decisions can lead to completely different interpretations of a scene.

    Of course both interpretations are correct. Both images were taken with the same lens a few moments apart.


    I had an interesting discussion some time ago where people felt that having a picture of a rather plain person made to look stunning through the use of makeup was perfectly acceptable, yet doing so in PP was totally unacceptable. They couldn’t explain why they felt this way, just that they inherently knew this to be the truth. I think we would get a similar reaction if a Photoshopped image was found in a book on post-processing versus the same image used in an advertisement in a fashion magazine.

    Any creative endeavour has a certain amount of interpretation in it, regardless of whether it is a piece of art or an article in a newspaper or scientific journal. It seems to be okay to for the writer to apply his or her own “spin” when it comes to the words used, but we become totally offended if there is even a hint of misleading information in a photograph.

    We are getting into philosophy here, and I think we should leave this one to the philosophers to figure out. When they come to a consensus in another millennium or two, we can follow their recommendations.

    My real issue is when activists become involved and start demanding that laws and codes of conduct are required when presenting post-processes images. Unfortunately, politicians tend to react to noisy activists…. I can see the day coming where all my images will have to state “no pixels were harmed in creating this image”.

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