To Photoshop, or not to Photoshop, that is the question. Both the question and the answer aren’t as simple they may seem at face value. In essence, the question asks whether it’s acceptable to manipulate a photo in any way. I think every answer is a matter of personal opinion based upon individual ethical standards. More about that at the end of this post. For now, let’s look a specific case.
A recent blog post entitled Unusual viewpoints featured two photos of a female Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) spotted in a field located near Dogue Creek at Huntley Meadows Park. Before I published the post, I considered using Photoshop to remove some distracting elements in one of the photos; I decided to publish the photo “as is.”
The cluster of grasses in the lower-right corner of the photograph reminds me of exploding fireworks. Go figure! Point being, I think the grass cluster detracts from the photograph more than it contributes. The more I looked at the photo, the more I knew the distracting elements had to go.
So I did what needed to be done: the distracting elements were removed; the image was reformatted to a 2 x 3 aspect ratio, a better fit for the Photoshopped version of the photo.
Back to the ethical question posed at the beginning of this post. Here’s how I rationalize removing the distracting elements. When shooting photos in the field, who among us hasn’t either moved or removed a blade of grass, etc. for better composition? If I had three arms and thought I could have moved the grass cluster without spooking the dragonfly, then I would have done it. Essentially that’s all I did, only I did it during post-processing. And more importantly, I did nothing to alter the dragonfly itself.
Is it OK to straighten and crop a photo? Is it OK to adjust white balance, exposure, color, contrast, etc.? Is it OK to reduce noise and sharpen images? Most photographers would answer “Yes, yes, yes!” In my opinion, Photoshop is just another tool in a photographer’s toolbox, albeit one used best with some restraint.
In the interest of full disclosure, whenever “Photoshop” is listed among the categories for one of my photoblog posts, then the reader knows Photoshop is one of the tools used during the creative process.
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