Friday, September 18, 2009

Photo Manipulation: Good, Bad or Who Cares?


I read an article last week about whether photo manipulation is good or bad for photography over at A Photo Editor and thought it would be good to share here on Playing Work.

Rob Haggart wrote an article titled "This Photo is Lying to You" for the September issue of Outside Magazine. It's a fantastic article that you can read HERE. This is a fascinating discussion and I think it’s a great topic for Outside Magazine’s Photography issue. I don’t know a single photographer that doesn’t manipulate in some way but I agree that it would be in the best interest of news organizations to clearly define their levels of manipulation so that readers/viewers know the extent of the changes. Easier said than done right?

Journalism as a whole has had a difficult year. Unprecedented job loss, rapidly declining ad revenue and decreasing public confidence have plagued the industry throughout 2009. Even as media literacy increases and the public becomes ever more skeptical of everything we see, I would think that news organizations would want to make the effort to clearly define their manipulation levels since their entire business structure is built around the concept of telling the truth with accuracy. It's no secret that photography has been manipulated ever since its birth, but when it comes to news I think we all have expectations that what we are seeing is as close to reality as it can be. Here is a link to some famous photo manipulations.

What do you think about photo manipulation? Share your opinions in the comments below.

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3 Response to Photo Manipulation: Good, Bad or Who Cares?

November 16, 2009 at 5:08 PM

I think it can be both good and bad depending on the situation. For art, it's merely an expression of one's own vision. The idea is to create a new image in your own perspective, which is what makes it art. On the other hand, when it comes to documentary, I think that manipulation should be limited because people want and look to photos for truth, for realism. But then again, photos have been manipulated even before computer software and other digital utilities.

April 28, 2010 at 10:14 AM

Ryan, England seems to be taking a stand on this and leading the pack. I read several months ago that they required a major cosmetic company to pull their advertising campaign due to an over-retouched model that implied that the cream would work wonders. I don't remember which company it was, but it was one of the giants in the cosmetic industry.

April 30, 2010 at 6:40 AM

Jim, It's interesting to see an advertisement being pulled because of over-retouching. If that became law, I would suspect that 95% of all ads would have to be pulled. I don't necessarily agree that the government should set retouching standards, but I'm interested to see where this goes in England.

To me advertising is based in a fantasy world so retouching seems a natural part of it. The government might better serve the people by increasing spending on media literacy and ad education for our children. The issue is how do we as a society interpret these highly idealized photos?

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