To Edit or Not to Edit?

Recently I was planning a photo to be the base for a future article, and I decided to include my eldest son in the role of photographer (since I was the model…). As I was explaining the idea and the concept I get this question from him: “But is that not faking?” This genuine reaction led to a constructive talk about whether or not to edit a photograph. By the way, the idea was to create an image in studio and then move it to a different composition in order to tell a story.

But returning to the old question, old because it’s one of those questions that brings more debate to the table and that more consequences has caused, sometimes not very positive for the authors or the photos in question. Is it okay to edit/change an image? There are photographers on both sides of the answer. But the debate this question as generated often make us lose sight of what really matters. Whether or not to edit an image (regardless of the amount) is not the real issue. What is really important is if we are deliberately “faking” a photograph in order to deceive/adulterate reality and there fore our audience.

Editing/retouching has always occurred in one level or another. Even before the digital age, the editing process of an image was always present, whether in the choice of a filter or film with certain characteristics or in the laboratory. Retouching always followed the evolution of photography.
With the emergence of computers this process went to another level, but be deceived if you think it was necessary to wait to 1988 when the Knoll brothers released commercially Photoshop 1.0. Long before “wonders”  were already happening in image retouching. Check this video.

Today’s digital reality goes beyond this type of editing and it’s been easily showing one that does not exist. On the other side is the traditional lab techniques of which even the greatest masters make use in their photographs. Here and there we come across examples of this as the following link is a proof of.

Marked Up Photographs Show How Iconic Prints Were Edited in the Darkroom

At the same time there are cases of photos that have been “modified” without the knowledge of the general public. Not that there was any real intention of hiding this fact (although this also happens), but this reality leaves us many times with uncertainties. It may be because we faithfully believed what they showed us or because we never imagined that photographer A or B could do it. We can also have an idea about an artist or work that doesn’t always correspond to reality. The truth is that we are caught by surprise. The latest and hottest case is of the famous Afghan girl (National Geographic cover). You can find out more at the following link:

Eyes of the Afghan Girl: A Critical Take on the ‘Steve McCurry Scandal’

Personally I’ve never had problems with editing on a smaller or larger scale. And since I shoot in RAW, I always need to edit my images to some degree. However, based on my background, I’ve also defended we should be able to achieve the photograph we imagine at the time of shooting. Example of this are the following two photos (the first one that had a simple black-and-white conversion, and the second where I adjusted the values of brightness and saturation) whose “effects” were achieved at the time I click the shutter:

I’m all against the common “I fix it later in Photoshop” but completely in favour of the artistic freedom that these and other tools allow us. In conscience we must be true to ourselves and change the question “Should I edit this image?” to “What message do I want to convey with this photo?”.
There’s a huge difference between being false and being creative and it’s up to each photographer/artist to decide where one ends and the other begins. What do you think of this question? Is it pertinent and it’s something that shapes your work and felling about photography?
The featured photo in this article was edited to convert it to black and white using various localized adjustments. Does it change the reality? Do you think it’s fake?…


Share on Pinterest
Share with your friends


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *