Acceptable manipulation.

This is one that rolls on and on. And on. What is an acceptable degree of image manipulation? Well just to clarify, I’m not entirely sure.

Just this week I’ve been included in a circular e-mail about the ‘manipulation’ scandal and how one photographer in particular, is ‘duping’ both editors and readers of a well known Dutch magazine, and is gaining an ‘unfair’ commercial advantage. I’ve also been running a workshop during which one guest showed a number of images that he’d produced using the controversial ‘HDR’ technique. Whilst undoubtedly striking, some of them had an ‘unreal’ appearance. So what is a step too far?

Well that depends on context. If you view nature photography as a means of biological recording, then accuracy in content and aesthetics are paramount. If however, your perspective is more creative, then the criteria is much broader and arguably, anything goes.

Perhaps the important word here is integrity. Rather than dwelling on what’s right or wrong, perhaps we should resist trying to mislead our audience, be up front with how our images are produced and let consumer taste run its course.

For the record, the image below of the Summer Isles at sunset has had the following treatment:

1. A 10 stop ND filter to slow shutter speed and blur water.

2. A reduction in colour temperature.

3. A slight deepening of the blacks to increase definition.

Is it ‘straight’? Probably not. Is it ‘acceptable’?