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06-19-2012, 01:27 PM   #1
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Ethics of photomanipulation

Hey everyone,

Hope I'm posting this in the right forum. I am currently doing some research about photomanipulations (from the photographers perspective and from the employers) and if/when it is ethical to do so for a project for school. I think I might get some valuable feedback here from my fellow Pentaxians. I would really appreciate it if some of you could fill out my survey to help me with my research and maybe point me in a direction I haven't looked at yet or give me some feedback (in the replies below).

The link to the survey: SURVEY: Ethics of photomanipulations

Thanks you all very much in advance. It's much appreciated!

Greetings,
Stefan

06-19-2012, 01:42 PM   #2
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If the photo is to be sold/used as art then do whatever you want, as long as no claims to any particular fact are made.

If the photo is used as news or to represent an actual person thing or event then anything except minor adjustments (WB, de-noise, exposure, sharpening,) are not allowed.

Manipulating a photo to miss-lead or miss-represent something could be considered fraud or slander and may be actionable depending on what country you are in. Photoshopping someone's face into a picture to prove they were somewhere or with someone for instance. Shooting a Polar Bear in the zoo and then selling the image with a claim or description indicating it was shot in the wild is an obvious fraud.
06-19-2012, 01:58 PM   #3
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Do what you want. Just don't lie about it.
06-19-2012, 02:49 PM   #4
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i am a musician who bough a camera to shoot music videos and cover shots etc...
i have had this conversation so many times, only in the audio field.

some musicians are so proud of teh fact they dont use "effects" but fail to realize that the room they record in, the microphones and their placement, pre-amps, etc all change the audio signal that is recorded...
ultimately, the very fact that you choose what shutter speed to use and what aperture to use is manipulating the light coming into your camera just as much as how you develop it in PP.

the thing is, people's interpretation of any art is influenced not jsut by the art itself (in this case a photograph) but the romance of creation associated with it.
it's the reason paintigns by famous dead artists go for a million times more than an equally talented unknown artist.
as an artist (in this case a photographer) it's so easy to think that the photograph you present is appreciated for it's inherent qualities, and totally forget that there are other factors that determine what is perceived such as culture, fads, social trends, the perception of the artist, etc.

image manipulation is not ethically right or wrong.
ethics only exists in the same manner it always has, if you are lying about what you show, claiming a photo is a reference to something real for example, then you are lying, and a lie is a lie.
simple as that.

06-19-2012, 03:58 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
Do what you want. Just don't lie about it.
That's a perfect summary of what i think
06-19-2012, 09:30 PM   #6
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I took a look at your survey, Stefan, and honestly think you need to rethink your questions. You ask absolute questions like "do you think manipulation is okay?" but do not give the answerer a good way to say "Yes for ___ but no for ___."

Also, your premise that "Originally photographs were seen as depictions of reality since they couldn't be altered." is inaccurate. Photographers have been manipulating images in the darkroom since the darkroom was invented.
06-20-2012, 02:29 AM   #7
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Totally agree with the comments above. As long as it isn't used for something like a documentary etc it should only have some minor corrections such as color correction (white balance) and don't try to pass off art as real. I've seen some comments on articles however from people who think otherwise. For example: a photographer altered the scene in a, I believe, warzone (changed the position of a body and added props) to send a message that this isn't the way to resolve things. Most of the people in the comments thought this was unethical and didn't depict the truth but there were some who said that it should be done in this case to send a wake-up-call. So I'm trying to get some insight as well to see what percentage of the people think things like that aren't ethical and what percentage think it is ethical. But the example I just mentioned is quite a extreme case though

@Venturi: yes indeed. The survey software I'm using sadly can't do that kind of questions but for most questions I've added comment boxes to try give people a way to explain their choices a bit. But I'll have another look to see if I can improve some of the questions.

About the last part: It's true manipulations have been around since the beginning of photography (if I recall correctly the first one was of Abraham Lincoln in 1860), but most people (non-photographers) believed photos couldn't be altered since they weren't created by hand like paintings were (so paintings were more of an interpretation than the real thing. this is still somewhat the case in photography of course since modifications are made to the photo to make it look like how the photographer experienced the scene. think about exposure, color corrections etc. but not as much as paintings). Even the person behind Sherlock Holmes believed a photo with fairies was real (http://www.astropix.com/IMAGES/J_DIGIT/ETHICS/FAIRIES.JPG). That's why I described it like that in the survey.
06-20-2012, 03:08 AM   #8
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honestly, this is a question for a philosopher, not a photographer.
wrong forums.

but if you want my personal opinion on the war example you gave...
this is classic misdirection.
the artist (photographer or image manipulatoror whoever) may not blatently CLAIM the image is real, but creates the image knowing that viewers will take for granted that it is a documented image, not a manipulated one. it's lying without actually telling the lie.
so basically, this is a classic "ends justify the means" argument, the person determining if the ends jsutify the means IS the same person making the image in the first place.
for the record, i say this IS unethical, but you might as well ask if it's ok to steal bread to save a starving man, it's not black and white where one can say "this is 100% ethical" or "this is not at all ethical" it's somewhere in between.
it's not really much different than any commercial ever produced;
just slap a "dramaticized image" disclaimer at the bottom of the photo and you're ok.

06-20-2012, 07:59 AM   #9
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We do not, in our everyday lives, continually tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We withhold info. We mislead. We tell lies -- big lies, little lies, many lies. We introduce irrelevancies. We speak with bias and spin and deception. These 'unethical' practices are vitally necessary in social intercourse. Total truth corrodes human relations. (And it took me a LONG time to learn to keep my mouth shut, to not express my honest views.)

Photography, writing with light, is a communication medium, like writing with alphanumerics, or speaking, or gesturing. We can expect the same principles and standards to apply to such different media. By using a lens with less than 360-degree coverage, we withhold info, thus apply our bias and spin to an image. By carefully selecting subjects and backgrounds, we can lie and distort contexts. By directing and posing and staging shots, we can tell whatever stories we want. No PP is needed, but any PP is the same as editing our speech and writing.

Conclusion: The ethics of photomanipulation are exactly the same ethics we would apply to other forms of communication. You want to stay on good terms with your partner? Don't be totally truthful! Don't print unretouched pictures!
06-21-2012, 07:05 AM   #10
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I just saw a piece on Animal Planet where the photographer was splicing his best glacier image with his best wild horses image.

I get the "be honest" approach, and he was.

However, it's not a real photograph. It never happened. Yet most people seeing it will think it did.

I am involved in doing computer renderings every day. I happen to love the reality of photography. By all means play with the image *as captured*. Splicing stuff to my mind goes against photography.
06-21-2012, 07:30 AM   #11
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Took your survey but many of the questions are not always yes or no. In essence for any editorial/news work I think colour correction/Exposure correction/noise removal/sharpening and minor crops are what should be acceptable since you are conveying a story. Changes that are made to alter context and convey a false idea for this type of story are unethical, and in fact at most news agencies will lead to dismissal justifiably.
For Glamour/Art/Portfolio and all non news content then I am of the do what you like with an image. Just don't go representing it as truth in an editorial/news context. (I don't count Glamour mags as editorial news, and think anyone who believes they represent any reality needs a smack )
06-21-2012, 07:38 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by dominikkolendo Quote
some musicians are so proud of teh fact they dont use "effects" but fail to realize that the room they record in, the microphones and their placement, pre-amps, etc all change the audio signal that is recorded...
ultimately, the very fact that you choose what shutter speed to use and what aperture to use is manipulating the light coming into your camera just as much as how you develop it in PP.

All manipulations are not equal. Just because someone runs their signal through a microphone (and thereby manipulates it) doesn't mean that it then makes the resulting live performance the same as an over-dubbed one. I'm not sure why people keep trying to use these things as some sort of justification. Why not be proud of what you create and how you did it?
06-21-2012, 08:21 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by TaoMaas Quote
All manipulations are not equal. Just because someone runs their signal through a microphone (and thereby manipulates it) doesn't mean that it then makes the resulting live performance the same as an over-dubbed one. I'm not sure why people keep trying to use these things as some sort of justification. Why not be proud of what you create and how you did it?
there is a big difference in music in my eyes between using mics etc and using Autotune. Personally I hate autotune, but have no issue with most other recording techniques
For photography it becomes contextual - are you representing a truth as part of a news or editorial story - then manipultaion must be limited to corrective (exposure/colour/minor crops) If you are doing anything else than you are free to do as you wish, but don't take the result and represent it as an unvarnished truth
06-21-2012, 09:53 AM   #14
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Intent of use is very important concerning photo manipulation.

Obviously manipulated from 5 photos but the intent to illustrate the trick is evident and truthful.



Tim
06-21-2012, 10:26 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by atupdate Quote
Intent of use is very important concerning photo manipulation.

Obviously manipulated from 5 photos but the intent to illustrate the trick is evident and truthful.



Tim
that is good, but you would not use this as a representation of a truth in news, though it could be used editorially to demonstrate the concept. No-one would think this was a single shot either so not the same issue as adding in or taking away elements that affect the impact of the event or how it is represented. News agencies have really strict rules for the most part on what can and cannot be done. Break those boundaries and get caught and you will get fired. It's an issue of trust.

for example

US paper fires photographer for manipulating pictures of herons | Media | guardian.co.uk

Photographer fired over altered images - World news - Mideast/N. Africa - msnbc.com

Camera Works: Photo Essay (washingtonpost.com)

and that is just a quick list. If you are in the photojournalist realm you have a duty to submit images without altering the content to convey more than was present

If you are in any other photography field then you will be more open to other things
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