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02-20-2010, 05:51 PM   #1
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Do most digital photographers cheat?

So, I've just signed myself up for istockphoto and I've been looking at various photographs that have gotten over 1000 downloads (basically what I'd consider to be good return on actually posting something there), and I just can't help but think that people on there are cheating.

There are many shots where it's just impossible to get the skyline, the horizon, and the ground / focal spot to happen with that kind of lighting. The only thought I can have is that these people are taking 1, 2 or 3 shots of different shutter speed and combining them in photoshop to create proper lighting conditions. Pic's such as: spring sunset | Royalty Free Stock Photo Image | iStockphoto.com which is one of the top downloads this past 3 months just seem impossible to me to have that blue of a sky. The lens-flare would just destroy a photo like that - furthermore, there is no way that you can capture the grass in that colour while still getting the sun to not completely over-expose. Another one, Football Excitement | Royalty Free Stock Photo Image | iStockphoto.com - it's obviously a fake shadow (see the hockey one below).

So is that best way to make cash with stock-photo's, through digital augmentation? Basically just being better with photoshop than the average person and putting together something that looks interesting?

02-20-2010, 05:57 PM   #2
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I oppose heavy photoshopping, such as adding or removing objects and elements in the photo that otherwise would have not been there or have been there, such as adding flames, flare, butterflies, or snow like a lot of youngens seem to do now days with their d40's. Also I am not a big fan of HDR. SO not all photographers cheat, the main things I do in photoshop is add contrast, sharpening/softening, and cropping. Otherwise I just man up and delete or re-take it again at a later date.
02-20-2010, 06:06 PM   #3
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I don't understand. How can you possibly cheat? You have to do all the pp work to arrive at the result you want (and to offer for sale).
You could 'lie' and say it was straight off the camera, but as you are using the term 'cheating' to mean willfull deceit, then I suppose we really are talking about a lie.
02-20-2010, 06:10 PM   #4
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It's called HDR photography.

Now, there are many things one could do to "cheat" all the way up to drawing/rendering everything in digital.

Why would you consider taking three shots and combining them in Photoshop "cheating" though?

Would it not be cheating if you spent thousands of dollars on lighting equipment and reflector boards etc., and took something similar in one shot?

What if you used the best DSLR with a high latitude sensor, shot RAW, and did a dodge & burn in PS?

Do you have to output to a .jpg and not alter it for it to be not cheating?

02-20-2010, 06:12 PM   #5
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I don't do a lot of manipulation like you're discussing, but only because I'm unskilled/lazy, not because it's somehow morally objectionable "cheating." Well, I guess I've cloned away the occasional fellow tourist when he/she wouldn't move out of my composition. Everything is "augmentation" of one kind or another. Did you cheat when you switched from black and white to Kodachrome? Maybe when you switched from Kodachrome to Velvia? When you used a polarizer? Maybe a spit-ND filter? Who makes up these rules? I think the only thing that counts is the final image, unless you're representing it to be something "real", as opposed to just a nice image for people to enjoy.

Paul
02-20-2010, 07:09 PM   #6
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I'm not a big fan of that kind of PP, but that's something that digital lets lots of people do if they want to. And I'm sure people much more skillful than I did similar things in traditional darkrooms, too.

But if there's a market for it, people will do it.

The only time I could see it as being unethical is if the image were for a contest that forbade such things . . . or in news photography. I remember a war photographer for the LA Times, I think, doing a bit of cloning or such to aid composition. How much it changed the reality of the photo, I can't remember, but whatever he did, someone saw it, and that was that: he was out of a job.

But stock photography for use in publications or whatever, that's a different story.

I prefer making more normal adjustments to images, things I could do in the darkroom with different grade papers or contrast filters, burning and dodging, flashing the paper, changing the development process, whatever. But some images have a specific purpose, and I might find myself using a healing brush or lens blur or such--usually something that makes the viewer focus on a particular thing in the image, rather than creating something that wasn't there in the first place.

But that's digital photography. If it can be done, people will do it. And unless that person is a news photographer, it's probably just seen as creative processing.
02-21-2010, 04:18 AM   #7
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Yeah, I guess it isn't really cheating - it's seems more like art/illustration rather than photography. Guess it's a sign of the changing times. Time to get better at photoshop!
02-21-2010, 05:20 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by whelmed Quote
Yeah, I guess it isn't really cheating - it's seems more like art/illustration rather than photography. Guess it's a sign of the changing times. Time to get better at photoshop!
Ready or not...here it comes! Regardless of what folks think of it, HDR is considered to be legitimate photography these days. I don't see HDR as being significantly different than the work of photographers who did their manipulation in a traditional darkroom.

02-21-2010, 06:20 AM   #9
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This may sound cynical, but at the end of the day when you’re using istockphoto it's all about selling the image and ideally to as many folk as possible, therefore you need to do what’s required to make that happen.

There is no right or wrong here, the folk buying the image will not care how it’s been taken or processed, for them it’s will the image do what they need it do.

Good luck with your future sales.
02-21-2010, 06:31 AM   #10
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Its called creativity folks!
This is what photography is all about, surely. This should be why we are buying all of our gear - and I include computer software and hardware as a part of the photographers gear.

Most of us on this forum do not make our living from photography. It is our passion and our hobby and the push on the camera switch only initiates the start of the creative process for each shot.

Cheating is not a part of our vocabulary. Any software manipulations required for the end result is no more cheating than is manipulating the lighting conditions for sunrise, sunset or the use of flash.

Are the manipulations of the artists brushes and paint colors cheating?

Is manipulating the models pose cheating?

Is translating a color shot into black & white cheating?

Everything YOU do to create the final affect is legitimate creativity. To use the owrd "cheating" is misuse of the language.
02-21-2010, 06:32 AM   #11
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It's only cheating if you claim it is untouched/as-was. I don't think they do.

It's a photo for sale, a commodity piece of artwork aimed at the highest possible popularity.
02-21-2010, 06:34 AM   #12
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Hrm, I gotcha and now do agree with ya'll.

So how best to create these HDR images? How many different exposures should I combine - I just googled HDR and came up with a bunch of software that does it, which is quite cool but there is no rule of thumb to this. Going to give this a try if the sunset is anything decent tonight!

EDIT: https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/post-processing-printing-software-darkroo...-question.html Gotcha!

Last edited by whelmed; 02-21-2010 at 07:49 AM.
02-21-2010, 10:15 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevewig Quote
Its called creativity folks!
This is what photography is all about, surely. This should be why we are buying all of our gear - and I include computer software and hardware as a part of the photographers gear.

Most of us on this forum do not make our living from photography. It is our passion and our hobby and the push on the camera switch only initiates the start of the creative process for each shot.

Cheating is not a part of our vocabulary. Any software manipulations required for the end result is no more cheating than is manipulating the lighting conditions for sunrise, sunset or the use of flash.

Are the manipulations of the artists brushes and paint colors cheating?

Is manipulating the models pose cheating?

Is translating a color shot into black & white cheating?

Everything YOU do to create the final affect is legitimate creativity. To use the owrd "cheating" is misuse of the language.
Well said stevewig, well said. I couldn't agree more!!
02-21-2010, 12:50 PM   #14
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The second photo was more like an illustration since it added the person in the middle of the photo.
This was exactly the subject and controversy on the Popular Photography magazine on March.
Some readers where complaining about the winners of the photo contest wherein 2 "composites" bested all others.
It was a controversy as to where does photography and illustration become different?
The editor tried to explain their side although in the end, composites are really more of like illustration rather than just PP enhanced photos..so, for the next contests they have, there would be a separate category for photograph composites.
02-21-2010, 02:59 PM   #15
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What is art? Digital media should count. Rules should be obeyed.

I used to be very proud of my technical darkroom methods. For example, I created and calibrated a technique in which I would make an Ilford Multigrade B&W print by metering "zones" to determine the set of multiple printing exposures (with different contrast filters or a dichro head) needed to remap the negative's tones the way I desired. I don't recall ever getting the reaction that I was cheating -- rather I got praise for my art and clever use of the medium.

Ok, forward 30+ years and my exotic little trick is basically the "curves" tool in your favorite image editing software... and its use is now cheating? I don't think so. I think art is art, and virtually any medium and tools can be used to create it. Which brings me to my key point: art done using digital media is still art.

Personally, I do not understand why the art community is so slow to accept digital images as art. Yeah, there is a little problem in that the concept of an "original" vs. a "copy" gets complex, but is the Mona Lisa less of a work of art because there are lots of high-quality copies (indistinguishable to the average viewer) around? I've used both photochemical and digital processing, and I see just two differences: (1) digital is cleaner, with no nasty chemicals in a darkroom, and (2) digital is more powerful. For example, my little printing trick didn't work when I made color prints, but the curves tool works great.

In summary, photochemical processing is a great art medium, but so are digital pixels. It took a long time before the art community recognized photos as art; let's hope it doesn't take as long to recognize digital images as art too.

Incidentally, I'm not claiming that all digital images are art any more than I would claim that painting my daughter's bedroom made the walls a work of art. Many photos are intended as literal documentation of a scene. Contest rules and camera equipment evaluation guidelines should always make clear what is expected and permitted as manipulation of the image.

Although I didn't see it, the Pop Photo contest sounds like it was insufficiently precise about the rules... if so, their bad, not the fault of the entrants. That said, I've hosted a series of challenges at dpreview, and no matter how explicit I am about the rules, about 5% of the entrants don't seem to even try to follow them. I don't know if it is deliberate cheating or they simply didn't bother reading the complete rules. For what it is worth, technology for computationally detecting alteration of images is becoming quite good... the technology might even be more reliable than methods normally used for authentication of artwork. So, cheaters may soon be easy to catch.
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