Photo Manipulation: Where Should We Draw the Line? Essay

2008 Words 9 Pages
The ever popular debate about photo manipulation is known to all photographers; amateurs and experts alike. Does this process enhance images or distort the truth? Photo manipulation has been around about as long as photography. There are examples that date back to as early as 1860. With the digital age, photo manipulation has taken huge leaps. You can see examples of digital manipulation in almost everything in today’s digital age, from advertisements to high end photo galleries. It is second nature. So second nature that we do not even think about some aspects of it and how it has changed and is continuing to change the world of photography.
Is the subtle alterations to color balance or contrast considered photo manipulation?”
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Photographs today are taken everywhere by everyone it seems; from the amateur photographer using a point-and-shoot, a Smartphone, webcams, to the professionals using the top of the line cameras; digital and film. With the digital age and the use of computers, the term photo editing encompasses everything that can be done to a photo, whether in a darkroom or on the computer. So is all photo editing photo manipulation?
Photo manipulation by definition is to edit a photo to create an illusion or deception. Therefore, photo manipulation is much more than just subtle alterations to color balance, contrast, or white balance. It may include changing a head onto a different body, removing people or things completely from an image, or changing a sign’s text. Today’s photo editing software can apply effects to an image to change the entire resemblance of the photo (or photos if compositing).
The origins of photo manipulation go back to retouching with inks, paints, double exposures, stitching multiple photos/negatives together in the darkroom, and scratching Polaroids before the dawn of the computer and software such as Photoshop. The earliest manipulated photo that I know of at this time is from the 1860’s; a photo of Abraham Lincoln’s head stitched to the body of John C. Calhoun in a standing position. William J. Mitchell provides more historical detail in The Reconfigured Eye (1992):
After Lincoln was assassinated, new pictures of the

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