Some photographers love spending hours in Photoshop, turning their photos into digital art. Others enhance their photos and remove mistakes and distractions. But there are also many of those who believe that editing and changing your photos is cheating. In this video, Serge Ramelli brings up some fantastic arguments to support image editing. If you believe that it’s cheating, this video might just change your mind.
Those who believe image editing is “cheating” often argue that overly edited photos look unreal. So, Serge starts with a few example images that might turn that opinion around. Think about photos taken with large focal lengths and apertures. They have very prominent bokeh – and you’ll agree, it’s impossible for a human eye to see like that. Does this mean it’s cheating?
Then, we have ND filters. When we use them to shoot long exposure photos, we end up with smooth, milky water and smudged surreal clouds. Again, it’s not how we really see water and skies. Is this cheating, too?
Serge makes a point here that we’re all artists, and we want to create an emotional impact with our photos. It doesn’t matter if we achieve what we want with a lens, a filter, or a few hours in Photoshop. All of these tools allow us to create photos that don’t look completely realistic, but they have an emotional impact and a story.
On the other hand, you can cheat in your photos by not retouching them at all. Serge mentions faked photos of fire from last year’s protests in Paris. The fire was there, and the photographers were on the spot, but they used forced perspective to make the small, harmless fire appear much bigger. That doesn’t involve any retouching, but it sure is cheating!
If you feel bad about retouching your images, Serge reminds you that even great masters like Ansel Adams dodged and burned their photos in the darkroom. Retouching has always been around, and if you do it right, it will add to your images and make them even more beautiful.
Serge’s last point is that retouching is an art in itself, and it has been around forever. He advises you to concentrate on your photography and the effect you want to achieve in your photos, and don’t feel bad about editing them.
I generally agree with Serge’s points, but there are exceptions. Perhaps you had the same thought as me: documentary photography and photojournalism. In these genres, heavy retouching isn’t welcomed. Photos can be slightly edited; for example, you can bring up the shadows, add a little bit of contrast and saturation to your photos, or something like that. But heavily editing documentary images can change the story they say, and then they stop being documentary. As a matter of fact, heavily editing these images is considered unethical. In addition, some photography contests also don’t allow heavily edited images and they have strict propositions on what can and what can’t be edited in the photos you submit.
So, is retouching your photos cheating? I’d say no, and I generally agree with Serge’s points. If it adds to your art (or even makes your art), if it adds to the story and makes an emotional impact, then go ahead. But if you are a photojournalist or a documentary photographer, then, if overdone, retouching definitely means cheating.
What do you guys think? Does retouching mean cheating?
[Is Retouching Cheating?? | Serge Ramelli Photography]