I want to say a few words about retouching and photo ethics. I could probably write 10,000 words on the subject but that would be overkill because my philosophy is pretty simple. I’m making images for my own enjoyment and, hopefully, yours. I’m not trying to document the way Half Dome looked on September 18, 2011. I’m not a photojournalist. Those guys have a strict set of rules for a good reason—they are trying to document how something looked or what happened at a given point in time.
I’m’ not. So, for me, anything goes. Remove dust specks? Absolutely. Remove a power line or a tree branch? Sure (in Photoshop—not the actual power line or branch!). Change the sky? Yes, if it makes a better image. I’m trying to create interesting and pleasing images so whatever serves that goal is just another tool in my toolbox. I’ll use anything from the healing brush to Alien Skin SnapArt.
After all, it’s clear that all photography is interpretation starting with what to include in the frame and what to omit. From there, it continues with choice of aperture & shutter speed, choice of ISO, whether to use flash or not, whether to use light reflectors or not, etc. All of these influence the appearance of the photo. Even the choice of camera is an artistic decision.
I don’t see any ethical difference between editing with the camera and editing in the computer. There are certainly limitations to what you can do in the camera compared with what you can do in Photoshop. But even those differences are blurring as cameras increase in power and become more like computers. Want to make a multiple exposure with five frames? And have each one be automatically metered at 1/5 of the total exposure value? There are cameras that will do that for you. The iPhone will do HDR for you. And how about the “Motion Snapshot” feature of the Nikon J1 as described on the Gadgetbox site: “Motion Snapshot takes a frozen still image and a slow-motion shot of the same thing, merging them together…” So, there really is no line between the camera and the computer. Instead, it’s a broad gray-scale region.
And, in that case, it’s just a question of your preferred style. Do you like creating realistic images? I do. A lot of the images you’ll see here are essentially realistic. Or do you like getting really creative? Do you see the photo as only the beginning of a painting, a composite, or a collage? I do. I enjoy creating in both ways. The sky’s the limit here so shoot for the sky, I say.
To close, I’d like to offer a pair of images for your consideration, before and after. Which do you prefer?