An article from the Nikon Pro magazine discuss’s the subject of retouching, where an Israeli photographer Adrian Haji had altered the photo of an Israeli attack on Beirut, making it look more severe than it was with smoke billowing from the city. This created strong reactions from the media, the public and Reuters (who distributed the image, missing the retouching) and highlights the opposition to this kind of distortion, it is also suggested that deliberate falsification of press photos from respected sources is the exception.
Manipulation of press images to mislead its viewer is fraud, but what about altering white balance, contrast, saturation, dust removal, colour correction? all can have a significant affect on the image, when does it stop being routine processing and start to mislead.
Reuters released specific guidelines in response to the controversial photograph mentioned above, which includes minimal retouching. The photographer is also to refrain from removing objects or excluding something relevant by framing and cropping the image, overall the photographer should endeavour to represent the news as truthfully and close to reality as possible.
Image manipulation has been around since the beginning of photography with the Cottingley fairies hoax, however digital imaging software has opened up endless possibilities and the photographic community is defining what is acceptable.
With reportage photography there is still the expectation to be honest, however stock, fashion and advertising photography is different, where extensive image alterations have been the norm, this includes extreme retouching of models by repainting the skin, elongating limbs and enlarging eyes and lips. The industry argues the public understand these images are manipulated and are fantasy versions of the models, however there are studies that show images of very thin models increases a teenagers likelihood to develop eating disorders, low self esteem and depression, as they aspire to look like these models.
For me different genres of photography have there own rules, but great photography comes in many ways such as being in the right place at the right time, having a great idea for an advertisement, telling a story in a picture, knowing what to edit and how to do it, but a photographer has to be both a technician and an artist, someone that can paint with light and compose the image in the viewfinder and then know how to take the image in to the darkroom room (photoshop) and create stunning prints (retouching).
In my opinion retouching an image to meet a brief by the client is often necessary. Apple does this to good affect with their products and I’m never disappointed every time I purchase one. Who wants to see a naff image of their child or see a landscape that is boring and unimaginative? I’m sorry but whatever view we have on retouching, it is here to stay and people have to take the old adage of ‘The camera never lies’ with a pinch of salt.
Picture courtesy prophotoshopretouching