…with most of my photographs, the subject appears as a found object, something discovered, not arranged by me. I usually have an immediate recognition of the potential image, and I have found that too much concern about matters such as conventional composition may take the edge off the first inclusive reaction. – Ansel Adams
How I wish I could have said that about this photograph. I found the tool further down the hill lying abandoned in a ditch. I wanted to use the rocks in the foreground but thought there was something missing. So I moved the tool. What do you think? Does it add anything to the photograph?
Whether you agree or disagree that the tool adds something to the photograph also consider the ethical standpoint.
If I move something into or out of the scene I am about to photograph is it ethical? Granted it may make the photograph aesthetically pleasing but is it really a true representation of that time and place.
the camera machine cannot evade the objects which are in front of it. No more can the photographer. He can choose these objects, arrange and exclude, before exposure, but not afterwards… Your photography is a record of your living, for any one who really sees. – Paul Strand
Nowadays with digital cameras it is easy to capture a photograph and later manipulate it, in Photoshop or similar, to add or remove elements. Is that any different from me doing the same prior to pressing the shutter.
Retouching had become controversial ever since Franz Hanfstaengl of Munich showed at the 1855 Exposition Universelle in Paris a retouched negative with a print made from it before and after retouching. It was, Nadar recollected, the beginning of a new era in photography. – Beaumont Newhall
If you shoot in RAW it is inevitable that you will carry out some alterations to your photograph. Maybe boost the colour or sharpening? What about exposure, highlights, shadows? All are candidates for adjustment, in some way. But is it any less ethical than adding or removing something from your photograph?
Now you might say that a colour adjustment was fine and well within the bounds of ethical practice. But colours can be changed in software like Topaz Restyle so as to render the new photograph quite unlike the original. The content will be the same but the context will not. For example, you can make a photograph look like it was taken at sunset when in reality it was midday when the shutter button was pressed.
In the end ethical policies may be down to where the photograph is used. The fashion industry and the editors of fashion magazines may think it is permissible to alter photographs used in magazines, but news editors more often than not would deem it unacceptable for anything to be changed from the original scene, including colours.
How did you answer at the beginning of this post? Did you think it was OK for me to add the tool into the scene prior to pressing the shutter button?
Consider this. Nowadays many media outlets rely on us, the public, to become journalists and help them capture the news. How often have you seen appeals for photographs on your local TV station, or in our case SKY News, when some big news event has happened? Or what about the Weather Man, sorry Person. They’re always asking for sunset/sunrise photographs to use as backdrops. Could I in all honesty send in my photograph knowing it had been altered?