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Old Mar 30, 2005, 2:55 AM   #1
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Hi All,

I've had this doubt in my for a long time but I didn't know where I could get the proper answer untilnow I thankfully found this forum.

My question is "After taking a digital photo, is it an technical or artistic infringementif I use a software like Adobe Photoshop, MS Photo Editor, Irfanviewand so on to enhance the colors, sharpness, effects, size, crop, etc. of the photo? In a photo contest, can I do that too?"

Thanks in advance for your advice.



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Old Mar 30, 2005, 3:10 AM   #2
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It all depends on the criteria set by the contest judges.

Unless they state specifically what you can or can not do, I would just stick to the basics; saturation, sharpen, resize, crop, levels adjustment etc. I think these would be acceptable. But don't apply any effects unless they meet that criteria.

Two identical cameras can take identical shots and look different. These basic adjustments are only compensating for, among other things, the foibles of the camera and the circumstances under which they were taken.

I say among other things as I am now waiting to be corrected if I am off base. :-)

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Old Mar 30, 2005, 5:49 PM   #3
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Quan Tran wrote:
Hi All,

My question is "After taking a digital photo, is it an technical or artistic infringementif I use a software like Adobe Photoshop, MS Photo Editor, Irfanviewand so on to enhance the colors, sharpness, effects, size, crop, etc. of the photo? In a photo contest, can I do that too?"

If you're doing a photo contest, check the rules. These days most (good) photo contests will specify how much, if any, modification you can do.

In a general sense, I believe the answer to the question of whether it's "artistic infringement" to use photo editing software is no. This is true because (1)such manipulation is often required to create the photo (i.e. converting from RAW format where the camera does no in-camera white balance or sharpening) (2) as an analogue to the film world, good photographers had to not only take good exposures with the camera but also be good darkroom masters (Brick and mortar post-processing, if you will) (3) some work to get the picture you want to get cannot be dun in-camera (such as cropping to a ratio other than your cameras default rectangle size). With that said, of course, there can be times where digital manipulation is improper. When the "factual or reproductive" accuracy of the picture is crucial, intentionally manipulating to distort that accuracy is unethical. If you're taking a picture of a mob scene for a newspaper and digitally add blood on the pavement or on a police officer's nightstick, that's unethical. When you darken O.J.'s mugshot to make it more ominous, that's unethical. When you adjust the color of the groom's skin from your friend's wedding shots just because you don't like the guy she married, that's just plain mean.

I think that some people would also say that "fixing" obvious errors using a photo editing program decreases its artistic integrity. For example, you shoot a portrait but inadvertently move the background such that an object, such as a tree, appears to be sticking out of the subject's head. You digitally clone out the tree in photoshop. That says that you weren't a very good photographer (improperly framing the subject) and you had to resort to manipulation to get the "right" shot, instead of taking it right in the first place. Personally, I don't find this kind of argument convincing, because the art is not the mechanical process of setting up a camera and pushing a shutter; the art is the resultant image. And if you're smart enough to figure out what makes an image look good, it shouldn't matter whether you made that realization at the scene or at the computer. (Yet, many consumers disagree with me -- otherwise why, at art shows, would there be so many photographers who emphasize their lack of Photoshopping of their work?)

My final caveat, though, is garbage in, garbage out. Sure, you can fix a lot in Photoshop. Sometimes you have to perform digital manipulation (see above). While you can fix a poorly exposed, poorly framed, poorly focused, poorly lit shot, you can't fix it well... and it will still look inferior (even after processing by the best Photoshopper in the world) to one in which the original exposure was proper and only minor tweaks were required on the computer.

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Old Mar 31, 2005, 3:41 AM   #4
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Ive entered some contests here, main rules are that you took the photo, you do not necessarily have to be the person wou processed it if it was a film shot. There are some categories though where they say, digital with no manipulation, straight from the camera as is, this is supposed to be more fair but I cant see that as some cameras have in camera cropping, sharpening, sepia etc. Makes it unfair in that way.

Ive entered a few as color enlargements be it film or digital. Last year the top color enlargement at the city photo show was a digital image that had been worked on a lot in photoshop. Guess it really should be what the image is to the eye. If the photo jumps out at you it's a winner from what Ive noticed and most of them are well taken in the first place, a bad shot is a bad shot no matter what you do in editing.
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