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SportsShooter.com: Member Message Board

Ethics in photo editing? Drawing the line.
Michael Springfield, Photographer, Photo Editor
Smyrna (Atlanta) | GA | USA | Posted: 11:58 AM on 04.24.08
->> I have noticed lots of threads on the ethics of photo editing lately and I was just wondering where do you draw the line? I know that I am from the old school of photography where I try to get everything as close to what I want at the point where I press the shutter but how much editing is too much? I understand blatant editing where you present a photo incorrectly as an actual event but what about more subtle forms of editing?

Here are just a few scenarios that I have thought about:

Scenario 1: I am shooting a soccer match. A player makes a shot that is a header. I get the shot but need to crop for editorial purposes. When I make the crop the ball is no longer in the photo. If I take the original shot and clone the ball closer to the player's head so that the ball is in the final crop is that an unethical edit? The event actually happened but my timing was off.

Scenario 2: I am shooting a marathon. I get a wide angle shot of all runners at the start. The sky has been clear and sunny all morning but just before the gun a cloud rolls in and at the moment that I take the shot the sky is over cast but a couple of minutes later it is clear again. Can I take a second identical shot and swap the sky?

Scenario 3: I am a nature photographer. I have been trying all day to get a good shot of an eastern bluebird. Most eastern bluebirds have beautiful vibrant blue head, back, and wing feathers and a bright orange chest. However the one that I get the perfect shot of does not. The colors are there just not as vibrant as most examples of the bird are. I use photoshop to adjust the color saturation and vibrance of my photo so that my bird looks like the most common example seen in other photos although my photo looks nothing like the color of the actual bird that I shot.

Scenario 4: I am shooting a wedding and in one of the shots a birdesmaid's dresses experiences a "wardrobe malfunction" and part of her breast is exposed. Otherwise the shot is ideal. Can I photoshop her dress to correct the problem? If nothing else than for modesty's sake.

Where does editing become unethical? Does anyone else have other scenario examples?

Michael
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Brian Shirk, Photographer, Assistant
McCall | ID | US | Posted: 12:15 PM on 04.24.08
->> 1 and 2: No question unethical - it's not what was there when you hit the shutter, and therefore you would have to manipulate the image to make it 'look good'.

3 and 4 Don't fall under photojournalism; it depends on what you and your clients want.

You shouldn't have taken picture number 4, and probably didn't get to shoot the rest of the wedding because of it.

These aren't subtle forms of editing! It's pretty obvious... The only forms of editing you should be doing would be to, say, fix the exposure so that it looks like it did when you hit the shutter (if you had the camera set a little off), fixing WB issues, or in certain situations getting rid of some sensor dust.

Altering a scene from the way it was when you hit the shutter is unethical in photojournalism. Any editing you do perform should be to restore the scene to its original state (but you should have done this in-camera in the first place to save time!)
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Landon Finch, Photographer
Colorado Springs | CO | USA | Posted: 12:16 PM on 04.24.08
->> 1-4...can't do it if its for editorial usage.

I see you're a senior member here, and to be blunt, I can't believe you even have to ask these questions. This topic is been discussed SOOOOOOOO many times here. This dead horse is dust by now.
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Jeffrey Haderthauer, Photographer
Wichita Falls | TX | USA | Posted: 12:19 PM on 04.24.08
->> 1. NO.
2. NO.
3. NO (unless for personal use only).
4. Yes.

1-3 are wildly unethical, unless, like I said, you were just making a print of the bird for yourself.
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Dominic Hanna, Photographer, Student/Intern
Bear | DE | United States | Posted: 12:28 PM on 04.24.08
->> In my personal opinion...

#1 NO!
#2 NO!!
#3 NO!!!
#4 Out of respect for the bridal party, I wouldn't make it available for sale of the candids I do. If anything I would tell the bridsmaid what happened and give her a freebie is they wanted one.

Of the editing I do for editorial shots, it's cropping for size, dust marks a maybe light/darkness correction but that's it.

For custom work, I will give myself a little more leway. The most I've done of that was clone a large wrinkle out of backdrop I was using.

I may be a bit of a purist, but I feel the less you have to do the better.
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Michael Springfield, Photographer, Photo Editor
Smyrna (Atlanta) | GA | USA | Posted: 12:52 PM on 04.24.08
->> Just a note to all. Personally my response would be No to all. Yes I am a Senior Member here and do understand that this topic has been beat to death which was in a way my point. There is a line and depending on where you stand any form of editing other than adjusting overall image brighting, contrast, sharpening and cropping can be seen as unethical. The point of the OP was to give others a place to voice their opinion and think about what they would do, IMHO the kind of thing a Senior Member of a forum would do to mentor other members. :)

Michael
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Landon Finch, Photographer
Colorado Springs | CO | USA | Posted: 1:04 PM on 04.24.08
->> "The point of the OP was to give others a place to voice their opinion and think about what they would do"

WHY?

If you "understand that this topic has been beat to death."
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David Gordon, Photographer
Somerville | MA | United States | Posted: 1:15 PM on 04.24.08
->> AHHHH!
I can't believe this is still being discussed.
With the exception of dust spots, for editorial purposes, NO! You can't clone, magic wand, lasso, and/or crank up the saturation of a particular piece of the original image. EVER!
I really just don't understand why this is complicated.
Do what ya'll want to non-editorial images. But, don't call editorial. Call it beautiful, creative, life changing, whatever, but don't call it editorial.
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Marty Price, Photographer
Concord | NC | USA | Posted: 1:20 PM on 04.24.08
->> In all four situations you are altering reality and people have been, and should be, fired for doing these things in the photojournalism world. The exceptions are of course; Sports Illustrated (removing backgrounds and coloring elements), Time (OJ cover)and fashion magazines (unbelievable ammount of post processing) that use manipulation on the covers without a blink. The wedding situation is different if you were shooting for the family as the client. When doing commercial/portraiture and advertising it is ok to alter reality by removing objects, changing colors, adding objects or retouching skin imperfections to satisfy the clients needs.

That being said,for photojourn there should be no altering of reality, you are recording the event, not staging an ad shoot. All post processing should be minimal.

Along the changing sky shot line.... another unethical practice to avoid would be to set up subjects to reinact a scene that you saw earlier but missed because you weren't ready, had wrong lens, wanted to change the background, etc. If you can't get it as it happens you should never go back and set it up because you saw it and it actually happened.
The way I see it, Marty
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Clark Brooks, Photo Editor, Photographer
Urbana | IL | USA | Posted: 1:28 PM on 04.24.08
->> I agree with Landon Finch, "WHY?"

You should have at least in your OP stated your position because as I read it I was thinking "WTF? This guys is a Photo Editor and a senior member. I gotta wake up. I gotta wake up."

Your OP should have also stated whether or not the intended use of the photos was for editorial, advertising or personal use.

#4 is kinda dumb. Why didn't you delete the frame in the first place? The only reason to keep the frame in my mind in the first place would be to possibly do something morally wrong with it if malfunctions were not expected (ie: a nude reception) or a regular occurance at the event.
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Clark Brooks, Photo Editor, Photographer
Urbana | IL | USA | Posted: 1:37 PM on 04.24.08
->> "When doing commercial/portraiture and advertising it is ok to alter reality by removing objects, changing colors, adding objects or retouching skin imperfections to satisfy the clients needs. "

I'm not sure I would agree with statement. Why? Because wedding photos become a part of historical record at some point. Yeah, many folks like to make art, but 80 years from now people will not remember that the image was manipulated thereby distorting the actual event, the environment or the people who took part in the event.

Take the bride who has a mole on her forehead. In every candid of her except her wedding photos the mole is there. She is 85 years old and the grandkids or distant relatives who inherit the photos wonder why the mole took the day off on her wedding day.

I recommend unless absolutely required simply refrain from altering wedding photos simply from the historical record standpoint. Those photos that are, the original files should be preserved so that years later historians can see the visual record as it was actual was at that moment and to help maintain the integrity of the creator's work.
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Christopher Koutsis, Photographer
huntington | ny | USA | Posted: 2:12 PM on 04.24.08
->> "Ethics in photo editing? Drawing the line."

I don't think there is a line...If you have to question what you're doing, AT ALL, it's probably not ethical...For editorial purposes only.

As for a mole on a bride...I'd ask before editing "ANY" photo. That goes for "ALL" situations. Maybe she likes her mole...Moly, moly, moly mole...MOLE!
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Marty Price, Photographer
Concord | NC | USA | Posted: 2:38 PM on 04.24.08
->> Ok, maybe not a mole, but if she has a wart (which may be removed later),bruise, pimple or cut in bad place that they want eliminated was more of what I was refering to. Also if you talk to people who do advertising photos of buildings they regularly make grass greener and eliminate cars in parking lots. My point was if you are working for a client other than editorial it is ok to do things to fit their needs, advertising does not follow the same ethics as photojournalism.
Case in point- a lot of those rebel ads are actually shot with pro end cameras by professional photographers that is run with a disclaimer stating all photos are taken with Cannon cameras and some of the action shots for Coke ads that look like a sporting events are actually staged with models.
Not that I would do these things if I would be recording the wedding as an event for a historical record. I would ask the bride what her needs are.
MHO Marty
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Michael Springfield, Photographer, Photo Editor
Smyrna (Atlanta) | GA | USA | Posted: 2:58 PM on 04.24.08
->> "If you have to question what you're doing, AT ALL, it's probably not ethical...For editorial purposes only."

Christopher, Good point.

I was playing "devil's advocate" in the OP which is why I waited before giving my opinion. I think we are still discussing it because it it still a pretty big issue because photographers and editor are constantly at odds with each other over this.

"As for a mole on a bride...I'd ask before editing "ANY" photo. That goes for "ALL" situations. Maybe she likes her mole...Moly, moly, moly mole...MOLE!"

Does this make all of the "glamor shots" that people put on their MySpace pages unethical? LOL

What is really funny to me is I cross posted this on another more "hobby" based forum just to see the difference and the answers are completely opposite from what we are saying here. Maybe we SS members are just more ethical!

Michael
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Aaron Rhoads, Photographer
McComb | MS | USA | Posted: 3:03 PM on 04.24.08
->> #1 I would not just clone in one ball, but two or three, and maybe a guy with a gun pointed at the goalies head.

#2 I don't take pictures on a cloudy day.

#3 Since I'm lazy and don't want to spend the time waiting for another one, I would take a gun, shoot the bird, paint him the colors I wanted and glue his feet to a fence post, the take the picture.

#4 If that was the only photo I took of the wedding that came out. Yes.
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Chuck Liddy, Photographer
Durham | NC | USA | Posted: 4:25 PM on 04.24.08
->> threads like this make me want to slam my head against the wall....again and again and again.........
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Eric Canha, Photographer
Not Listed | MA | United States | Posted: 6:14 PM on 04.24.08
->> Chuck move over I want a piece of that wall too.

Clark as a wedding photographer I have removed enough moles from pictures to get an honorary degree in dermatology. Add removing tattoos, pimples, crows feet, and enough wrinkles to build a shar pei from scratch.

Learning to do this in PS was a big challenge to me. Prior to digital we had a good relationship with a company that specialized in retouching and did all of our retouching in the film era. Unless you have been told otherwise, your role as the wedding photographer is to make the clients happy. If that means taking off a mole then thats the job.

For all the ethical journalists that are entering the world of wedding photography, if you are vehemently opposed to retouching your work, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE make sure that your clients know this UP FRONT. Don't be shocked if the sh#t hits the fan when you tell the mother of the bride that you will not remove a tattoo or scar for 'ethical' reasons.

In EVERY genre of photography there are standards and boundaries, learn those that apply to what you are doing and learn to work within them. From the looks of what is happening to photography as a whole, it is conceivable that you could be shooting a wedding on the weekend, food for a restaurant menu on Tuesday, hs portraits on Wednesday and a ball game on Friday. No one set of ethics apply.

Oh and Micheal, "I get the shot but need to crop for editorial purposes." I don't get that. I can understand that the photo needs to be cropped for layout and design purposes and that the client is editorial. But what is an editorial crop?
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Michael Springfield, Photographer, Photo Editor
Smyrna (Atlanta) | GA | USA | Posted: 8:32 PM on 04.24.08
->> Eric,

Just as you said. A crop to make it fit a specific layout or if a client wants to purchase an 8x10 and you have to make the photo fill the space. A typical shot from my camera is approx 14.5x9.5. Reducing the width to 8 still makes the height 12 so a total of 2" needs to come off the top and/or bottom

BTW. Thanks for making my point with this post. I was just trying to get people to think about what they would do under different circumstances. There is a line and it moves depending on the type of photography you are doing. For sports or photojournalism its pretty much what you shoot is what you get but try that with a portrait you won't last long in the business without reducing/removing bags under the eyes, crow's feet, or a pimple or two.

Michael
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Jim Colburn, Photo Editor, Photographer
McAllen | TX | USA | Posted: 9:13 PM on 04.24.08
->> "If I take the original shot and clone the ball closer to the player's head so that the ball is in the final crop is that an unethical edit?"

"Can I take a second identical shot and swap the sky?"

Give me a break, will you? Your examples here are so over-the-top as to be ridiculous. BS like this is just annoying, so save these questions for those nights when you and a few photo buddies have had a few too many beers and are just pitching "what ifs" at each other.
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Allen Hubbard, Photographer
Spokane | WA | USA | Posted: 2:53 AM on 04.25.08
->> As an old photo lab tech I can tell you that the same negative printed on different papers with different enlargers by different techs and developed in different chemicals could all look totally different. (in color balance, contrast and saturation).
In this digital era I can see that if 5 photogs with 5 different DSLR's set at the same settings shoot the same scene at the same time there would be some variation from one to the next. And then add in the difference in monitors, printers and even individuals own eyesight (color blindness, LOL)
If we all made an 8x10 ( with no corrections) and laid them out there would be a difference. So who is to say which one is "Correct"? As is was at the time?
Then is a tweek of color, contrast or density to match "what you saw" OK? Or should the image be left according to how the equipment used to create it made it look?

Eric I agree totally on the retouching on seniors, portraits and weddings. I bet there are hundreds of neg retouchers out of work now. You have to make them look good (even if they didn't). How many times does the mother of the bride say (Can you make me look 20 lbs lighter) LOL.
I haven't found the right filter for that yet but I'm still looking.
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Aaron Rhoads, Photographer
McComb | MS | USA | Posted: 10:09 AM on 04.25.08
->> All four of these scenarios are really just one scenario.

Its what my first photography teacher told me.

"Well Aaron, you Almost have a picture."
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Dave Amorde, Photographer
Lake Forest | CA | USA | Posted: 11:44 AM on 04.25.08
->> Aaron,
if you have a photo of a cute twenty-something with her boob hangin' out, trust me: YOU'VE GOT A PICTURE!!
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Thread Title: Ethics in photo editing? Drawing the line.
Thread Started By: Michael Springfield
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