I recently shared a photo I'm proud of on Instagram. Reactions ranged from very positive to those denying my work the title of “a photograph,” calling it “computer graphics,” or “photo-graphics.” This got me thinking. Do people really understand the concept of photography art and why are they so adamantly against photo manipulation?

I became passionate about creative photography after the birth of my twin daughters Annabella and Juliette; my little kids inspire me every day in my work. Through photography, I strive to enter the world of my two children, to grasp all the childhood whimsies, and to recreate these magical moments that we all look back on and smile. This means using whatever photographic tools will get me closest to that vision. Photo editing is just one of those tools.

Photography was invented over 180 years ago, but it's only with the relatively recent invention of digital editing software that creative photo manipulation has become the subject of popular controversy. Really though, this just shows our lack of awareness of the history of photography: image manipulation didn't start with Photoshop. In fact, it's always been an essential part of what photographers do.

As I dug a little deeper, I came to realize that art and news photographers have been manipulating their photographs since the very first days of photography. So the argument that a particular image is less of a photograph because it has been retouched didn't seem at all convincing to me. If we started ruling out retouched and photoshopped images from the category of photographs, we would be left with not a single photograph in the world.

Since the invention of photography, image manipulation has been a key part of it. The 19th-century photographers liked to call it “removing imperfections” from the shot, and they did it by painting directly onto the glass-plate negatives. Sometimes, an entire person would be “painted out”. Moreover, they would combine multiple frames in the darkroom to add dramatic elements to their stunning pictures.

Similarly, most new photographs, made over the course of the last century, will have been cropped, dodged, burned, and even painted to some degree. The photographer does this in order to better illustrate the story in the paper. Even the snaps in the family photo album vary, depending on the film, the chemicals, and the color settings used. Most photos are certainly not simply neutral, un-manipulated snatches of the real world. They are rather a real-world story told in a beautiful way.

Sure, I can see why heavy use of Photoshop might be worrying in the area of photojournalism, but I do not consider myself a documentary photographer. Far from it. In fact, I think my work is a little like making a still movie. Image manipulation has always been a part of filmmaking too, but nobody ever suggested that a movie using a blue - screen or CGI is not a movie (cinematography?). There is art in applying these techniques as well. Thus, I will use whatever photographic tools will get me closest to my photo ideas.

The word photography literally means writing or drawing with light. The process of making an entirely computer-generated image - such as a digital illustration or animation - couldn't really be described as "writing with light." This contrasts sharply with my way of working: in simple terms, I make images using a box with a hole that lets light in - so they can definitely be considered "photo-graphs". The fact that I edit these images afterward using software doesn't change this. In any case, it's not fundamentally different from what people were doing in the darkroom over a century ago.

Now that I have tried to raise awareness about the history of and about photography in general, I would like to hear your opinion. How would you define photography? Please share your thoughts on when a photograph stops being a photograph. How much manipulation is too much manipulation?

More info: Instagram

#1

Happiness Is...

Happiness Is...

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Bobbi Newell
Community Member
3 years ago

This one, for me, has the most dramatic change in mood. It goes from enjoying small moments despite adversity, to the sweet, pure innocence of childhood.

Juli
Community Member
3 years ago

My Father has been a Professional Photographer (working for large Corp's) for 65 years + My mother for 50 yrs. I will not go without telling you "This is an amazing Photo!!" Never ever read comments and if you do don't believe them. They are speaking about themselves (how their brain processes) it never has anything whatsoever to do with you! The Art that gets into Museums even have critics. No matter how wonderful anyone is at anything, there will be people who feel hate inside themselves and just have to express it any moment they can.... That is not about you! Please, believe in YOU... there is no one in the world like you... be that, and let everyone else blab whatever they need to blab.... whatever their brain is processing AT THAT MOMENT.... it's always changing. This is about your life, not theirs. {someone may even criticize this}

Community Member
3 years ago

Your comment is so heartwarming, truly! <3

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Juli
Community Member
3 years ago

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Sane Minotaur
Community Member
3 years ago

Did you think of these words? They are perfect, it reminds me of the kinda thing that one of my friends would say. Made me.sk

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Berten Steenwegen
Community Member
3 years ago

Lilia, Your final images show photographic craftmanship! Well done!

Community Member
3 years ago

Oh, thank you so much, Berten!

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serena
Community Member
3 years ago

This is my favorite.

Community Member
3 years ago

Thank you, Serena! It was a wonderful summer day!

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Rachel Hutton
Community Member
3 years ago

I love both the original photos, and the manipulated ones. At the end of the day, it is your artistic expression coming through on the finished product, and you're right to be proud of your work. To all the people just plainly saying "I hate it" or "it's top photoshopped", is that really constructive...? You're entitled to your opinion, but simply dragging someone's work because you don't like it is unnecessary.

Jessica Chortkoff
Community Member
3 years ago

People feel envy when they take photos with a phone and they don't turn out like this. The lighting and lenses, F-stops and apertures are correct. The mind does the adjusting for us so much so that when we see the photo we took it takes a little bit of color correction and post processing to get the image back to what we saw in the first place. It's perfectly ok and not cheating. If she didn't know what she was doing the info would not be in the file to fix it.

Carol Roeder
Community Member
3 years ago

From darkness comes light! This is beautiful!

MysticSailora
Community Member
3 years ago

omg people, she literally changed the colour! it's fine!

Lynne Hales
Community Member
3 years ago

Completely adorable , light increased to increase the beauty magnificently , tender capture beautifully edited

Thelma Gatuzzo
Community Member
3 years ago

I love your processing work, the pictures gain life, mood and emotion. Beautiful work!

Mariela D
Community Member
3 years ago

Words can't explain how wonderful this is. It makes me feel so warm inside:))

Lynne Hales
Community Member
2 years ago

To capture a glorious moment in time is to have a vision deeply connected to oneself , how the Artist presents that vision to the world is completely and totally over to them & them only . If people wan tto be critical of another's creation then let them create their own vision the way they would like to view it ...................................These visions of yours are completely & divinely magical ,I adore every each one

Giulia Romana
Community Member
2 years ago

I prefer the first photo. The colours are beautiful and muted and summon up the cool of the forest. A place of refuge from the heat of the day. The second photo is very lovely too as you can see her lovely face more clearly.

Lea S.
Community Member
2 years ago (edited)

Which one is the original and which one is photoshopped? The top ones are all the originals right?

Glynis Dover
Community Member
2 years ago

I do like this as it lights up the child's face

Dave Harrington
Community Member
2 years ago

Modified is more pleasing.

Tanya Kysel'ova
Community Member
3 years ago

i like the first more

Henry Crespo
Community Member
3 years ago

I think that what you doing is 21 century photography. Some people will prefer the old fashion way, I had a dark room and I enhanced my picture with the tools of the day. Photography is evolving don't people know that is is not the tool but the "vision"

Allan
Community Member
3 years ago

Just basing my thoughts on what the author said (quote: "The word photography literally means writing or drawing with light."). Based just on the above, I cannot consider the above image a photograph. It is an image with photographic elements or a photorealistic image etc... Still basing my thoughts on the above quote, as soon as you add elements that are not really there (CGI) such as the trees in the background, you are not drawing with light but rather you are simply drawing... Nevertheless, I could not care less on what it is called, it is still amazing work.

Doris Rosenthal
Community Member
3 years ago

Wow! a great change in mood and feeling! lovely!

Sane Minotaur
Community Member
3 years ago

Smile, even :p

Cuitlahuac Guerra
Community Member
3 years ago

editing here was mandatory! original was so under exposed

Barry Toney
Community Member
3 years ago

The original by far is the best.

Paul Dixon
Community Member
3 years ago

The background is different - therefore photoshopped - that's not photo manipulation.

Craig Pierpont
Community Member
3 years ago

The people are right. "Too Photoshoped". Yes they need work but you have taken interesting photos and turned them into clichés. Start with better white balance and exposure and there will be less to correct.

Charlotte Brine
Community Member
3 years ago

I completely disagree with the negative consensus put across in a lot of the comments here. The second I saw this photo next to the original it swept me back to my childhood. All that she has done to this photo is give us as adults, the outlook we had on the world as innocent, carefree children. Don't you remember the world looking like the second photo when you were a child? Every flower was bursting with colour and beautiful smells, the waters of the lakes we explored with our friends and families sparkled with an irredeccent magical light. Every strand of grass and each one of the leaves was as fluorescent as we drew them in our artworks! These photos don't scream fake or overly edited to me. Instead they lift me up to a level of joy and beautiful innocence that was my entire childhood, before the wonder, and the colour, and the joy faded into the muted reality we see today.

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JessyJoy
Community Member
3 years ago

I prefer the top one - the colours are better

Rocky Joe
Community Member
3 years ago

I prefer the "before" better. The dark green forest is so contradictive with the little girl's smile. As if it saying, "the kid in you will help you smile regardless the dark surroundings"

Ishi Ishi
Community Member
3 years ago

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The wide aperature is causing these to look soft and photoshopped.

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#2

Spring Breeze

Spring Breeze

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Rebekah
Community Member
3 years ago

This one is magical. Fairy-esque.

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#3

Softness

Softness

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Neb
Community Member
3 years ago

The kitten is sooooo lovely!

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#4

Happiness Is... A Warm Puppy

Happiness Is... A Warm Puppy

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Lisa Champion
Community Member
3 years ago

These are simply gorgeous

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#5

Breathe In The Ocean

Breathe In The Ocean

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Sarah Cleaver
Community Member
3 years ago

I actually prefer the original on this one

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#6

Spring Is Here

Spring Is Here

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Mimis Nachbarin
Community Member
3 years ago

You did not just "remove imperfections from the shot"... This is a whole lot more of changing. It still is very beautiful work.

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#7

Can You Keep A Secret?

Can You Keep A Secret?

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Kim Lorton
Community Member
3 years ago

Lilia, these are all beautiful photographs! The different tonal qualities you show make each one so different! They are amazing! Most people don’t understand the definition of the word photograph or photographer. A picture does not a photographer make! But you, are a true photographer! Thank you, for these amazing sweet pictures!

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#8

Boy And A Girl

Boy And A Girl

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Neb
Community Member
3 years ago

While the crop of second photo is better, I like the green of trees in the first one more.

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#9

What Does The Tide Bring

What Does The Tide Bring

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Alex K
Community Member
3 years ago

when post processing goes too far

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#10

Sister's Kiss

Sister's Kiss

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Chicago Kitty
Community Member
3 years ago

I actually much prefer the unaltered photo on this entry. There's authentic, cheerful fall crispness about it that quite draws me in. I think this is lost in all the red tones applied in the altered photo and the rain effect comes off as very false. For some reason it reminds me of those rather tacky Sears Family Photo pics circa 1970's & '80's where the subject was placed in a champagne glass or something with a loved one in profile looming them. Again, just my opinion and the original photo is lovely in its own right.

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#11

Dawning

Dawning

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HellCat
Community Member
3 years ago

I actually prefer the original photo here. It's much more ethereal and pleasant to my eye than the second one, which changes to an almost hellish, bizarre feel. I mean no offense, it's just my opinion. From all the shots, this one with the girl on the beach is the one that I think it's been worked a bit too much. Very beautiful photos, though.

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