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.

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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.

Romney Simpson
Community Member
3 years ago

Photography is art and like all art forms it's the interpretation of the artist that matters. Everyone that views it will see it from their own perspective, which may or may not be like anyone elses or the artists. Framing the focal point of the pictures is also open to interpretation. I prefer to frame with photo manipulation instead of matting. I like the open and more natural look. I prefer to make images that evoke an emotion or tell a story instead of just capturing the moment. Painters have been doing this for thousands of years. These pictures are stunning.

Chasity Spires
Community Member
3 years ago

And as an added side note to my previous post here...In my opinion, the object in these photos are not meant to be "natural, good ol' plain shots" ,rather, "whimsical, imaginative, creative, and bright". If you like, and PREFER, this kind of photo, these are perfect! If you like plain Jane photos, well, dont use this photographer. I think you capture creativity very well in your work! Love these!

Indre
Community Member
3 years ago

If my parents were enhancing my eye and hair colour in my childhood pics Im not sure how I would feel. If you not happy about yourself and enhance your pics its one thing - doing it to your children is another..

Laugh Fan
Community Member
3 years ago

I'd agree if these were photos taken just for memories of the children or a particular day but these are photo shoots and meant as art. The photographer isn't changing anything dramatic about the children - no new noses or anything.

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Amanda Sherland
Community Member
3 years ago

All of these pictures are absolutely beautiful, but I think this one is my favorite. Very pretty with the flowers added. Very nice work!

Chasity Spires
Community Member
3 years ago

I love the added touch of flowers around the right side. Looking at the "touched up" version, I feel as if she is standing in an enchanted garden and surrounded by beauty. I love the effect you give off in ALL your photos, they literally feel magical. Some prefer more natural photos as far as light and filters but others want their photos "fixed up" and perfect. I prefer the latter and LOVE your work😍👍 keep the awesome photos coming, please!

Liz Sahlin Johansson
Community Member
3 years ago

What is the goal here? To make a commercial poster? A postcard? The original is very beutyful as it is. Just a little cropping at the right and that’s fine.

Laugh Fan
Community Member
3 years ago

To create art. Simply that.

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All With Heart
Community Member
3 years ago

What's up with the flower movements, though? No offense though, I love the photo and the girl <3

Community Member
3 years ago

All, thanks for your question! Flowers in the original image have a "poor look", it was a good reason for me to replace them.

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Tiu Tau Tilhi
Community Member
3 years ago

Prefer the original. This one touched up gives the impression that the photographer things that even little girls' slightly darker tones under their eyes need covering up / photoshopping. They certainly do not, she would have been lovely as is.

Tiu Tau Tilhi
Community Member
3 years ago

**thinks* (typo)

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Chinatsu Raikatuji
Community Member
3 years ago

The originap is already beautiful, no need to edit this actually

Nimthirielle
Community Member
3 years ago

Beautiful

Shay Markin
Community Member
3 years ago

This is my favorite. I think it looks amazing.

Neal Evans
Community Member
3 years ago

those cheeks

Carol Roeder
Community Member
3 years ago

You brought her closer to the foreground and enhanced the color. No matter what, it is beautiful!

Erin welch
Community Member
3 years ago

THIS ONE IS PRECIOUS!

Randy Wilcox
Community Member
3 years ago

This is a beautiful example that shows the difference between good photography and art. While both are very good, an true artist transforms the ordinary into extraordinary.

Sharon Madsen
Community Member
3 years ago

Prefer the original

Coffee & Cake
Community Member
3 years ago

AHHHH I LOVE ITTT!!!

Mariela D
Community Member
3 years ago

AMAZING!:))

Hülya Yamanoglu
Community Member
1 year ago

Everyone's views and opinions are different. I'm a photographer. The technique you use in your photographs adds a fascinating effect to your photographs. Although the originals are beautiful for me, I was amazed at how all the photos are transformed by your perspective.

Lillukka79
Community Member
2 years ago

Original is a 100 times better.

DJ Rez
Community Member
2 years ago

Ok, here is one that I will say needs a tiny bit of work. Depth of field issue with the flowers on the right side of the picture. Adding them not an issue. But you have a very narrow depth of field and the look of the flowers that were added look wrong. They're too in focus and seem out of place. I like the picture but I think that maybe you could have adjusted the focus of the pic a little bit.

Dave Harrington
Community Member
2 years ago

Original is better.

Paul Dixon
Community Member
3 years ago

Prefer the first one.

Johnette Pace
Community Member
3 years ago

original preferred

Irene McIver
Community Member
3 years ago

I think the original is much nicer.

Cacticatt
Community Member
3 years ago

I agree with whoever said they were too photoshopped..the originals are so so beautiful and it just looks artificial afterwards

Cloud
Community Member
3 years ago

original is better

Maggie Dougherty
Community Member
3 years ago

I prefer the original shot, Lilia! I don't know why, really! I guess that's why you are showing both, I suspect.

Little Menace
Community Member
3 years ago

To me, the original looks better, more ethereal. Just needed cropping.

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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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