Do you cheat at Photography?

Our visiting speaker last Monday made a point of emphasising that he did not enter competitions with images that he had heavily manipulated – meaning altered the content of. Yet several other recent visitors have expressed pride at their insertion of boats, people and other things into their successful images.

So is that “cheating” and do you mind?

A recent article on the Luminous landscape website considers “What are the Rules?” and this follows an earlier article asking “Am I a Photographic Cheat?”

Undoubtedly Photoshop has made such manipulation much easier for us and the competition culture of camera clubs has encouraged us to do so. Perhaps the bigger question is “what are we trying to achieve by doing it?”

This photo comprises two separate frames, captured within a minute of each other, in effect placing the girl and the bird in the same image. Done because it was easy and the notion simply appealed to me. But mostly, I’m at the “why bother”  end of the argument.

Where do you stand?                                                                                                     Gary


4 responses to “Do you cheat at Photography?

  1. People who manipulate images to me fall into 3 stools, although others can probably think of more.
    1. Trying to win competitions
    2. Enjoy messing about with imaging software
    3. Trying to make a better personal image from what they originally took. e.g. getting rid of unwanted other people in the shot, or bringing out shadow detail, correcting saturation etc.

    If anything I am usually at number 3, but occasionally number 1 when I try to exclude things that judges won’t like. I have only ever substituted a sky once (with Frank’s help), although I do occasionally adjust them with filters and plug-ins.

  2. In my mind I would group image manipulation into two broad categories
    1) Changing the pixels which were already in a single captured image – eg contrast or saturation changes, or mono conversions.
    2) Combining objects from more than one original image into a single image.

    Category (1) I feel is fairly normal, and does not originate with image editing software, but has been a part of photography almost since its’ inception.

    Category (2), I believe, is up to the photographer if they are just creating something for their own enjoyment (although like Gary, I just wouldn’t bother personally). When it comes to competitions, I do feel that it is not possible for a judge to make an objective comparison of the photographer’s capabilities, when comparing a “straight” image (which includes Category 1) with a Category 2 image.

    Of course, you could question whether competitions exist to judge the capabilities of the photographer, or to judge the aesthetic effect of the completed image.

    I believe that there is a place for having just one competition a year in the club calendar, for which only images in which all the pixels originate from a single photograph, are allowed.

    My two broad categories of course don’t capture all the variations; for example exposure blends where images of the same subject with different exposures are combined don’t fall into either category.

    A recent discussion of this subject on Landscape GB has produced almost 200 comments without resolving the issue to everyones satisfaction ! (

  3. As I’m usually disappointed that digital cameras can’t capture exactly what I saw, (or thought I saw), I tend to edit my images to try and produce my memories. Of course this means that if I didn’t spot that litter I will try and remove it. Unfortunately having worked with image manipulation for almost 20 years I do think it’s always possible to spot edits so I don’t spend much time on this. On Monday Dave explained how he was keen to catch the light and it’s worth doing this for the experience even if you can’t capture it in camera.
    As Ian says colour correction, saturation etc I also see as part of producing the final image as the camera is only the beginning.

  4. I don’t know where I stand on manipulation. I think that because I’m terrible at manipulating my pictures, I don’t like it when people do it! I don’t mind a bit of fiddling with sliders e.g. contrast, brightness but once things are added in to other images/different backgrounds are used then I don’t agree at all. My stance on photography is capture what is there, and keep it that way!

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