Ethics of Photoediting

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by keithwms, Nov 28, 2011.

  1. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    An interesting article in The Economist that I thought might interest some of you.

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/babb...hing?fsrc=scn/tw/te/bl/physicalimplausibility

    The gist is that, surprise surprise, photoediting does seem to have real consequences on the way people think about body image. In fact, the American medical Association has officially condemned extreme photo alterations. And so some scientists have figured out a way to quantify the extent to which certain photos were edited...

    And yes we men don't seem to perceive any ethical problem with photoshopped breasts... :wink:
     
  2. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    That is "Photoediting?" Photoediting used to be the process of an artist or editor making decisions about what images to print or show.
     
  3. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Yes, that is 'photoediting' in the modern parlance, I'm sorry to say. Reality is a secondary consideration.
     
  4. Rudeofus

    Rudeofus Subscriber

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    I had an interesting conversation about this topic with some (non photo) artist and he was quite surprised to see me so hostile towards photoediting (in Keith's sense). He told me "guess what painters have done for centuries?". There was no decent hygiene, and no cosmetic products comparable to what exists today (the nobility walked around with little containers at their waist filled with honey to catch their lice). Mona Lisa (or whoever posed for that image) might not have been all that attractive in real life, at least not in the sense of modern beauty magazines. Same thing applies to all the pictures of saints, apostles or the holy family shown in churches, before anyone claims that few people got to see oil paintings 200 years ago.

    Pro photographers have posed people of all ages, used softeners and contrived lighting to make people appear more attractive. The main problem in my opinion are not edited photos but a world of doofuses who still think a photo always depicts reality, who compare their atrocious smart phone snap shots to pictures in beauty magazines.
     
  5. MDR

    MDR Member

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    Rudeofus I fully agree with your friend after all straight photography and the group 64 never were the straight non retouching kind of guys gals they were supposed to be.:smile: Retouching/photoediting is a tool if misused it can lead to disaster (visual and political)if used properly it can do a lot of good (visual and political). If you retouche the photo of a girl with some skin defects who perceives herself as ugly frog even though she only has a severe case of akne and create a swan by retouching you as a photographer retoucher can elevate the self worth of said girl. I am not really that ugly.

    Dominik
     
  6. Helinophoto

    Helinophoto Member

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    This is nothing new, check out old hollywood portraits from the 30's to the 70's and you'll learn that photographers have been retouching photos and even the negatives themselves for many, many years.

    Retouching is probably the better word here imo.

    I really have no problem with it, but personally I aim to end up with a natural looking result (in digital photography), also, there is a difference between removing blemishes (which aren't permanent to the person) and streching their necks, slimming off 40 pounds, lifting boobs, reducing calf size, removing arm fat and removing eye lines.

    You really cannot just say "no to retouching" in general imo, this is always dependend on what, why, how and if the final result was part of a vision beforehand.
     
  7. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    I agree with much of what has been said.

    I think the AMA's point is that this goes way beyond retouching to de-emphasize acne or whatever... the issue is that actual anatomy is being manipulated in the image and the result is something cartoonish masquerading as reality. It'd be better to call these manipulated images than photographs.
     
  8. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Whe world of computer graphics is wide open...
     
  9. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    An interesting thread and where do you draw the line in photo-editing. I suppose this could be said to be analogous to cosmetic surgery. I live in England and would regard having capped teeth cosmetically acceptable, but not a face lift. However, if I lived in California, a face lift may be considered as the same norm. Different societies will dictate different acceptability’s.
     
  10. CGW

    CGW Member

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    And here's a possible way to tell what's what:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/29/t...rastically-photos-are-retouched.html?_r=1&hpw

    The gross alteration of celeb pix is screamingly obvious from unedited red carpet shots. A friend shared some from the Toronto International Film Festival last fall that were truly sad, if not a little scary.

    No wonder master retouch artists like Pascal Dangin are in such demand.
     
  11. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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  12. Maris

    Maris Member

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    Part of the problem is that the images in question are not actually photographs by the standards of APUG, I think. Making pictures out of electronic files isn't photography and the resultant pictures don't have the special relationship real photographs have to subject matter.

    People get fooled by calling them photographs instead of pictures. Pictures that emerge from a digital environment have the same relationship to subject matter as paintings and drawings. And no one, even the most naive viewer, expects paintings and drawings to be samples of the real world.
     
  13. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    The real problem is that the advertising industry has so manipulated women's ideas of what is "ideal" that they are starving themselves trying to achieve something that is not even real in the first place. Their sense of self has been eroded and left with a gaping hole of insecurity. Unfortunately we men buy into it and in many overt or passive ways put pressure on women to become something they aren't.
     
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  15. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Is this not the same as Photoshop?
     
  16. CGW

    CGW Member

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    Talk about blinkered. Photographs were retouched, altered, and manipulated for years before Adobe surfaced. Are these images "not actually photographs" according to the APUG gospel? Maybe you could also explain "the special relationship" that "real"(sic) photographs have with their subjects relative to digitally captured images.
     
  17. erikg

    erikg Member

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    That's for sure. When I worked at a newspaper some the prints in the archives from the 30's and 40's were shocking in the level of alterations that had been done to them. Stuff that I was told would I would be fired for had I done it to any of the work I was doing at that time. The NPPA has had a code of ethics for image editing for quite some time, predating the digital revolution. It's an interesting topic.
     
  18. CGW

    CGW Member

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    I just finished a recent consideration of this, Errol Morris's Believing is Seeing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography. Worth a look for some welcome perspective.
     
  19. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Yes yes, I know that touchups have been done for ages and women were corseted a long time ago and so forth.

    The point is that photography (if we can even call it that any more) is turning a corner, and now the tools of manipulation are so easy to use, and so widely accepted, that the value of the photograph as some sort of reflection of reality is simply vanishing. All of us value artistic license for sure. But... this way more than pictorialism, what we see now in the treatment of women in particular. It is practically manga.

    And the purpose of the manipulation is not to satisfy some justifiable artistic purpose, or to exercise some artistic license... but rather to misrepresent! For a clearly commercial purpose. This will be the most Marxist thing I've said in a long time, but I must say that this manipulation serves only to commodify the subject... and ultimately the craft.

    I never get the sense from a Steichen or Weston or Hurrell image that there was any intent of misrepresenting the subject. Can the same be said for some of the examples in this article?
     
  20. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Men aren't immune either.

    I don't approve of the images we are bombarded with, but I'm not sure a warning label as suggested in the articles will change anything about a culture clamoring for some impossible ideal. And yes, reading the Errol Morris book Believing is Seeing is very interesting, both in terms of editorial or news pictures, and advertising. As ever, buyer beware.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 29, 2011
  21. CGW

    CGW Member

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    I never get the sense from a Steichen or Weston or Hurrell image that there was any intent of misrepresenting the subject. Can the same be said for some of the examples in this article?

    Are you serious? They were posed, probably the most obvious form of manipulation.
     
  22. gdmcclintock

    gdmcclintock Subscriber

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    A photograph, made with film, is a sample of the real world? What a bizarre notion!

     
  23. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Hurrell's images were heavily retouched. It was part of the art of photography.

    I have some old retouching manuals that describe techniques that date to the era of glass plate negs, and the image alteration that could be done by someone who knew how to draw was quite drastic. One has a sample image where the subject's pockmarks and wrinkles are smoothed over, a cigarette is removed from his mouth, and an unattractively pointing finger is folded into the palm of his hand. Ever see a 19th-century photograph of a living child with sharp hands? Those hands were most likely drawn on the neg with pencil and knife. There was a very good example on Mike Johnston's blog a while back of an early 20th-century sports photo showing a sharp image of someone catching a football--all the lines are pencil work.

    Certainly, thanks to Photoshop, one no longer has to go to art school to achieve these effects, but the effects for the most part aren't new.
     
  24. Helinophoto

    Helinophoto Member

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    Well....the end result is "retouched" though.
    From the book "Hollywood Portraits Classic shots and how to make them", they explain pretty well how specialists would sit with strong magnifying glasses, drawing and scraping on the negatives to alter reality, that be, placing fake shadows behind subjects, altering backgrounds, altering reflections, smoothing skin etc.

    You can read a little from the book for free here:
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/9197694/Hollywood-Portraits-Classic-shots-and-how-to-make-them (page 9)

    In all my editing on the digi side of things (and I often do a lot), I think the liquify-tool is the most radical and powerful tool, this tool has no analogue equivalent as far as i know. (This is the tool you use in high-fashion stuff to create those anorectic and unrealistic looking photos of models). Pixel pushing I call it, hard to do on a negative :smile:

    And I am not sure if men alone are to blame for the hysteria concerning skinny models; After a few years of hearing how women talk about other women, I am sure that a lot of the blame for body-hysteria can be blamed on womens endless effort to out-beautify their friends and rivals.

    Most (grown) men I know, actually appreciate a normal woman with a normal shape, not sports-illlustrated babes or skinny fashion models, while women are quick to point out a fat bum, love handles and sagging boobs on their "sisters" ^^
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2011
  25. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Well I think you're making this about an entirely different subject. Sure, we compose and that does have the essence of 'pose' in it- we select what we want to have in the photogrpah and thereby influence how the scene is perceived. fine.

    But manipulation of the sort described in the article is at a very different level.

    Consider someone with a big nose. By traditional means, you can: pick focal length to manipulate the nose/ears ratio; play with posing to de-emphasize it; use light to arrange the fill and shadows favourably; use film/dev/grade etc to select favourable contrast. What about actually making the nose smaller? To do that by traditional means, you'd have to resort to a paper neg and actually redraw the nose. But that is a very limited technique... imagine trying to do it on a colour shot and doing it quickly enough to have it on the cover of some tabloid later the same day. That is where things are now... we've seen missiles cloned into photographs, we've seen Prime Minister's bellies photosurgically improved, we've seen manga-like women adorning magazine covers and billboards, where does it end?!
     
  26. MDR

    MDR Member

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    Love this quote by Arnold Newman: "Photography, as we all know, is not real at all. It is an illusion of reality with which we create our own private world." and I find that it fits this discussion wonderfully

    Dominik