Since the beginning of photography, there have always been people who have manipulated their photographs in order to convey a certain mood, or meaning. In the early 1900’s a man took a photograph of a spider monkey, and one of a bat, and combined the two negatives to create a bat-monkey.
The legal system has regularly used photographs as admissible evidence because they assumed that a photograph couldn’t be manipulated quickly enough to taint the evidence. This just isn’t true. Once digital came out, they wouldn’t admit it at first because it made manipulation that much quicker. Now, however, they are now allowing it with the provision that the photographer has done nothing to change the photograph.
In the world of fine art photography, photographic manipulation, and enhancement, is not only a common practice, but at times it’s necessary. Purists will tell you that enhancements will destroy a photograph. I believe that if you can avoid it, do, but that doesn’t mean you should run away from doing so, just use moderation.
When you take a photograph, think about what you are trying to convey, and crop it while taking the picture. Move in closer if you have to, or if you can. Include only the elements that matter. If you’re trying to bring attention to the way carving initials into a tree can ruin its beauty, don’t include the whole tree; no one will see the damaged spot. Only photograph the damaged part. If you’re trying to show the beauty of a landscape, you will periodically get power lines or unsightly buildings in your picture. In this case, you may have to alter the image; cloning out the power lines or the buildings.
There are times that you may want to produce an abstract image. Don’t be afraid to alter the colors, or change something in the picture to conform to your mind’s image. Don’t forget photography is no different than any other art. It’s very personal and the message you want to send to the viewers will determine what you do with that image.
Here’s a couple of other things you might want to consider about enhancements. Enhancing a Photograph can draw attention to the area you want people to focus on. Even something as simple as changing a photograph from color to black and white can tone down distracting elements to bring out your subject.
On the computer, you can blur out everything but the subject to let people know, “this is what I want you to see.”
Adding an element to a photograph can add humor to a picture that might have been boring otherwise. I did this with a wood frog I photographed. I added a Santa Clause hat to the image to make a Santa frog for my Christmas cards that year. It got lots of laughs, and had people wondering how I got the hat on the frog.
Digitally enhancing an image can help you say what you want to say, and can even add to the fun.
Challenge: Have some fun, and change an image in different ways to see how it changes the message.