The practice of photographic alteration has evolved tremendously since it was popularized in the early 1900s by the famous black and white photographer Ansel Adams. Today, a majority of the world’s population has access to a camera through their mobile device as well as enough processing power to add “filters” and “effects” to every image that is captured. “Manipulation” generally carries a negative connotation, but it shouldn’t be judged so quickly. We should examine the purpose for which a photo is intended before we conclude anything. Even though there are certainly cases where journalistic or commercial integrity has suffered as a result of this practice, photo manipulation should be heralded for its ability to capture moments in life more vividly than ever before.
Photography is the strongest representation we have of most historical and current events in society. This carries great weight when considering areas such as journalism, advertising or social media. New sources are held to high ethical standards to represent reality and situations as they occur. The same can be said of advertising. Quick “photoshopping” can be done to manipulate “before and after” photographs for the latest weight loss pill, to beautify a model styling the latest skin care products, or even change a photograph of crime scene evidence. Unfortunately, deceptive manipulation is still common and has cost society monetarily and ethically. Society needs to be skeptical today and view every photograph with a grain of salt. Despite this, we shouldn’t quickly dismiss this practice.
We must not overlook the value photo manipulation has brought to capturing and preserving memories. To begin, modern day cameras still possess limitations. As far as they have come, they still can’t capture every moment as we experience them. In different lighting conditions, a camera may not capture how breathtaking a sunset is, or portrait how beautifully we want to portray a significant person in our lives. In this case, the way we choose to represent a memory is subjective and is meant to appeal to us or those we choose to share it with. Embellishing a moment or memory through “photoshopping” may, in essence, add back some of the emotion or feeling that was present at the time of the capture for the viewer to experience. So, in this sense, it may make the photo more accurate in its representation of the event. Furthermore, choosing to “beautify” or add a “slimming” filter to photos is not necessarily bad for those that want to represent themselves in a favorable way to the world as long as it’s not intended to deceive or manipulate its viewers. The countless number of apps available today to enhance our photos and preserve our memories are countless, and that’s a good thing. Why not blur out that object in the background that is ruining a great photo, or add a cute graphic to a travel memory? In a majority of cases, photo manipulation is fun and harmless.
To conclude, we must be aware of the implications in the damaging sense, but we cannot focus solely on this side of the argument because the vast majority of photos are not created to be deceptive. The incredible ability to capture life and emotion as we experienced it is easier now than ever before with photographic technology, so it should be embraced. Society should of course encourage legislative measures to prevent deceptive photographic alteration, but, more importantly, be careful not to hinder the role that the continued advance of cameras and photography plays in our lives today and on into the future.