Episode 4: TIDBIT TUESDAY – Photo Editing VS Photo Manipulation: Is There A Limit?

Today's Tidbit: Photo Manipulation in Outdoor Photography

We Discuss:

  • The practice of photo manipulation throughout the history of photography
  • The debate about photo editing versus photo manipulation when it comes to landscape and nature photography
    • Is there a difference or line between the two? 
    • What’s considered acceptable and what’s not?
    • Does it matter?
  • Three points to consider when deciding how much editing is acceptable in your own photography
  • And more!

Resources and Links:

Brief History of Photography Blog: https://notquiteinfocus.com/2014/12/15/a-brief-history-of-photography-part-12-movements-pictorialism-versus-straight-photography/ 

Professor Jeff Curto’s lecture, Photo History – Class 12 – The Manipulative Impulse: http://photohistory.jeffcurto.com/archives/1573

Group f/64’s Manifesto (1932): http://photographyhistory.blogspot.com/2012/04/group-f64-manifesto-1932.html 

National Geographic, How We Spot Altered Pictures: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/article/editors-note-images-and-ethics 

NANPA’s Truth in Captioning Statement: https://www.nanpa.org/wp-content/uploads/Truth-in-Captioning-Statement-Revised-3-2018.pdf

Kenneth Brower article in The Atlantic, Photography in the Age of Falsification: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1998/05/photography-in-the-age-of-falsification/377107/

University of Washington Magazine, The Call of the Wild Beckons Photographer Art Wolfe: https://magazine.washington.edu/feature/the-call-of-the-wild-beckons-photographer-art-wolfe/ 

Guy Tal’s book, More Than a Rock


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This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. Walter Dyck

    Excellent historical review, will forward people to this podcast when discussing this issue with others. Having processed my own photos in the past I knew of the alterations/manipulations to exposure and prints through processing but interesting to see that if we stick a filter in front of our lens no one is questioning that fact that we are altering the photo. Even watched a video on using color gels on slaves for outdoor photography to suggest sunset in foliage or hair highlights, again these are methods of altering the photo but no one is crying foul. Unless done for historical documentation I don’t see any issues with non destructive manipulation of the scene live or later in processing, otherwise the photo should be labeled as an artistic expression of the scene to indicate that the photograph has been manipulated and enhanced for art purposes – which is a valid art form, just need to be honest about it. Don’t think that artists need to indicate how it was enhanced or manipulated just that it has, gives artists more room to protect their images and creative content.

    1. Brenda Petrella

      Very well said! I hadn’t considered the use of filters/gels before. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and I appreciate you sharing the episode with others.

  2. Dave King

    Great podcast and thought-provoking topic.

    I pretty much follow your method as far as post-processing is concerned. I haven’t tried focusing stacking yet, but want to experiment with it and add it to my available options.

    This winter, I shot a great solitary tree photo however, the sky was lacking. So for the first time, I used sky replacement in Photoshop and it really enhanced the photo. I felt a little guilty doing it because it was no longer solely the original photo I shot, but the results were worth it.

    I’d love to send you before and after images if you are interested in seeing them.

    Keep up the great work!

    One piece of advice (as a former radio announcer), I would suggest trying to slow down your speech a little bit. Sometimes it sounds like you’re racing through it and a more relaxed delivery may be beneficial to listeners.

    BTW, I’m a former Jersey Boy, now in CT! lol

    Thank you!

    1. Brenda Petrella

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and also for the advice! I realized that my editing of the audio made my speech sound too rushed (I was trying to eliminate “breathiness”), so I’m working on that. I definitely want it to be a pleasant audio experience. :). And nice to know you’re from NJ too!

  3. Mariana

    Hello Brenda,

    Thank you for the great podcast and also for the resources and links you have provided. Very well researched and presented!

    I was not aware that people were manipulating their images well before the invention of the digital photography!

    Best wishes,

    1. Brenda Petrella

      Hi Mariana – Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m so glad you enjoyed the info. 🙂

  4. Egídio Leitão


    I have been enjoying your podcasts tremendously. I especially like the topics you’ve been addressing in all episodes. They relate so much to things I have been pondering lately in my photography hobby, such as ethics and post-processing. The guests you have featured have been great and provided plenty of food for thought. I also enjoy the background information and history you provide in your presentations. Ever since I saw your presentation at the Happiness Hour a few weeks ago, I became an instant fan of your work and information you provide. Please keep up the good work. I look forward to more of your podcasts.


    1. Brenda Petrella

      Egídio – that means so much to me! Thank you for your kind words. I’m so glad that the content has been helpful and enjoyable too. Hope to see you at another Happiness Hour soon!

  5. Wayne Chase

    Very nice podcast, food for thought. I appreciate when photographers state their settings and techniques such as focus stacking, use of lightroom, long exposures, multiple images (astrophotography) ect.. I am a novice and helps me become better and appreciate their work and craft better.
    I have picked up trash that was originally going to be in the image and carried it out, removed power lines from my images to make for a better image and some other lightroom editing.

    1. Brenda Petrella

      Thank you, Wayne! And thank you for sharing your thoughts. You make a great point about carrying away trash found in a scene – that is definitely a “scene change” I support! 🙂

  6. Paul Rodden

    Outstanding Episode #4 Tidbit Tuesday. Your historical perspective really made a difference. It gave me a lot to think about as I am in the camp of the less I do to my photos, the better. I think identifying what you do to your photos is probably the ethical thing to do. Maybe I need to broaden my beliefs a bit, in light of what I learned today.

    1. Brenda Petrella

      Hi Paul – I’m so glad it gave you something to think about! Thank you again for your submitted question – I think it really added to the whole discussion.

  7. Matt Payne

    I really enjoyed the way you brought this topic up in a non-threatening way and I loved the historical references. Lastly, the questions you raise at the end are highly relevant and are a much more effective framework for discussing the topic than what we are used to seeing.

    1. Brenda Petrella

      Awesome – thanks so much, Matt! I appreciate that. Let’s hope the framework helps to spur more productive conversations when the debate comes up.

  8. Larry Kurfis

    Excellent topic and podcast. Paintings have always been interpretation of reality. Photos have been composed your effect. It is debated that the 1947 Hollister CA motorcycle photo was staged. Many of the photos of civil war battle dead we staged.

    It’s nothing new just easier. I don’t know that there is a “right” answer.

    1. Brenda Petrella

      Hi Larry, I agree! I hadn’t realized how age-old the debate has been. It was interesting to research the topic. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  9. Willy Verstraeten

    Great episode Brenda. I have a question, English is not my native language, to be able to follow your podcasts better maybe you could talk a little slower, it would be more followable.
    When I take pictures in nature, I will never take anything away, but I will try to bend something so that it is not in the composition. If it is not possible to keep a branch or something out of view, I will, if it is not too big an intervention, remove it with photoshop.

    1. Brenda Petrella

      Hi Willy – I appreciate the feedback! I do talk too quickly sometimes, and I also had edited out some of my natural pauses in an attempt to make a better audio experience. Others have mentioned that it wasn’t that effective, so I’ve since re-edited it to keep the pauses in there. Hopefully, that helped! And thank you for sharing your approach as well. Sounds like we have similar ones.

  10. Excellent Tidbit Tues. Episode #4, I appreciated the historical analysis and looking at the issue from different POVs.

    1. Brenda Petrella

      Thank you! I’m really glad to hear that :). Thanks for sharing.

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