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MY PERSONAL ETHICS IN DIGITAL PHOTO MANIPULATION

Photoshop has a magical attraction to me. I enjoy tweaking and searching for options to stretch the boundaries of photographic possibility; to balance on the edge between ‘real’ and ‘fake’.

Study after study has shown that seeing manipulated photos of others can lead to anxiety and low self-esteem. It really bothers me, that even though I am fully aware of this fact, I still contribute to these fake world creations.

In ‘Why do I continue to manipulate my personal photos’ I try to explain what it is that keeps me going. And in this post I will dive in a little deeper to discuss all my considerations when making composites.

COMPOSITING MULTIPLE SHOTS

Sometimes you have a situation where luck is just not on your side when timing a photo. Closed eyes, weird body postures, other people walking into your shot or nature not cooperating. Circumstances and timing can really make or break a photo. 

Compositing means combining two or more photos into a single image: taking the best of both worlds.

Fusion festival, Germany, June ’19

USING MULTIPLE EXPOSURES

Sunset photography can be difficult. Full blown skies to get a well exposed foreground or pitch black subjects to capture that amazing color of the sky are common events in this area.

This is where the composit comes in handy. By merging two different exposures you get what you see.

In my eyes this is not cheating yet. It is just a technique needed to capture the true moment as good as possible. Using a complete different sky and add it to your wrongly exposed photo would be another story of course.

Watching the sunset at Cappadocia, Turkey, 2019

ADDING EXTRA’S IN PHOTOSHOP

In this example from Cape-Town I wanted one of those cute photos of me together with lots and lots of penguins as I had seen on social media when searching for this location. We had absolutely no problem finding enough pinguins.

But my insecurity made me pick the ones with the least birds in it. Just because I think my body looks the most promising in those. 

I wanted to have that casual look. Like I’m just there hanging with the birds, accidentally looking up and being captured in the moment. On the other images from the same series, there were a lot more penguins involved in the shots though. So I resolved to make things right and add more action to the final image.

Me and my penguin friends at Boulders Beach, South Africa, 2018

Creating these composites did feel deceiving, even though the birds were there in reality. They were just not captioned in the same shot together with me. 

 

COMBINING MULTIPLE PHOTOS OF THE SAME SCENE

When searching through my Sri Lankan photos I just couldn’t find the exciting shot I was looking for. On most photos the waves look dangerously high, but as I’m a big coward in the water – I pulled it off to make most of them useless with weird faces.

That’s not what would score me hearty points on Instagram.

So I took the only one where I was happy about myself and combined it with the most spectacular wave I could find. All other people were removed in the process. 

Defying the waves in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka 2016

MEMORIES SHAPED BY LIES

The photo with the wave found its way to my Instagram wall. And something significant happened with it in my memory:

I  forgot the editing all together.

It was only because I was writing this article and looking through old photoshop files, that I discovered that I had excessively edited this file. I was shocked when I found out the wave was not really there. Apparently, after all these years I had saved this image in my mind as the truth.

This shows how easily we can trick others and even ourselves. 

To me, this explains a hidden danger in building photo composits. It made me aware that I should be more careful in believing anything I see online. Because you never know what is real and what is staged or put together carefully through editing software.


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