Project: Digital Photography and ‘Truth’ – Correction

This exercise builds on some of the thoughts started in the previous section but whereas that was about optimising the image, this part takes this a stage further and looks at more and more radical interventions. The notes talk about a continuum from simple optimisation actions that definitely do not change the content or subject matter to more extreme changes. Somewhere along this continuum we move from acceptable to possibly not acceptable changes that question the ethics of what we are doing.

This exercise looks at a couple of seemingly fairly benign changes: removal of dust spots and removal of lens flair. I chose to work with the resource images. This would give me an opportunity to work on someone else’s pictures, I would be making creative decisions on their behalf which would enhance the ethical question.

For all these exercises, I worked on the image magnified to actual size.

Removal of Dust Spots

This is the original image:


Lots of spots to work on but which are from the sensor and which belong to the image? The taker of the original picture would have a better idea than a second party editor, he was actually there and saw the original objects. This immediately calls into question the validity of some editing decisions.

Nevertheless, I had a go at removing what I judged to be dust spots, firstly using the clone stamp (my normal first choice for the exercise) then with the spot healing brush.



For easy comparison, here are the three images side by side:





Clone Stamp

Spot Healing Brush

The clone stamp requires more user intervention as you have to decide where to sample from. This can be considered to give more control but can be a double-edged sword: a more suitable source point can be selected but the potential for image manipulation is greater.

Lens Flare

I have never attempted to remove lens flare so this would prove to be a useful exercise.

The original image:


As the instructions explained, I used first the clone stamp tool set to Colour…


…and followed this with the same tool set to Darken…


For a side-by-side comparison, here are crops of the three versions:





Clone stamp colour

Clone stamp colour + darken

The result is pleasing, it has removed almost all the flare and more practise should bring improvement.

In that lens flare is an artifact of how the lens focuses the light, its removal should not have untoward ethical connotations. But as a second party editor working on someone else’s photograph, is it still acceptable? I am taking over part of the creative process and deciding on their behalf, what is and is not desired in the image.

So are there ethical considerations in this sort of image manipulation? The answer of course depends on a number of things but it is clear that with these simple adjustments, we are starting to move along the continuum.

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