Discussion – Ethics

group portrait of the Democratic congresswomen of the 113th US Congress
Altered photograph: according to the Associated Press and other news sources staff of the office of the Minority Leader of the US House of Representatives “Photoshopped” or otherwise digitally-manipulated the group portrait of the Democratic congresswomen of the 113th US Congress by adding with software the faces of four women who could not arrive at the location in time to join the photographed group in person. Image courtesy of the Minority Leader from 2013. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Image courtesy of the Office of the Minority Leader.

Where do you draw the line between image manipulation and image enhancement? — There is not a right or wrong answer to this question – think about it within the context of your career or personal interests.

Reply to this post.

6 Comments

  1. slager

    I suppose I would define enhancement as the alteration of an image to make it more compelling or beautiful without altering the intent of the image, while manipulation would be changing the content of the image itself. I believe that the image included with this post falls on the side of manipulation. The content of the image was added to in adding the other faces. Without the absent women, the image is a historical document that indicates who was present in that location on that day at that time. With the inclusion of the added women, it is no longer historically accurate. It is now a representative image, similar to a list of members of the body, but should not be taken at “face” value.

    That said, the intent of the image was to include all of the Democratic congresswomen. If the image is viewed with the caveat that it is not historically accurate as a representation of that moment in time, it could be argued that it is only enhanced.

  2. hdlee

    My employer has photoshopped absent staff into the group photographs. As I understand it, this photograph was not intended to depict a significant event, it is a group portrait. The digital addition of the four absent congresswomen does not change the meaning of the photograph. This is not a photograph of the congress members who supported or opposed bill xyz. If the number of subjects in the photograph changes it’s significance, then the photographer/editor is attempting to manipulate viewers. In this case, the presence or absence of four more congress members does not change the significance of the portrait, it is still a group portrait. Does their absence negatively affect the other congresswomen? Does their addition benefit the group as whole? Not really, it’s just a group portrait. The addition of the four absent congresswomen is an accurate depiction of the group, just not the group’s presence on that particular insignifcant day.

    I do agree with Sophie that the intention of the editing is crucial to determining whether the image has been enhanced or manipulated. If the editing is intended to create a false sense of truth, then it is a manipulation and not merely enhancement.

  3. Ken

    I would assert that image manipulation would consist the modification of an image to depict or infer an event or place that did not happen or exist that would directly benefit the person/group/organization in some fashion. For example the occasional Instagram “celebrity’s” that fakes a series of photos in an attempt to enhance their following and possibly attract sponsors for financial gain. Enhancement would constitute no direct benefit outside of an aesthetic choice. Subtly augmenting the background colors of a landscape to make the picture systemically different in the interest of highlighting an object or objects that might generally go unnoticed or generating discussion about the choice. As simplistic as it sounds to me it boils down to does it count as deception that could benefit the individual/group/organization at the expense of others or is it a modification to make something more aesthetically pleasing or interesting?

  4. Giselle

    Image “manipulation” has a negative connotation; implying that the manipulation is for the gain of someone else. The information of the true image has been construed in some way to change the viewers perspective. The definition of propaganda is “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.” But then, is propaganda always negative? Can be positive? Of course it can. So then, it’s the motivation behind the manipulation that is cause for concern.
    The phrase “Image enhancement” sounds positive and healthy to my brain, but can also fall into the small category as manipulation. The “enhancement” of portraits and head shots for magazines can create unrealistic beauty ideals and expectations.

    The big difference is the intention.

  5. rhwillcox

    I would say that enhancement is making small changes such as adjusting saturation, brightness, and contrast and not actually changing what is in the image. Manipulation would then be actually changing what appears in the photograph. I agree with everyone above me that manipulation isn’t inherently wrong or right. It really depends on the intentions of the manipulation and one’s own feelings regarding the ethics of whatever the effects of said manipulation would be.

  6. crocha2

    I would personally say that I use image manipulation for small things but not photoshop a person into the photo. Manipulating an image can sometime work and sometimes it does not. It always depends on your audience and what you want your piece to say. Enhancing is similar to what I think of manipulation I use it when I want to fix small problem. In the correct way, but I don’t wanna over use it to where it takes away from the photo.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.