Anyone who has experimented with photography knows that there is an ongoing debate about the use of photo manipulation. Should it be used to enhance images or does it only distort reality?

The few photography classes I’ve taken have all be based around Photoshop. It was normal for me to take a photo and then immediately put it on my computer and at the very least adjust the levels.

Looking back now, I feel as if adjusting a photo for the sake of adjusting it is not what Photoshop should be about. Photoshop is there to artistically change a photo, not just cover up mistakes.

In this way I think that it is fine to change a photo however you want. Photography is a way for people to take what they see in their minds and combine it with reality. A lot of photographers realized this a long time ago and that’s where we get those amazingly creative photos of fantasy and sci-fi scenes.

However, there is one aspect of photography where people seem to disregard reality in a very harmful way.

What I’m talking about is commercial advertising. Photo manipulation is used to distort bodies and not in any artistic way, but in a way that is trying to convince consumers that an image is real.

In advertisements skin is smoothed out, necks are elongated, eyes are made larger, and waists are slimmed down. Ultimately it creates a look that no one can achieve, not even the actual model.

When photos are manipulated in this way it is damaging to society. The advertisers are not trying to be artistic. They are trying to change the image of beauty in the minds of their consumers.

Photographers will have their own opinions on the subject, but before we manipulate a photo to change the appearance of a person or even an environment I think it’s important to ask ourselves a question. Am I doing this just because I can?

This short video shows the difference between a manipulated image and the actual image.