Ethics of Manipulating Images

Steve Mcurry image

At every stage of creating a photographic image, we can ‘manipulate’ or ‘edit’ the image. It could be something as simple as changing the colour and contrast, making an image black and white, removing dust and marks, or it could be removing or adding to an image in a way that changes the context and story.

Photographic images are all about the frame, the meaning or context of an image can be changed by what we exclude or leave out as much as by what is in the image.

In most instances editing an image is about improving the quality, but where do we draw the line? Is it ethical to edit a documentary or journalistic image which is supposed to portray reality? What about a fashion image? Is it okay to edit out blemishes, to soften a persons skin, to remove spots and scars, to change the shape of their body?

What do you think about the story about Steve McCurry? Do you think he stepped over an ethical line?