Photo-manipulations vs. photography

Started 3 months ago | Polls thread
(unknown member) Regular Member • Posts: 330
Re: Photo-manipulations vs. photography

I really can't stand this type of debate because it seems to me as if all everyone does is either play obtuse or play fast and loose with terms to make their point.


  • Photography is the art and skill of capturing an image with a camera. That is literally what "photography" means. "Photo"=Greek for light. "Graphy"=write. So, "to draw or write with light."

It is not:

  • Taking photographs and creating what we used to call "photo montages" or "photo illustrations." Photo montages and illustrations employ photography, but the resulting image is not photography. This type of stuff falls under the realm of GRAPHIC ARTS (as in graphic illustration and design), not photography.

So, if the resultant image was directly from a camera, it's a photograph (whether there was enhancing, dodging, burning, boosting of color is irrelevant). If the resultant image is a composite of multiple elements from different images, then it's just a photo composite/montage/illustration, like below:


Some people argue that there's a gray area. The only area where I think it would be a gray area is if the person doing the composites is clearly a photographer himself/herself and is using photographic techniques to create images that still look and feel photographic. Jerry N. Uelsmann is a guy who falls under this category. His photographs were clearly "manipulated", but in the end of the day, he shot those photographs himself and merged them in the dark room as a photographer, not as a graphic designer or graphic illustrator.

Outside of that, there's no gray area when it comes to images that were clearly pieced together by non-photographers who are just remixing images, and I have no problems with people making a clear demarcation between that sort of thing and photography. The reason why is that we're reaching a point where people who don't even know how to use a camera want to be considered "photographers" just by virtue of having "Photoshop skillz".

This problem is why there have been an increasing number of cheaters entering competitions for photographers. People are going around thinking, "I can't shoot for crap, but my work should be considered photography because I know how to blend and merge other people's photos to make a beautiful photograph."

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