• Nov. 21, 2023, 5:51 p.m.

    Here's an interesting thought. In this day and age of photo manipulation (think AI), if we wanted reality (the photo doesn't lie), should we be using film again? How hard is it to manipulate negatives? When I was doing film photography, the negatives were fixed and that was it.

    Thoughts? Comments?


  • Members 1070 posts
    Nov. 21, 2023, 5:57 p.m.

    There are many cases going way back of film-based photos being altered for political and other reasons. It just happens to be easier to do today.


  • Members 796 posts
    Nov. 21, 2023, 6:36 p.m.

    Well, the Soviets were quite masterful at "disappearing" those who fell out of favour in group photographs. The Victorian photographers often had to add skies to their wet plate shots as the orignal pictures had burn out skies.

    This is one of mine in which a messy mid-tone background has been burnt to black. In the darkroom It needed a mask and a few minutes of exposure.



    JPG, 24.4 KB, uploaded by NCV on Nov. 21, 2023.

  • Nov. 21, 2023, 6:36 p.m.

    Much harder than digital - but you don't need to manipulate negatives, you just scan them into computer and manipulate digital files afterwards. Who wil see your originals anyway?

  • Members 835 posts
    Nov. 21, 2023, 6:45 p.m.

    I had one photography class ever, and they taught me about a guy who basically did photoshop in the darkroom. Negatives can be manipulated. Sorry I don't recall the guys name, but he's famous so I'm sure someone can name drop him.

  • Members 796 posts
    Nov. 21, 2023, 9:50 p.m.

    Jerry Uelsmann?

  • Members 1182 posts
    Nov. 21, 2023, 10:32 p.m.

    I've read that Ansell Adams was pretty good at "manipulating" negatives while processing such that his prints varied quite a lot.

    And then there were those girls in England who made prints featuring fairies in their garden.

    So nothing new perhaps ...

  • Members 272 posts
    Nov. 21, 2023, 11:11 p.m.

    If one feels the photograph is the final print, then most photographers "manipulated" the final print. However, we are not talking about, "replacing skies" or deleting/adding elements or putting smiles on faces. We are talking about contrast and tonality in the case of Adams, Weston, White, etc. W. Eugene Smith was fired by Life because he burned in a saw handle in his famous print to of Alfred Schweitzer


    The saw handle was not present on the image capture. For that breach of photojournalism ethics - Smith was fired by Life. It is a long reach to claim what one can do with a negative in the darkroom is equivalent to what one can do with Photoshop. Jerry Uelsmann was a master printer and master manipulator. However, his images were never intended to "fool" anyone to think they could be real. They were abstractions.

    Even Andy Warhol who was a master manipulator in the darkroom often blending multiple forms of art in his final image - never tired to "fool" someone that it was a clear sky with fluffy clouds as some or or knowledge base images editors allow people to do today.

    No one would confuse oil painting with watercolor - both mediums of painting. On the other much of what we see today in image editors is appealing not to photography but to graphic arts. Of course one can find the migration of photography to graphic valid. On the other hand it should not be labeled as photography but graphic arts. Even Andy Warhol made the distinction between his photography and his graphic arts and his painting.

  • Members 1182 posts
    Nov. 21, 2023, 11:26 p.m.


    Sorry I spoke ...

  • Members 284 posts
    Nov. 22, 2023, 4:24 a.m.

    The whole notion of photographs and "reality" is a sticky situation right from the start. For example, just zooming in to exclude relevant portions of the scene that give necessary context can even be intentionally distorting "reality". If you really want "reality", the closest would be high quality UWA digital video with some sort of verifiable digital encryption.

    A film photo can be faked simply by taking a film photo of a digitally altered photo (it would be a lot harder to take UWA video of a digitally altered video). But, in the end, do people even care? I mean, not to make this political, but think of all the blatant misinformation that's been put out, and even when it's debunked, people don't care -- they still go with the lie they want to believe, regardless of the evidence to the contrary (think vaccines and stolen elections, for example).

    A while ago, I read an article about honesty in politics. It concluded that people do not want honest politicians -- they want the politician who can tell them the lie they want to hear in the most pleasing manner. It's the same with photos. I mean, I know that I don't want an accurate portrait of myself, that's for sure! 😬

  • Members 272 posts
    Nov. 22, 2023, 9:27 p.m.

    One of the greatest photojournalist in history famously addressed that topic in 1948 article in Photo News. Below are two lead in paragraphs that outline the paradox.

    " Working with different techniques, all of which are common to others in the field, photographers Lisette Model, Cartier-Bresson, Gjon Mili, rise far above mere technical proficiency. Yet each of the three, were they to handle the same subject matter, would be capable of giving the world fine and individual interpretations. Cartier-Bresson and Leonard McCombe are two photographers who work almost exclusively with 35mm cameras and natural light. Here again, it could almost be guaranteed that their interpretations of the same subject would be quite different. Which is the objective truth? Perhaps all of these photographers are telling the truth—truth being "many things to many people."

    Up to and including the instant of exposure, the photographer is working in an undeniably subjective way. By his choice of technical approach (which is a tool of emotional control), by his selection of the subject matter to be held within the confines of his negative area, and by his decision as to the exact, climactic instant of exposure, he is blending the variables of interpretation into an emotional whole which will be a basis for the formation of opinions by the viewing public."

    The full article can be found here.


    It is clear, however, that the ethical questions that Smith wrestled with in say reporting from being embedded with the Marines in the Pacific from top WWII is a far afield to the abuses that can be foisted on mankind today through digital manipulation - don't like the ski, change it; want mountains, add them in during the editing, don't want a particular person in the image, remove them. The difference to what Smith was referring to when he mentioned of the photographer, "and it is impossible for him to be completely objective. Honest—yes. Objective—no." Minor modifications we saw in film could be categorized as small "white lies" while the massive manipulations that are possible today fall under the term of generating propaganda.

    No wonder there is a push for accountability through the standards of the C2PA. Let those that want to produce graphics art do so and be proud to do so while at the same time calling it what it is instead of trying to pass it off as photography.

  • Members 429 posts
    Dec. 8, 2023, 6:33 p.m.

    If they were real fairies, they should be wearing boots.

  • Members 706 posts
    Dec. 9, 2023, 9:10 a.m.

    I was under the impression that the original raw files from the camera couldn't be manipulated, & saved as original camera raw's again. I could be wrong, more than likely probably. If this is the case, then for things like photography competitions etc there could be a clause that the original raw file must be submitted or produced on demand as a condition of entry. I don't think anyone is concerned about things like exposure and saturation tweaks, but more along the lines of "photographs" being completely comprised of multiple different shots combined into a composite, & passed off as real. It would also work for news reportage, if the producers were alos forced to provide links to the original raw files, for anyone that may be interested.

  • Members 241 posts
    Dec. 9, 2023, 10:40 a.m.
  • Dec. 9, 2023, 10:55 a.m.

    I am a member of a photo club who go into competitions. There's another club that consistantly show off composite photos - and sometimes wins. We don't particularily like this.


  • Members 796 posts
    Dec. 9, 2023, 11:16 a.m.

    To complicate matters, I use 3 shot HDR a lot to extend the dynamic range of my pictures, when shooting in dark old monuments. I don't think I am creating something that I did not see, or which does not exist. I am, I think just extending the possibilities of my camera sensor.

    This shot seems to have been shot in a deserted piazza. I left the shutter open for 30 seconds and the quite large number of people who moved in front of my camera disappeared. This is an almost out of camera shot, but it does not tell the truth.

    DSC_2381 4.jpg

    DSC_2381 4.jpg

    JPG, 828.9 KB, uploaded by NCV on Dec. 9, 2023.

  • Members 706 posts
    Dec. 9, 2023, 11:25 a.m.

    Not seeing an issue here. You could submit any one of the raws, & you would have basically the same photo. Which is a very different thing from a total sky replacement, completely different background or foreground, and so on. All you're doing really is a glorified exposure tweak. Common sense would sort that in short order

  • Members 529 posts
    Dec. 12, 2023, 8:52 p.m.

    Reality is not the same as it was in the past. Taking a portrait of a non-binary person takes a completely different twist...

  • Dec. 12, 2023, 9:29 p.m.

    It depends.

    Some years ago Canon sold some "Data Security Kit", unfortunately this was broken. This program also did sign files in computer, not in-camera - thereby it would be possible to manipulate image before signing.
    Lately I read about Sony creating technology to allow sign raw data in camera - this is more promising.

    Unless signed, raw data can be altered easily. Well, not always easily - companies tend to obfuscate their data - but this can be hacked.
    Proper cryptographic signature needs some future quantum computers to break it (unless they implement signing incorrectly and allow hacked frimware sign whatever data is uploaded to camera - recalling Sony CD protection faux pas it is not impossible either).