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I wanted to take a moment to not actually teach you anything but provide some food for thought so that you can think about your own approach to image cleanup. And that relates to the notion of the ethics of image cleanup, and more specifically what's okay and what's not okay. And I'd be the first to say that this is an individual decision. My personal basic approach to image cleanup is that I simply don't want to try to fool the audience. I'm not trying to trick the audience into thinking something was as it wasn't. But I am trying to produce the best image possible.
And so that usually means trying to remove distractions from a scene. Now that can mean a lot of different things and I think by and large its really a matter of degree. Its not so much right and wrong its just where you draw the line in terms of your comfort level with image cleanup. For example I don't think that anyone would feel that its wrong to crop an image in order to remove an area of the frame that you're not especially happy with. If I wanted to get rid of this tree over on the left-hand side, I could certainly crop the image. That takes care of cleaning up that element, that distraction in the image perhaps.
And I don't think anyone, or at least not too many people, would consider that to be unethical from an image cleanup standpoint. But of course, we can take things a bit further as well as we're working on our images. For example, let's take a look in the background here and we'll find something that is actually a natural subject or at least mostly a natural subject a tree. I don't know if this was actually there to begin with. In other words if it was a tree that died, or if it was something placed there as a perch for other birds, for example, but the point is that it is a natural object, not a man-made object. So the question is, is it okay to remove this object from the frame? At a distance to me it looks more like a telephone pole or a power pole, and so I see it as a bit of a distraction.
Something that's catching the eye that I'd just assume not have in the frame. For me personally, I think there's no problem at all with removing that object, but some people might feel that that's inappropriate. That it was there and therefore I must include it in the photograph. Now some of these issues relate to things such as photojournalism, where you're supposed to be an observer, you're supposed to be documenting something. Not interfering with it, and of course then we can take the approach of an artist. If we consider ourselves a fine art photographer for example, then in many respects you could say that anything goes and that you are interpreting something as you see it should be, regardless of what reality was.
The point is not to suggest that any one approach is right or wrong. My intent here is not to suggest that any one approach is right or wrong, that certain degrees of image clean up are okay, and certain others are not. But rather to encourage you to think about this issue. It is something that we have to confront as photographers, and so we have to decide for ourselves how far we're willing to go. My aim is to help you understand how to use the various tools and techniques that allow you to clean up blemishes and distractions in your images. It's up to you to decide how far you're going to take those techniques while working on your own photographic images.
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