Photo manipulation is altering digital images by using image editing software, usually Photoshop or an equivalent program. It’s almost an art form in its own right, and enables digital artists to get some really strange and wonderful results.
When used for good, image manipulation can do a lot of cool things. It can enable companies to save money by not having to pay for an entire photoshoot when images can be altered to fit their needs. It can emphasize or remove elements from photographs, which is a great help to photographers, as well, and manipulation (called post-processing when done by a professional photographer to improve the quality of his pictures) can be used to improve the quality of professional photographs and add effects to them.
It can be used to make people look better or to fit an image – for example, most pictures of female celebrities in magazines are manipulated to make them paler and thinner, with larger busts and smaller waists. When used for evil, image manipulation can sow chaos. You can use image manipulation to make it look as though a person is wearing a t-shirt that supports something that they are opposed to.
You can use image manipulation to create false situations – one of the most common ones is Photoshopping people into compromising positions. You can manipulate an image to make it appear that something is happening when it isn’t. The above-mentioned manipulation of celebrity photographs, for example, can be considered ‘use for evil’ because medical professionals believe that it has a very negative effect on women’s self-esteem.
So now that we know that image manipulation can be used for good and evil, let’s compare some to make sure that you know when you are on the line between using and abusing your powers of image manipulation.
You are using image manipulation if:
1. You are improving the quality of a photograph.
For example, you have taken a stack of holiday pictures, but you used a terrible camera. The photographs that are not blurry, are overexposed. You can use image manipulation to fix the overexposure and salvage some of your pictures.
2. You are combining two or more pictures you own for advertising purposes.
As an example: You are a digital artist, and a company approaches you. Their advertising campaign features a woman eating an apple while using a go wild promo code. They like one of the pictures you showed them, but the model is eating a peach. You can use image manipulation to replace the peach with an apple. This is one of the simplest uses of image manipulation, and one of the ones most often done badly. It is also important to make sure that you have the legal right to use the pictures.
3. You are using image manipulation to amuse or entertain.
Your audience might understand that these are manipulated photographs. This happens a lot in fandom, where fans will edit together images or even videos to make a new narrative from a TV show or a series of promotional photographs. This is allowed under ‘fair use’ according to copyright law, and is considered harmless.
You are abusing image manipulation if:
1. You are presenting your manipulated image as reality.
A common example of this is someone will Photoshop slogans and logo’s onto a public figure’s clothing in an effort to damage their reputation. These pictures are definitely uses for evil, since these images often go viral on the internet, doing sometimes-irreparable damage to a person’s image.
2. You are manipulating images in order to lie to people.
For example, some photographers have been found guilty of having a heavy hand with Photoshop when it comes to war zones, detainee torture, and missiles. This is wrong because we rely on images to tell us the truth. If you are manipulating an image in order to fool people into believing a lie, that’s definitely using your powers for evil.
3. You are manipulating images in order to damage someone’s reputation.
For example, FHM magazine published images of Pakistani actress Veena Malik in the nude, with an ISI tattoo. The picture was harmful to her reputation in the first place, because it implies that she would pose in the nude, and in the second, it implies that she supports ISIS. Malik insists that she never posed nude, but the damage to her reputation has probably been done.
These are six of the most common cases and examples of image manipulation. In the end, it’s pretty simple to figure out which is use, and which is abuse: Abuse is when you are manipulating images in order to hurt someone’s feelings, to hurt someone’s reputation, or to back up a lie. Use, on the other hand, is when you are using photo manipulation to improve quality or to entertain.
Now you know how to tell, it’s up to you to use photo manipulation wisely.