in Photography

32 Examples of How Far Photo Manipulation Has Come

It has long become common knowledge that artists with an arbitrary command of Photoshop can yield pretty impressive results even with the dullest of pictures as starting points. Still, there is a certain art form that can be achieved with proficient control over photo manipulation in any shape or form.

Photo tampering is by no means something new, people have been messing with the end result of photographs for a very log time. Take for example one of the most iconic portraits of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, truth be told, the only part of Lincoln that did actually belong to the president in this particular photo is his head, the rest belongs to a Southern politician named John Calhoun. And this isn’t the only instance when head and body are mixed and matched to create a better result, in 1989 TV Guide’s cover featuring Oprah Winfrey, the head belongs to the right daytime talk-show host, but the body belongs to actress Ann-Margret from a photo shot that dated back to 1979.

While most historical photo manipulations have been done with aesthetics in mind, remember we’re talking pre-Photoshop-makes-anyone-beautiful days, there are some examples in which images were manipulated for all the wrong reasons. In 1994 Time Magazine featured the mug shot of OJ Simpson shortly after he was arrested for murder on its cover. Sure, the subject was already controversial, but what made it even more so was the fact that someone over at Time decided to tamper with the photograph and make Simpson appear “darker” and more “menacing” than he actually looked in the original.

Fast forwarding to more recent times, there’s an instance graphic artists have put their skill to work in order to retouch one of the most iconic pictures in all pop culture, none other than the Beatles Abbey Road album cover. Even if the intention to make it more suitable for all audiences by removing the cigarette from Paul McCartney’s hand isn’t condemnable, doing so without permission from either the band or their record label caused quite some ruckus.

However, moving away from the history lesson in photo manipulation, it is a truth universally acknowledged that talented artists with the skill to use a varied array of programs that enable them to modify pictures are very sought after nowadays. The works that they create can be equally breathtaking and powerful. It is, how they say: one picture is worth a thousand words.

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Regardless of the final purpose of the image, be it commercial, humanitarian or purely artistic, pictures still command emotions in their viewers like no other art form. A good photograph goes beyond any of the rules and best practices that can be taught in a class or a book, it should have the power to move you. Now, there are those who advocate that the ability to manipulate images in the way that we do nowadays has takes some of the magic out of the actual art of photography. But I disagree, editing your picture should only add to it and in now way subtract from its value.


What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.



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