Is Editing Your Photographs Considered Cheating?

No, not if you do not consider a photographer’s desire to communicate what he saw cheating. Let me divulge, as an award-winning and published (prosumer) photographer and former CEO of a photo-editing software company.

Despite almost 100 years of camera development (since 1816), no camera today accurately reflects the light we as humans see it. The problem with camera technology is that no camera on the market today can get anywhere close to the nuance in a dynamic-range of light our eyes can detect.

To put it simply, cameras have a single method to measure light and exposure (and other conditions) and apply that same exposure to all receptors (pixels) in the camera. Your eyes are fundamentally different in the sense that some of our receptors detect individual exposures and thus record a much higher granularity and standard-deviation of light.

And then we have our brain, a brain that processes information, sometimes unbeknownst to us, and filter things out or in, depending on our preference. A great example is that we generally do not interpret shadows, even though they are visibly altering an image. Not so much to the brain, for the mind understands the correlation between a well-lit subject and the part that isn’t, almost instantly and automatically.

There are many other examples of how our eyes and brain see color differently, and not at all accurately in some situations, where a camera will (within the purview of its limited dynamic range).

The point is that an image taken by a camera is based on a static computational mix of absolutisms of measurement, while our brain processes images in a spectrum of dynamic relativity. The innate incompatibility will require almost every photographer to edit the photograph to what must be conveyed.


P.S.: I should add the imaging pipeline, the firmware, present in every digital camera does a fair amount of editing before you even get to see the “raw” image, raw not being raw at all. Meaning, every image has already been edited by the camera to look better and deal with some of the camera’s optical illusions.


The sign of an intelligent nation is its willingness and ability to reinvent itself, upstream. Let’s inspire the world with new rigors of excellence we first and successfully apply to ourselves.

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