Is Landscape Photography Being Ruined by Photoshop?

In the last few years critics of photo-editing software like Photoshop has been voicing their displeasure at how the explicit used of photo editing has ruined landscape photography. The topic has become a widely heated debate among photographers until a recent event reinforces the belief that it does ruin landscape photography. The recent stripping of David Byrne’s award, which he won when he was declared as the “Landscape Photographer of the Year” in Britain’s most prestigious photo competitions, re-ignited this debate and probably has made it official that indeed, photo-altering software are destroying the over-all art form of landscape photography.

The organizers have taken back David Byrne’s trophy and the prize money amounting to $16,000 by the organizers after other photographers pointed out that the photograph submitted by David Byrne was heavily altered with the use of Photoshop, to include the clouds which are not included in the original photograph. This fact came to light after a close scrutiny by other photographers resulted into a conclusion of the dubiousness of the sun forming shadows on some questionable parts of the image.

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Mr. Byrne justified his entry and editing of the image by explaining that photo editing is nothing new. He told The Daily Mail ‘The purists out there were not happy. Messing about with pictures has been done for over 100 years. I treat my photography as art and I try to make the best looking picture.’ If any, Mr.. Byrne’s justification of his act clearly defines the line where the furious debate threads. The manipulation of photographs in order to make it appear as the ‘best looking picture’ is something both the purists and photographers who are into digital manipulation, to come into an accepted territory.

It is important to distinguish how much photo editing is accepted and what are the areas to be covered by the absurd already. Too much digital manipulation takes the heart and soul of a photograph, while a little editing enriches it and takes it into another level of awesomeness. Drawing a line is what currently separates the purists from those who are into photo digital manipulation.

landscape photography
Photo by Derek Smyth

Right now, there are a few accepted manipulation techniques done on photographs. For example, the removal of electrical power lines from the background of a landscape image is widely accepted, while changing the color of the sky from fiery sullen gray to fiery orange is another thing because it already substitutes the soul of the photograph, which is its color and overall appearance.

Photography is a form of ‘art’ and like old fashioned art; dependence on technology should be limited to a bare minimum. Over dependence on technology like photo manipulation software can definitely ruin or cheapen the art value of a photograph. Photographers should practice extra caution when editing their works digitally. Make sure they can still improve an image digitally, but not at the price of defacing the soul of the photograph itself.

landscape photography
Photo by Allard One

So, is landscape photography being ruined by Photoshop? To a larger degree yes, but in a controlled environment and discipline, landscape photography can be even be improved by photo editing software, only when done properly and with a high regard to the character and soul of the photograph.


About Kristine Buenavista

Tin oftentimes takes her folding bike and old camera along country roads. Sometimes, she forgets to take pictures (though she never forgets when she finds great photos elsewhere). She narrates through words and images here. Travel, creativity, laughter, cerveza negra, scavenge hunt for beauty, starry-windy nights are among the things that make her feel weightless.

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