It’s a really interesting question. Retouching images is pretty much standard fare in the fashion and entertainment industries. (Check out FluidEffect and Glenn Feron’s gallery for some before and after pictures of models – they’re quite revealing!)
Powerful image manipulation programs like Photoshop have pretty much leveled the playing field for amateur photographers and have given each of us the equivalent of a digital darkroom to go to town on our photos.
As Miller points out, the real question is, how far do you go?
On the one hand, there are some fairly easy lighting tweaks anyone can do to really make your photos pop. But is that really any different from doctoring a photo to remove some unsightly power lines from a badly shot photo? Not technically.
I’m kind of torn on this one. Marketing is all about putting your best face forward (case in point, some of those fashion photos…) and you want to position the property is as good a light as possible. But surely, there’s some ethical responsibility to also ensure that the photos are a fair representation of the property.
Like Jonathan, my gut feeling is once you start removing elements from a photo – that’s when you’ve crossed the line.
Thankfully, Adobe, maker of Photoshop, is not sitting still on this issue. Wired News reports it’s introducing an suite of photo authentication tools to detect forgeries.
Adobe plans to start rolling out the technology in a number of photo-authentication plug-ins for its Photoshop product beginning as early as 2008.
Among other things, the new tools will rely on algorithms to detect areas that have been cloned – a common method to add or remove unwanted elements from an image.
Detecting forged images is only half the problem though. Ultimately, the responsibility lies with the individual.
For some more examples of famous doctored photos, check out this gallery – Re-imaging History.