Vision versus Editing

June 28, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

The clouds at sunset. SatauliCloud in SatauliThe clouds at sunset. Satauli

Vision versus Editing

A photographer asked a question on Twitter and inspired me to write this post. His name is Alfredo Mora, and you can find him at His question, or statement, was this: Vision or Editing Skills or combination of both. My response, briefly, was that editing must support vision. You also should know what the purpose of the image is.

To which he jokingly replied that he was glad that the days of HDR were over!

I stand by my statement that editing must support vision, and not the other way around. There has always been a thin line between editing to enhance, and downright manipulation, and no one knows where the line lies.

Many people like to imagine, fondly, that the days of film represented the true days of photography, when no one did any heavy manipulation. Yet, when I read about Ansel Adams’ famous image, “Moonrise Hernandez”, I read he had done some heavy editing. And, when I say he had edited the image heavily, I am speaking of dodging and burning. Plus a bit of cropping. When you make a print from a negative, you also add a tint at the end of the process, to create the final mood.

And so, you enter the realm of art.

I have been told that photographers who photograph for the National Geographic Magazine may not do any manipulation of the image, else the image becomes, in a way, corrupt.

Ever since we entered the digital age, image manipulation has become much more prevalent. I am not saying that it has become easier: witness the teams of image retouch experts who work on a single image intended for advertising or product advertising.

When I listen to them explain their techniques, a strange fatigue enters my soul, and I want to crawl into a dark place!

What I Do... As of Now

So, where does it stop? Yes, I clone and heal to remove dust spots. I also clone distractions away. I transform my images slightly, sometimes to create the final composition. Towards the end, I add my color grading, and I have invested in some tools, to help me. Color is not my strong point!

I add a color tone (I favor selenium these days) to create the final image. When I want to create something completely crazy, then I sometimes put the image through Exposure Software’s image processing tool, to create a film look (full disclosure, I am an affiliate), and at the end, I run it through Topaz Labs DeNoise and Sharpening tools (again; I am an affiliate).

When I do black and white, I may use Nik Silver Efex Pro (I am not an affiliate) to create my image.

But I dislike warping mountains or make flowers twist and shout. I dislike creating reflections where none existed and passing them off as genuine reflections.

So, the question remains: where do you draw the line?

If you are creating art, make the artistic process as true to yourself as possible. If your approach is journalistic, then don’t manipulate the image, clone stuff away, or do that sort of thing.

Editing must support vision, but both must be true to the purpose of the image.

This Image

I shot the image you see here, in Satauli, Nainital District, Uttarakhand, India. No warping, but lots of dodging and burning. Let’s say that this is yet a work in progress. Maybe, I will return to it after a month and complete it.

I edited the image in Silver Efex Pro and did some burning and dodging. However, I intend to start all over, give it a radiant glow, and then add the tone at the final step 



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