It has been said that the camera does not lie. You could make the case that it does or doesn’t. At any rate, there is no disputing our ability to manipulate photographs. Manipulation is so easy that it is difficult to imagine a professional photographer not manipulating the results of their work at some stage.
Manipulating pictures translates into manipulating the reality we understand from those pictures. This can be a good or bad thing. A photographer attempting to create an image that is more fantasy than anything else can do some fantastic things with software. But so can a photographer attempting to pass off fantasy as reality.
At Vargo Photography in Salt Lake City, Utah, commercial photography is the name of the game. They make their money shooting products, food, professional portraits, and brand images. Below is a short list of the many ways Vargo says photographs can be manipulated.
1. Choosing Different Lenses
The lens is perhaps the professional photographer’s most important tool. Your average pro has multiple lenses to work with. Some of them are specialty lenses designed to create certain looks. For example, you are probably familiar with the fisheye lens. It creates a distorted image that looks like it is being seen through a small eye.
A wide-angle lens is another example. It can make images seem smaller than they are. A macro lens can capture such detail on extremely small objects that you can be made to believe you are looking at something that isn’t what it appears to be.
2. Adjust Lighting and Exposure
Lighting plays a crucial role in photography in that it influences the image being recorded. A good photographer can change what a person looks like simply by adjusting the lights. The appearance of color in an outdoor shot can be influenced by lighting as well. Lighting is so important that photographers spend a lot of time studying it in school.
A photographer understands exposure as the amount of light involved in creating a picture. Just like lighting can be adjusted, so can exposure. And when exposure is adjusted, it can change everything. Photographers routinely experiment with different exposures of the same shot before deciding which one to go with. Choices are often based on what exposure best tells the photographer’s desired story.
3. Software Manipulation
Today’s photographers enjoy greater latitude in manipulating their photographs thanks to digital cameras and advanced software. If you have ever erased a frowning child’s face from a photograph and replaced it with a smile, you know exactly what we’re talking about here. Modern photo manipulation software can do amazing things.
You know all those photos you see of professional models, athletes, movie stars, etc.? Nearly all of them have been digitally manipulated. We call it airbrushing, referring to a practice that existed before digital photography. We can accomplish the same thing these days with software.
Along the same lines, pictures can be cropped or manipulated with green screen effects. Such abilities are so advanced today that it is impossible to know whether or not your favorite influencer was really at the beach depicted in her photo. She may not have been. She may have been swimming in her backyard pool while her photographer took the pictures she would later crop and combine with a stock beach photo to create the illusion.
Whether or not the camera lies is no longer the real issue. No, the real issue is the fact that photographs can be manipulated so easily. Every time we manipulate a picture, we are manipulating the reality that goes with it.