Manipulation in Nature Photos

Occasionally it’s worth revisiting the concept of what is appropriate, acceptable, and ethical in terms of capturing and post-processing digital nature photographs.  This is a subject with no single right answer, and stridently defended views are argued from widely diverging positions.  Quite often the almighty dollar directly influences decisions as to what kind of services are offered (as in workshops using game farm animals, or use of bait to lure subjects), or what personal decisions are made when creating an image.  Should you wish to consider some of the questions involved, this article in the Audubon online magazine addresses several.  From my perspective, truth in advertising is the first proper step.  If significant changes are made to the image, that should be noted in the metadata and conveyed to viewers.  Many choices in life aren’t strictly binary, and this is certainly one of them.  If one looks carefully, even documentary reportage of news events often tends to be at least slightly “optimized” for better appearance (like contrast and color), and this is still one segment of the industry with pretty rigid guidelines for what is “acceptable.”  For more guidelines on this subject consult the North American Nature Photography Association’s “Principles of Ethical Field Practices” and “Truth in Captioning.”

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