Why should you edit your Photographs?

The answer to this question lies in your perception of photography. Just like there is no right answer to the question, 'What makes a good photograph?' there cannot be a right answer to the question at hand. There will always just be a point of view. Here is mine.

Photography is considered an art. And just like with any other art form, the finished product i.e. the photograph in this case takes the form of the ideas of its creator. There is a quote by Edward Steichen that says 'Every other artist begins with a blank canvas, a piece of paper [but] the photographer begins with the finished product.' Yes, that's the difference between photography and other forms of art. Photography is closer to reality, it is based on it. And that is perhaps the reason why editing photographs is not considered the right thing by many. People want the reality to be shown in the way it actually is, without any editing done to it.

But it is ironical that photography itself began with an extreme editing done to reality; the photographs were black and white, and color came much later. Our lives are not just shades of grey, are they? Our lives are full of colors! But even then, black and white photographs are considered 'acceptable'. Consider a writer: he prepares an article, and then continuously revises it to refine it until he is satisfied with his work. In a similar way, a photographer, during processing/editing, continues to edit the photograph until it satisfies him. May be he doesn't want to show the world a scene the way it looked in reality. Maybe he imagined it as something else. Photography is not just about reproducing reality. It is more about the reality inside the photographer's brain.

I guess it has more to do with the way human mind works. It tries to look for something 'real' in every art form it sees. For example, in a painting, one can always see people in the audience trying to find out what the different shapes are based on, trying to see the 'face' inside it, trying to see a woman's figure in it, or so on. That photography is based on reality makes it more difficult to defend. Subtle edits go unnoticed but obvious edits challenge the audience's perception. I guess it is the point of view of the audience that should change to accommodate for the photographer's freedom to edit. The audience should not look at a photograph from the point of view of a judge that wants to rate a photograph on how close it would look in reality.

I am perhaps digressing from the actual topic. The answer to the original question about why one should edit photographs is this- to make them look better. Simple as it may sound, this is almost certainly the best answer to the question. What other reason could be there to edit photographs? You edit photographs only because it did not turn out the way you wanted it. Instead of making it too subjective, here are some specific tips that you can use to know if you want to edit your photographs.

You want to enhance color, saturation, brightness, and contrast
You want to make an image black and white, and thus, make it look from another era or to remove the distraction caused by colors in the image
You want to remove unwanted things from the image, e.g. red-eye, dust spots, blemishes, or the background
You want to edit the way someone looks in a photograph
You want to change the color tone of an image
You want to color correct the image by removing a color cast
You want to crop the image or resize it
You want to remove noise from the image
You want to sharpen it, and reduce the blurriness in the photograph

Written by : Ritesh Saini, IIT Mumbai (India)

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Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )

Disclaimer: The suggestions in the article(wherever applicable) are for informational purposes only. They are not intended as medical or any other type of advice