I’ve been mulling over this topic in my head for a few days now. You see, it started with a blog post over on Crafterminds called Blogger Confessions (and the two follow-up posts here and here), which seemed to outrage, frustrate, and disappoint a great number of people. While the shock and outrage at some of the confessions most certainly seemed appropriate, what puzzled me the most was the outrage over Photoshopped pictures. Here are the two “confessions” that fit into this category:
I’ve used Photoshop to finish “painting” a project when I ran out of spray paint and was on a deadline.
”I am not technically proficient in all my crafts, so I do a lot of Photoshopping to make them look nice. I’m pretty skilled, so I can do a good fake job without anyone noticing. I also fake a lot of my crafts; I don’t glue stuff down . . . I’ll just place it on top for a photo. No one has to know that I don’t actually finish the project!”
I admit, both of these confessions made me laugh. I most certainly didn’t see them as evidence of these bloggers being wicked, deceitful people. I really didn’t think anything of them at all until I started reading the comments (both on the blog, as well as on Facebook). But what struck me as interesting about the comments among those outraged over Photoshopped pictures is that each one seemed to have a different measuring stick by which they judged the point at which the blogger stepped over the line from “perfectly acceptable” to “deceitful liar”. For some, any Photoshopping at all should be fully disclosed to the readers. For others, correcting for lighting is acceptable, but anything more is “excessive”. And still for others, correcting for lighting, sharpness, and removing an annoying outlet is fine, but anything more crosses a line into dishonesty.
And that’s when it dawned on me…there are actually many people who would place me into the “dishonest” category, and classify me as a blogger who lacks integrity. Why? Because I Photoshop* EVERY.SINGLE.PICTURE.ON.MY.BLOG. I don’t think I’ve ever taken a picture directly from my picture card and put it directly onto my blog without first manipulating that picture in some way. EVER. Here are some examples…
I recently made a framed magnetic spice board for my kitchen. Here is the picture exactly as it came out of my camera (I only resized it because it was enormous):
And here is the above picture after I edited it…
What did I do? I cropped, lightened, brightened, increased the contrast, corrected the color, sharpened, and straightened the vertical lines of the frame.
Does this make me dishonest? I would certainly hope you don’t think that!
But wait…there’s more. One of the bloggers above confessed, “I don’t glue stuff down . . . I’ll just place it on top for a photo.”
If you gasped in horror at that confession, then let me also confess, I’ve done the same thing. Step #6 of this project says, “With everything assembled, it should look like this.” Here’s the photo I provide to demonstrate the assembled jar…
Guess what! Nothing in that photo is “assembled”. The lid isn’t glued together. The magnets aren’t glued down.
Is this dishonesty? Ummm…no. This was me mistakenly thinking that hot glue would work for this step, realizing that hot glue did NOT work, and then forgetting to purchase the right kind of adhesive during one of my 10 trips to Home Depot that day. But in my tutorial, I clearly explained the step and offered a photo as a visual guide for people like me who are visual learners.
And you know what? To this day, this framed magnetic spice rack is hanging on my wall, but I still haven’t taken the time to assemble the lids or glue on the magnets. Does that make my tutorial any less accurate or valuable for those wanting to create their own magnetic spice rack? I certainly don’t think so.
Let’s move on. I recently offered a tutorial on creating miniature pumpkin vases. My favorite was the one covered in Epsom salt. The picture out of my camera looked like this (again, I’ve only resized the picture below)…
And here’s the picture I presented on my blog…
What did I do? I lightened, brightened, color corrected, cropped, and sharpened. Also, there was a piece of Spanish moss in the foreground that was a different color from the rest, and I found it really distracting once the picture was zoomed in and cropped, so I copied and pasted another section of moss over it.
But wait…there’s more.
In my tutorial, I show how to cut down a small milk container to create the actual vase that will hold water. Here’s the picture…
But guess what! Only one of the five pumpkins actually had one of those in it. Once I did the one for the tutorial, I really didn’t feel like cutting four more, so I just carved out those other pumpkins and stuck the flowers right in…no carton, no water, nothin’.
Does this make my tutorial any less valuable or helpful for those who wish to make their own miniature pumpkin vases? I don’t think so.
I really could go on and on, because like I said, every single photo that I put on my blog (that belongs to me) is photoshopped in some way. And while most of it is what I would consider “standard” editing (for lighting, sharpness, etc.), there are other times when it’s definitely more. I’ve removed outlets, removed cords, combined two pictures to create one, removed ugly lights, etc.
I’ve also added an item to a photo (or more accurately, I’ve had my mom add an item to a photo). Are you shocked? Take a look at Julia’s kitchen. There’s one item in this photo that wasn’t in the actual kitchen when we took pictures.
As my mom and I were looking at the after photos, we both agreed that there was just something missing—one small touch that was needed. Because I didn’t want to make one more shopping trip just to purchase one more item, and then schedule a time with Julia to take more pictures, I just had my mom add the one item. Can you spot it?
More importantly, does this make me dishonest? Well, after the months and months I spent working with Julia and her contractor on this kitchen, selecting the finishes, colors, fabrics, etc., I would certainly hope that the addition of one decorative item in Photoshop wouldn’t completely ruin this remodel for you.
**FYI, Julia’s kitchen is the only room “after” picture that I’ve shared on my blog where I photoshopped an item into the picture that wasn’t present in the actual room. And if I ever choose to do that again on any future room makeovers, I’ll gladly disclose that info to you when I post the room reveal.**
The fact is, I rely heavily on Photoshop. While I mainly use it to correct where my photography skills are lacking, I can say that I certainly don’t limit my use of Photoshop to just the correction of lighting and cropping.
I can think of one specific time when I wanted to remove a client’s ceiling fan and replace it with a chandelier, but they wouldn’t budge with their ceiling fan. So in the “after” pictures, I had my mom (a total Photoshop pro) remove the ceiling fan and insert the chandelier. I never would have considered that “dishonest” because the chandelier was actually part of my design plan, and if I had my way, it would have been in the room. (I never shared this project on my blog.)
One of the most challenging Photoshop requests I’ve made of my mom was detailed on a post I wrote in February of 2010 called “My Little Photoshop Secret”. Interestingly, I asked her to do some major surgery on a “before” picture rather than an “after” picture.
You see, in my haste to get “before” pictures of our condo when we were handed the keys, I didn’t even take the time to clear out the previous occupants’ clutter from the kitchen, so the picture looked like this…
Well, in showing before and after pictures of my kitchen, I really wanted the changes made in all of the materials and surfaces of the actual kitchen to be the focus…not the clutter left by others. So I had my mom clear away the clutter for me so that the picture would show what the actual kitchen looked like before, without the distraction of detergent bottles and rusty pans.
In using this second picture as my “before” picture, not only will people not be distracted by all of the clutter, but it also gives a more accurate comparison of the “before” state of the actual kitchen as compared to the “after”.
The goal certainly was NOT to present my kitchen as spotless and clean when it’s not. Heck, if I wanted to portray that image of myself to you, then I certainly would never even dream of writing a post like this one.
Here’s another interesting Photoshop edit. This one is from John & Alice’s family room. Here’s the picture that I shared on my blog…
The truth is that this picture is actually a combination of two different pictures. Because we had trouble with the chandelier washing out the color of things around it, we took one picture with it on, and one picture with it off. Then my mom layered the photos, adjusted the transparency on the top layer to take away the harshness of the bulbs, then flattened it into one picture. From there, we each did some further editing: color correcting, sharpening, straightening vertical lines, etc. I also smoothed out a really distracting seam on the lampshade.
Here’s another one of the same room. This is the photo that was taken directly from the camera (only resized)…
And here is the photo as I presented it on my blog…
I lightened and brightened, increased the contrast, cropped, sharpened, corrected the curved walls, and straightened the vertical lines.
But there’s one more difference. One more thing that would not be considered “standard” editing. Can you spot it? And if you can, do you feel disappointed? Let down? Do you feel like I’m a fraud?
I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I certainly don’t mean to shake my finger in anyone’s face and demand that you be okay with this. If you’re not, then you’re not. But I certainly also don’t want someone pointing at me and labeling me a fraud, or a liar because I photoshop my pictures. And like I said, I photoshop every single picture on this blog in some way or another. Literally.
So what say you regarding the whole photoshop issue? Do you think bloggers should refrain from editing their pictures? Do you consider any undisclosed editing to be dishonest? Or do you expect it, knowing full well that images you see in shelter magazines (even those pictures of our favorite bloggers’ homes) have been completely staged, perfectly lighted, and fully edited, and we bloggers have to be able to do at least some of that as well in order to stay relevant?
Do you find yourself disappointed at the things I’ve shared above? Or did you just assume that I and other bloggers would edit our photos? Share your thoughts!
*I use the term “photoshop” as a verb, kind of like “google” is used as a verb. I actually don’t own Photoshop, and instead, I use Paint Shop Pro for all of my photo editing. When my mom edits photos for me, she uses Photoshop.