This is one of those questions that can either spark controversy or very nuanced replies. This article will give a nuanced and faceted reply to the apparently simple question: is it bad to edit your photos?
What counts as an edit?
Let’s dive into what an edit is first. For me, an edit is any adaptation of your photo. However simple it is. This can be very simple cropping, adding brightness, changing the contrast, or enhancing the vibrance. Or all of those, for that matter.
Apps like Lightroom Mobile, VSCO, or even your native gallery app can edit your photos. So editing is often a reflex after taking a photo, rather than a separate part of photography.
When is editing your photos okay?
In my opinion, it’s almost always okay.
I am a full-time corporate photographer. It’s my job to make people and businesses look good. This, of course, requires editing. Going from cropping to making the composition perfect, changing colors and contrast to make the photo prettier, and even going deeper to get rid of bags under the eyes.
It’s all okay to do so, as that is my job at that moment.
But even outside of the world of corporate photography, it’s okay to edit. Take artistic photography, for example. With those photos, you want people to think, dream, enjoy, or experience something. You can do that straight out of the camera, but it’s also normal to go into Lightroom and edit those photos.
You can even go deep into photoshop and make photos that are just not realistic. At that moment, it is not your job to show things as they really are.
Even when you are showing the world as it is, it’s okay to edit. The question then is how far you can go with editing.
Let’s say you are covering a news story. You can edit to make the photo look a bit more appealing, but you can’t edit things in or away. The edits should be purely functional.
For example, in wildlife photography contests, it’s required to send in your original raw files too. This way, the jury can judge whether you have gone too far editing your photos or not.
When is it bad to edit your photos?
I don’t think there is ever a bad time to edit photos. Maybe in news coverage, when it’s all about the photo’s content, it’s best to shy away from doing any editing.
But in general, there is always room for an edit. The question should be: how far can I go with editing.
And the answer to that question is really depended on the photo and what you are trying to achieve with it.
I want to hear your opinion on this question: When is it bad to edit your photos? Let me know in the comments!