How far is too far?

Today’s blog post is of a controversial nature. The topic is not religion (as may be alluded by the image below), but that of the arguable subject of image post-processing. There are countless debates on many photography forums on what is considered going too far with image manipulation. What makes up a great image? Should images remain untouched as they come straight out of the camera, or is some retouching allowed to overcome camera limitations? If you can retouch, how far can you go? Where does one draw the line? Unfortunately I don’t have the answer to any of these questions and from my reading there is a diversity of opinions. It is fair to say however that the vast majority of images we see daily in printed media undergo a fair bit of manipulation.

During my photo-walk in Prague late last month, I passed by the statue of Jesus on the cross (formally known as the Crucifix and the Calvary), towering to the side of the Charles Bridge. I was really impressed by the size and craftsmanship, but being a sunny afternoon, I was disappointed by the deep blue sky in the background. Nevertheless, I proceeded to take a picture like countless tourists had done before me. Next day, the weather took a turn for the worse, so while on another walk in a different part of the city, I decided to turn my camera towards the sky and take a picture of the bold clouds. Having in mind the statue’s picture from the previous day, my aim was to take an underexposed picture (to emphasize the boldness) but framed in such a way, so that if I were to replace the blue sky with the cloudy one, a break in the clouds would roughly appear just above Jesus’ head.

The result of this simple Photoshop manipulation is the picture below. I took it one extra step to brush in a beam of light rays from a Photoshop brush set created by Gavin Hoey – one of my favourite photography tutors. So what do you guys think – have I gone too far?

Jesus - 1920c

Jesus on the cross – taken with my Canon 60D and Canon 24-70 F2.8L lens at ISO 100, F11, 1/100 sec.
Clouds – taken with my Canon 60D and Canon 24-70 F2.8L lens at ISO 400, F8.0, 1/2500 sec.


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