Photo Magic!

Personal Photography

So, time to write a new blog post and this time… something more photography related! Of course, it’s normal to want to write about myself, especially since so much has been happening this year, but it’s also nice to attract other audiences!

Today’s subject is Photo Magic… or rather, photo manipulation. I know that I touched upon editing in one of my other posts (here)! But this time I wanted to talk a bit more about photo manipulation, rather than editing… and to me, these are two very different things.

Editing vs Manipulation

Some will argue that they are the one of the same, however, most professionals will tell you that editing involves adjusting an image and making minor corrections to levels or even spot healing. Whereas, manipulation will be things like completely altering a background, adding or removing elements from a photograph entirely or even merging multiple photos together and creating special effects.

Some of these effects can be done in the camera and in fact, photo manipulation has been going on a long time before Photoshop and other editing tools were even thought of! The one person that really showcases this is an American Photographer named Jerry Uelsmann. Born in 1934, his interest in photography kicked off at the age of 14 and he believed, “that through photography, he could exist outside of himself, to live in a world captured through the lens.” – Wikipedia

For me, this guy set the stage for photo manipulation by producing composite photographs (multiple photos combined) and spending hours if not days in the darkroom to achieve his results. Here are just some of them:

These images can actually be purchased from here.

So back to the subject of editing vs manipulation. The fact is, even Wikipedia has two separate articles for Manipulation and Editing, not that Wikipedia is 100% accurate, as it’s a user contributed website, but I think we can all safely say that we use it on a weekly basis, if not even more, to get answers for things that we want to know.

Do I manipulate my photos?

Well, that question is simple to answer. Rarely. There are occasions where you just need to add something that’s missing.. it can be the difference between a great photo / image or something that just falls into the ‘normal’ range. However, I do manipulate photos that I use for advertising and self-promotion. I’ll show you the example below as these are usually both edited and manipulated in order to achieve the result.

Let’s take my latest selfie!.. I took this photo in the studio and in less than 15 minutes! Therefore, a bit of work was needed and I didn’t factor in the end result. I just needed something quick and simple for the new website and also a profile photo.

Aaron Roberts - Studio Selfie


After a few shots, it ended up looking like this:

However, this photo would not be any use for the website background as people don’t have portrait oriented screens, they’re horizontal and for this photo to display correctly on the website, it would need to be stretched horizontally or taken horizontally. Due to the fact I don’t have a huge studio space and the entire shot was taken quickly, I decided to simply add extra black into the photo by using Photoshop.

This is what I would consider manipulation. Instead of simply changing levels or removing an object from the photo, I added extra space around the photo to create a “larger canvas” for me to stand against.

Extended Background

After this, I still felt as though it needed more! The flash just didn’t look decent black against a black background…. this is what I was talking about when I said sometimes there’s just something missing. Sure, I could have triggered the photo using the flash and performed a long exposure to capture the real flash, and should I have had more time, I would have done this. But in this case, it was a lot easier to just add a flash in Photoshop using some brushes and now the end result is MUCH better than the original.

Aaron Roberts Photographer - Manipulated Photo

The final result looks great on the site and just adds more action to what was originally a basic, self-portrait on a black background!

So is image manipulation bad?

I still think that manipulating a photo to create art or a perfect result is fine, just as long as you don’t try and pass it off as an unmanipulated photo! There are plenty of people who manipulate their photos and pretend that this is exactly what they seen or captured on the day. The problem with this, is the fact that sometimes a photographer captures a truly remarkable photo, which on first glance seems impossible to be the real thing, and it’s very hard to prove that something is true or it isn’t, which can lead to damaged reputations or loss of credibility.

A perfect example would be some of the photos of the recent supermoon!

supermoon - Photo Magic!

Image from

Now, we all know that the moon isn’t really that big or close to earth, despite the fact that this year, it was the closest it’s been since January 1948, but when it’s low in the horizon, visual illusions make the moon look significantly larger and some may insist that the photo is edited or manipulated, when in fact, this is the same scale as it would have appeared with the naked eye!

So, whether you photo magic manipulation, editing or just damn good photography, it’s all designed to inspire and entertain you. Don’t lose sight of this and enjoy the results, whatever the process.

Thanks for reading!