This is an ongoing debate amongst the digicam vs film crowds.
And it will rage on forever and ever, perhaps until neither film nor digital exist, taken over by some hitherto unheard of medium.
But in my mind, the gist is this. Manipulation, be it during printing a negative in the darkroom, or via software such as Photoshop can only be called manipulation if the original shot contained something, maybe an object, but which for aesthetic reasons, was taken out and is not present in the final result….that is manipulation.
Or if for example we shot a sunset, and the camera lens caught he sun at the wrong angle, or we failed to use a lens hood, which caused flare in the shot….if we then went on to remove that flare, either by darkroom printing techniques or by software, that again is manipulation.
It is wrong for us to say that photography since day one has been all about manipulation; it has not.
Likewise, if I need to get a spectacular shot, I always try and get it by adding something at the taking end, ie a filter, lens hood etc etc.
Or I try to get a better angle to the shot, I move around till I’m satisfied before clicking the silver button. That way I know when I get my negative in my hand, or in my enlarger, there will be zilch need to do any manipulation….I did everything at the taking time!
So where do things like “burning-in” etc which film users have done for years come in? Well, burning in is a kind of manipulation, there’s no doubt about it, and it’s just the same as a digicam user increasing the contrast or brightness in a particular place of his shot….both are manipulation.
What film users call cheating is when digital shots are enhanced to such a degree, that the result looks nothing like the real shot. Likewise, if I sought to remove a lamp-post in one of my shots by burning-in, that too would be cheating, because that lamp-post is there in real life, but by removing it we are showing something that is not there. Whatever happened to that maxim “the camera never lies”?
Cropping is not cheating. Cropping is done by both digicam users as well as film users. It is done, not to change anything and create something that was not there….it’s done to concentrate the eye of the observer on the main subject in the picture, whatever that may be.
That is my view only….I know there will be millions of others, and they’re of course all welcome to their views, too.
Subject closed. Let’s get down to photography instead of arguing!