Photo Manipulation

Written by Charles Peacock
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For as long as photographs have been around people have experimented with photo manipulation. In the days before computers, photo manipulation had to be done by hand in a laboratory, and it required a very special set of skills. This didn't stop people from trying, however--there are many famous photographs from the 19th and 20th centuries that were actually the product of photo manipulation.

How Computers Revolutionized Photo Manipulation

In the old days, manipulating a photo usually meant cutting parts of one photograph out or perhaps combining it with another. One common example would be removing a person's body from one photograph and superimposing them in another photo. The problem with this type of manipulation was that the "cut lines" were usually easily detectable (even by the untrained eye) and things like shading and lighting couldn't be adjusted.

As soon as it was possible to digitize photographs, the traditional limits of photo manipulation were quickly destroyed. Digital photos can be zoomed in on and manipulated on a pixel-by-pixel basis. This means that literally everything can be changed about a photo: the lighting, the shadows and even the content.

This isn't to imply that digital photo manipulation has only insidious purposes. To the contrary, digital manipulation is a common way of just making photos more beautiful: colors can be brought up, borders can be perfectly cropped, and images can be combined to produce startling works of art. Photo manipulation hasn't changed the way we look at the world, but is has perhaps allowed us to appreciate it a bit more.

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