Exercise (4) The Manipulated Image

Instead of using double exposures or printing from double negatives we now have the technology available to us to make these changes in post-production, allowing for quite astonishing results.

Use digital software such as Photoshop to create a composite image which visually appears to be a documentary photograph but which could never actually be



I have to confess to finding this a particularly difficult exercise. In the context of the course I can see the value in its intention but I none the less Ifound it challenging.

Creating a manipulated image that ‘ could never actually be’  raises all sorts of ethical as well as creative questions and although Boothroyd (2015) suggests that:

‘….the use of digital manipulation doesn’t necessarily equate to a lie’

I none the less wonder where the boundaries of what is acceptable lies. I have already commented in two previous Context and Narrative blog posts that currently this is a very live debate given the controversy that photo journalist Steve McCurry finds hime self in regarding the alleged digital manipulation of some of his work. I

That saidI have had a go at the exercise within the time I have available but I recognise that my image is somewhat rudimentary as well as cliched! That said I did manage something!

To a large extent it was n’t ant sense of ethics that hindered me in this exercise. I found this hard because I have very limited Photoshop skills. I do use Photoshop, but my work never involves the full power of the programme. As a predominantly film based photographer I do genuinely attempt to create my images in the camera, I know many photographers will say this , but with my Hasselblad and Pentax medium format  cameras their controls are pretty basic by the standards of modern digital photographic equipment. Once I have made an image on film  I then develop it  and in most cases the scan my negatives or positives. The scanning process produces some artefacts and is still not quite a good as wet printing, so I use some minor correction in Lightroom to finish my work.

Dust is the enemy of the film scanner and in spite of canned air, blower brushes and a very clean scanner I still get dust on my scans. Although some of this can be removed with software I don’t like the effect this has so I with “ICE’ switched off I do all my dust removal using the cloning tool in photoshop. That is my main experience with that programme

So what did I do?

Well I pushed my boundaries and I selected something of a cliche in the approach I took to create my ‘hoax’ image. Using a well trodden path I produced I very rudimentary flying saucer image. The actual process to make the images went as follows:

Selection of a base image from my own catalogue of work- I chose a simple black and white image, I then searched and found a stock photo of an alien craft ( used in a Lollywood film). Next I used the lassoo tool to delineate and remove the stock image from its background, I feathered the edge a little to remove the harsh edge. I then created a version in a separate layer. This was then converted to mono and I made some highlight and shadow adjustments in an attempt to match the tones in the base image. In reality I just made it ‘less bad!’ I then combined to two to make the image below. Not quite front page quality but I feel it meets the brief, all be it in a very basically and i’m not expecting a call from the tabloids any time soon.

beach sally copy

What did I learn?

Well I pushed the boundaries if my Photoshop skills and I also gained some useful insight into what is involved in manipulating images beyond the sort of adjustment i make.

It also made me think hard  about Wendy McMurdos work. Although this work demonstrates the investigative nature , indeed the power of digitally manipulated images to reveal something we would not perhaps have noticed (I am referring to the intense concentration on the faces of children in her Young Musicians Series) , I am frankly struck by her patient expertise in the manipulation process its self!


Boothroyd, S. (2015) Context and Narrative, Open College of the Arts, Barnsley

Interview with Wendy Mc Murdo found at: https://photoparley.wordpress.com/category/wendy-mcmurdo/ (Accessed May 2016)


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