To spot edit or not to spot edit? That is the question.

Some are for, some are against. What's the Photocritic take on spot editing?

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For some people, making spot edits to photos–spot edits being localised adjustments to an image, for example smoothing away a pimple, rather than global edits such as contrast or sharpening–are a step too far when it comes to processing their photos. Others, however, will do whatever it takes to make a photo as beautiful as they can.

We've set out some of the arguments for and against, but we'd also like to know what you think!

The purists' approach

Photography purists will tell you that you should never spot-edit your photographs. As soon as you start to make these small adjustments, you begin to turn a photograph into something that isn't. It is no longer an accurate representation of a scene, but what you want it to be. And indeed, you might not have been doing your job properly in the first place.

If you’re having to remove a chocolate bar wrapper from the ground in one of your photographs, it means you made a mistake earlier on in the process: you should have picked it up before you took the photo (it should be in the bin, anyway). Similarly, if you’re removing a sign from a wall, or a blemish from someone’s skin, your photos are no longer photographs: they don’t show the world as it is, but rather what you, the photographer, have turned it into. It’s a slippery slope: if you remove anything from a photograph, it essentially makes you a liar. You don’t want to be a liar, do you?

The laissez-faire approach

At the other end of the spectrum are those who feel that making whatever edits are necessary to perfect a photo is entirely acceptable. Rather than a photo being an accurate representation of a moment, it's an artistic interpretation of a scene. The 'truth' can be damned: your goal is to create beautiful photos and you can use every tool in your arsenal. 

Landscapes and people look better when they have been retouched to look perfect, and the photos you’re taking aren’t the final result you’re going for at all. Photos are the raw materials; the starting points for further editing. If you have a photo with a beautiful sky, another with a beautiful foreground, and a third where your model’s arm looks a little bit better than in your original foreground, then so be it. 

Ultimately, the only thing that matters is the print that goes on the wall. You’re an artist, dammit, not an archivist! 

Somewhere in the middle

The Team Photocritic approach is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Sure, we'd prefer for our landscapes to be chocolate-bar-wrapper-free and our models to have perfect skin, but life isn't always like that. Sometimes the chocolate bar wrapper is on the far bank of a river and the model had a run-in with an overly enthusiastic puppy that morning; these things aren't permanent and on a different day, after the wind had blown and cells had regenerated, they wouldn't be there. So why do they need to be there in our photos? Freckles and fences, however, might be an edit too far. 

Something to remember

How you choose to edit your photos is entirely up to you. Although we're on the nosey side and would like to know what you think and how you go about it. Unless you're absolutely determined to see your photos featured in National Geographic, or are a photojournalist, then there's no need to be quite so stringent with your edits. If you want your images to grace the pages of Vogue, then maybe get to grips with some extreme editing. Give it all a try and see what you like. And sometimes, of course, it's horses for courses.