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How Much Artistic License?

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  • How Much Artistic License?

    Ok, ethics question here...

    The scenario is that you're doing a restoration job for a client. How much artistic license do you take? And what reasons do you have for drawing the line at that particular place? What is fair game for changing, and what do you consider "sacred"?

    I've looked through most of the challenges at this point, and I always assume that I am treating the challenge as though it were a paying job. But I've noticed that there is a lot of variation in the amount of "changing the image" that different people practice, even sometimes to the point of bordering on "abstract". In a the challenge environment that seem appropriate since people may be working on different skills. But what about real life situations?

  • #2
    For the challenges it's easy to let your creativity and experimentation show a bit more than if it were a paying job. There have been situations where the damage was so extensive that I had to tell the the customer that there is no way I could replace what was missing and that a certain level of artistry would have to take place. At that point it is their choice to proceed. I have found that most customers actually understand and expect that. I also am a bit generous here in that if they really don't like it I won't push them to buy it. I've never had that happen.


    • #3
      I usually discuss any change I either foresee as necessary or that I think might enhance the picture with my client before making any changes. Like DJ said, some changes are out of necessity because there just isn't enough information to "restore."

      However, I recently had a client who had a photo taken with Tiger Woods at night with a flash. The composition was terrible in that Tiger's large SUV filled the photo with the people fairly small in comparison - and the camera focused on the SUV instead of the people, so the people were out of focus. I was asked to get rid of the red-eye, the reflection from the reflective tape on Tiger's jacket and crop it so that the people were more prominent. As it turned out, when I cropped it, the SUV seemed more of a distraction in the background than anything else (even after blurring.) I gave my client the option of putting in a different background, but he declined saying that the SUV was part of the whole "experience".

      So, I think it's always good to talk something over with a client. You never know if what you consider non-essential (to be cropped/blurred/painted/removed) is actually an important part of the photo from the client's perspective. I think this just goes along with being good at asking the right questions to understand what your client's goals are for the photo because regardless of what you think looks best, if the client has a very clear picture in his/her mind as to what the final result should be, you need to know that and also know if it's possible to achieve that (within a price that they're comfortable with.)



      • #4
        I think DJ had some good points. From the standpoint of ethics, I think you should always have an agreement with the client when things (in your opinion) should to be changed (historical artifacts should *never* be changed from the original). Jeanie also made an important point when she suggested that you can't be sure what is important to the client without discussing it.



        • #5
          J, there are several threads buried all the way back in the Work/Jobs section discussing this which might add to what has already been so sagely said...just go the last page there and work your way foreward.There should be some stuff there to help's a difficult decision and I would have to say a judgement call tempered with what your comfort level is. Alot depends on the photo type...Historically significent..absolute bare minimum is all I am comfortable with and will refuse to do work if too much "alteration" is requested. For snapshot type stuff..anything which is not immoral, hurtful or negative in context is acceptable to me. Now this is just my opinion, so dont take it too the threads, I think you will enjoy them. Good luck, Tom


          • #6
            There sadly seems to be no blanket answer to this question. Personaly I always try and be 'sensitive to the original', this is also a bit of a cop out but in essence, if I can make the retouch indistinguishable then I will consider changing major details and anomilies in the image, however if the image I am working on cannot be retouched without obvious signs of having been digitally worked on then I would rather leave it in a state that may not be what is considered 'complete'

            If this means that an image still has signs of wear and tear, then so be it. Of course the client needs cannot be ignored and are indeed paramount, but when heavy retouching and in drastic cases complete fabrication is needed to restore a photo, many of my clients would rather have a 'clean and enhanced' image rather than some frankenstein that I had to digitally create.


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