The Ethics of Photo Manipulation

Photo manipulation is a form of deception and can be percieved in some instances to be unethical. In this digital age how can you believe anything you see? Photoshop and other image editing programs are so readily available these days that it is easy for anyone with some technical skills to manipulate images and drastically change them. Now most of the time it is quite obvious for someone with a keen eye, but sometimes it is very subtle changes that you wouldn’t have even realised they are there. These changes change the perception of the image and this can have ethical consequences.

These manipulations can alter the reality of the information being conveyed.

This is a good example of what happens in the fashion industry so often. The severe manipulation only becomes aparent after watchin the entire process or comparing with the original image. In this instance the face of the model was severly retouched, creating a a fake perception of beauty. Most people would think this is unethical and deceiptful and could even be argued that things like this can have a negative effect on the audience like body image.

The so called airbrushing is a term used meaning to fix’ photographs, most of the time regarding retouching of models. The retoucher would get rid of ‘imperfections’ such as freckles, wrinkles, moles, whiten teeth, slim down models, get rid of unwanted bone structures by smoothing out sharp edges etc. These are just some of the things that are often retouched in the industry thus creating an unrealistic and unreachable appearance.

August 1989 TV Guide Cover

This is an example of Oprah’s head spliced on to Ann-Margret’s body without permission from either of them. The dress was later recognised by Ann-Margret’s fashion designer

This is not just a problem exclusive to the fashion and beauty industry, its something that has been happening since the begging of photography with examples going back through out history as far back as the 1860s only decades after the first photograph ever was taken by Nicéphore Niépce.


This is an iconic portrait image of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, it’s actually a composite of Lincoln’s head and the Southern politician John Calhoun’s body.

For more examples of photo manipulation through out history click here.


Jerry Lodriguss. (). The Ethics of Digital Manipulation. Available: Last accessed 10th March 2015.

Katie McKay. (2009). The Ethics of Photo Editing: What’s Right and Wrong In The News Media. Available: Last accessed 10th March 2015.

Fourandsix. (). Photo Tampering throughout History. Available: Last accessed 10th March 2015.

Eileen MacAvery Kane. (). photo manipulation. Available: Last accessed 10th March 2015.

OLIVIA FLEMING. (2012). Photo retoucher exposes how models REALLY get airbrushed… And why mascara ads are the biggest lie of all Read more: Available: Last accessed 10th March 2015.


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