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Editing images

was Comparing photo boxes

Perhaps this is a question of definition, between “clarifying’ and
"manipulating”. Professional photographers have been “clarifying"
ever since photography was invented. I used to be a museum
photographer back in the pre-digital dark ages, and I promise you I
"clarified” away in the darkroom to insure the very best possible
image of each item in the museum’s collection! That is not cheating -
it is doing a good job.

Today you just do the same thing on your computer.

There is a HUGE difference between legitimately improving an image
in a professional way, and “cheating” by doing what has come to be
called “photoshopping” an image to make it appear to be something
other than what it is.

Correct editing includes correcting white balance, correcting any
color shift that occurred in filming, adjusting levels to correct
for the glare and reflection you get on jewelry, cropping for best
presentation - all an effort to showcase the piece in its best way.

“Photoshopping” is taking reality and adjusting it into something it
isn’t - hiding flaws, adding color that is not there, covering
scratches - that sort of thing. THAT is unethical.

Correctly editing an image is being professional, whether you are
doing it in an actual darkroom (I still have one, by the way) or on a

Beth Wicker
Three Cats and a Dog Design Studio

let me add one point here…how much it is ok to ‘fix’ an image in
photoshop depends on the ultimate use of the image. If you are doing
one of a kind pieces, where the jewelry piece itself is for sale,
then you should leave flaws in place etc. But if you are
photographing examples from a production line and the piece you
shoot has a flaw(bump, scratch, uneven color, flawed stone etc), then
there shouldn’t being a problem editing it to be a more ideal example
of the piece in question because it is representative, and not the
actual piece being sold.

Also, sometimes, in a production line, you could shoot one model,
and swap out stones in photoshop rather than shooting it several
times…again, this is IF the piece is representative and not the
actual item for sale. The same thing goes for general examples used
in ads, such as a magazine ad. It can be ‘cleaned up’ more if it’s
for a general ad for your line than if it is for “These items are for
sale and you will get exactly these items”. You should still strive
to make your actual items as close to the ideal as possible, but with
anything handmade/small production, there are always production


A little cleanup of the background or some shadows is one thing.

I find it very disturbing to open a magazine and see an add for
colored diamond jewelry with colored diamonds that are so saturated
with color that they look nothing like the real stones. I see this in
both trade and general interest magazines. I do feel that this is
false advertising. I’ve also observed this in colored gold photos as
well. The same goes for flaws in the mounting. If you can’t set a
stone without having a choppy bezel, uneven prongs, or leave file
marks in the metal don’t your customers deserve the truth?.

I feel that this is the responsibility of the artist and photo
editors to display what is real and to not encourage the readers to
expect something that doesn’t exist in this universe.

I don’t really care if it’s for a one of or a line. It’s just not
real. Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer

I feel the same Charles. I like to get my photos as near as I can to
what I want in the camera. It makes for less photoshop time which can
easily mushroom to become an all-consuming exercise. What touch up I
do…remove dust in the background, adjust the histogram if the photo
is too light or too dark. But I leave the piece itself alone.

Karen O’Brien

"Photoshopping" is taking reality and adjusting it into something
it isn't - hiding flaws, adding color that is not there, covering
scratches - that sort of thing. THAT is unethical. 

Beth, you raise an uncomfortable issue. Especially in my Etsy photos,
where items are pictured in a scale way larger than life, I find I
can live with correcting a few things- but only things that won’t be
seen or cared about in real life. I try to keep my prices there
pretty reasonable, and that doesn’t buy perfection. But in general I
don’t work at a finish level as high as most of you true benchies out
there. So, I’m guilty, but don’t feel any guilt.

Allan Mason

Here’s the dilemma I find myself in. It seems especially with stones,
and in particular close-ups of transparent stones, the camera picks
up absolutely everything in or on the stone and then amplifies it. So
that what barely appears to the naked eye in a small stone becomes a
huge blemish in a much magnified and flattened image. Because the
camera also flattens the stone so whereas there might be small
inclusions scattered at various depths in the stone they are all
greatly enhanced, concentrated and enlarged in the photo. For that
reason, I try and make the photo look like the stone, but not always
successfully of course.

Even so it is very very difficult to make a stone look like the
actual in a photo. The upshot is I’m trying to make the stone as
close to the real thing as I can but that can take quite a lot of

Do others have this problem and how do you deal with it?

Derek Levin

Editing images for jury slides in Photoshop is definitely a no-no. I
get rid of dust & lighting corrections for website or print work,
but a jury image should be sacred. How else can a juror make a fair
assessment of your work if it is doctored?

I just had this conversation with one of my students. I’ve been in
the craft biz since 1973. Is it live or is it fixed? Be a better
jeweler is the correct answer.

Ruthie Cohen

Editing slides for juries in Photoshop is a no-no. 

Ruthie, I have to respectfully but very strongly disagree.

Are you aware that any digital camera actually does a considerable
amount of editing to the image before you even get to see it? It
processes the RAW image for contrast, color, image size and a host of
other parameters. That’s why the same image made with two different
cameras does not look the same…each manufacturer inserts their own
image-processing algorithm, so, like it or not, your image has been
edited by the camera! Anyone who bothers to read the manual will
learn you can modify these in-camera parameters to suit your own
taste…but it IS editing. The only way to avoid this is to use the
original RAW image and post-process it yourself (edit it). BY its
digital nature, a RAW file is not very sharp and lacks proper
tonality and contrast.

Editing is an integral and important step in the processing of a
digital image. The workflow begins when the shutter is pressed. After
that the image is processed with in-camera algorithms specific to the
manufacturer and the settings YOU control in the camera menu. Then
the image must be downloaded to your computer where it is most
properly edited for correct color rendition, contrast, size and
sharpness. The goal is (in the opinion of many) to have the image
match as closely as possible the original subject.

FYI, most juried slides have a background that is digitally created
and the subject placed on it. This is not done as a deception, but to
create a consistency within the group of images. Also, it is much
easier to photograph the image properly, extract it from its
background, then place it on a background of the client’s choice.
Proper background can make or break an image.

Yes, it is possible to “lie” with post-processing; it’s even
possible to generate a completely false image, but what would be the

As a professional photographer of more than 40 years standing, I can
assure you that “editing” of a digital image is an essential and
proper part of the digital workflow, just as adjusting chemistry and
using printing filters was a part of the non-digital photographic
workflow when making paper prints.

Wayne Emery

FYI, most juried slides have a background that is digitally
created and the subject placed on it. 

Really? The last 3 or 4 exhibitions that I have juried–for SNAG,
various guilds and institutions did not, to, my eyes have any sort of
consistent background.

May I ask where you come by this

Take care, Andy

Really? The last 3 or 4 exhibitions that I have juried--for SNAG,
various guilds and institutions did not, to, my eyes have any sort
of consistent background. 

Not only that, but back when I learned photography of this sort in
grad school, basic methods of using a lightbox and selection of
background materials made producing a diffuse, color graduated or
shadow graduated background easy. Done right, such backgrounds are
out of focus, so they contain only the even or color graduated or
grey to white graduated (or whatever) background, with the jewelry
item appearing to float above it. Looks great, and does not require
any digital manipulation to produce. The basic method is to use matte
finish transluscent mylar drafting film supported or hanging a bit
over a paper background which can be either single color or graduated
(common is graduated from black to white, which produces the
appearance of depth with shadow in the back, light color in front
underneath.) The jewelry is supported a bit over the mylar (a wire
support, placed so it’s behind the jewelry, or hang it from fine
fishline with a vertical background) to put the mylar surface itself
out of focus. That doesn’t take much, since it has almost no texture
to focus on. Mainly, you get it out of focus so stray bits of dust
don’t show up.

There are a number of variations on this theme. Once you learn it,
it’s quicker than bothering to photoshop the images, plus it works
just as well with actual (gasp) slide film (for those of us dinosours
who still like to use it…)

Peter Rowe

Hi Andy,

If the photo guy was any good, you wouldn’t have been able to spot
it. It’ll only be obviously “the same” if somebody made that decision

Speaking as somebody who’s been retouching jewelry photos for ?15?
years, a great majority had the background erased and replaced
digitially. It’s just easier. You have to outline the work anyway,
why fuss with cleaning up the background when you can just re-build
it wholesale? The only reason I ever leave the “real” background in
is when I’m shooting on a mirrored surface, and the reflections both
matter, and are different than the “straight ahead” primary view.


Wayne, I believe you missed my point. I was discussing the actual
object IN the image or shot; not the entire shot. I’ve had my jury
images professionally done by respected photographers in the biz for
28 years so I know what to expect. Yes, of course the digital camera
does its job and also the photographer who makes the image pop with
his digital magic. However, it is important that an object submitted
for jurying be as true to itself as the day it was created.
Otherwise, entry into juried arenas will only depend on the skill of
the person manipulating an image. Remember the commercial, “Is it
live or is it Memorex?” That is what I have a problem with - not how
well Photoshop or other editing programs are utilized to create a
uniform background.


Brian, I was responding to the poster’s assertion that backgrounds
for jurying have been tweaked so that they are consistent. When I
have juried a show, exhibition, etc. the backgrounds varied widely,
even among images submitted by a particular entrant.

I rarely, if ever, alter the background on one of my images from the
one shot. Spotted and cleaned up, sure, but not substituted.

Take care, Andy