Sunday, 10 April 2011

When is cheating really cheating?

When is cheating really cheating?  When is it just bending the rules?  When does it go from being clever to deceitful?  It’s a tricky one isn’t it…

I ask because the last few weeks have been making me think.  I’ve been part of a few discussions on the subject and it’s interesting how peoples views differ.


HDR image of the inside of the Natural History Museum.

Two comments got me think about this in relation to photography.  The first was made by the friend I visited the Natural History Museum with.  When he saw one of my photos he commented, ‘Wow that came out well didn’t it’.  My initial reaction, which I didn’t articulate, was why wouldn’t it!  Then later when Maytheweed was looking at a few shots she asked, ‘How many of these are HDR?’.  I replied all of them which didn’t seem to impress.  I immediately felt the need to justify and defend myself.

This got me thinking about the cheating it.  Is HDR cheating?  For those of you who don’t know HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and is the fairly loose term given to describe digital images that have been manipulated using something like Photoshop with the aim of allowing the scene to represent the range our eyes can see.


The original shot.

Normal photographs don’t show the same range of colours, light and dark etc as our eyes and brain can process.  So in the case of the images May was looking at I had taken a single image capture from my camera and manipulated it so that a greater range of light and dark can be seen.  The result resembles what I actually saw much more closely that way.


The single RAW image was used to create 5 more images with ‘different exposures’.  These were then combined again to create the HDR image at the to of the post.

So was that cheating?  I don’t think so.  I didn’t Photoshop things in or out… No one has suddenly lost 3 stone in weight due to airbrushing etc.  There is crucially no intent to deceive, just a desire to represent the scene how I perceived it.  I’m sure some will argue it’s not pure or some such, then point to black and white images by a master such as Ansel Adams.  Well I’m fairly sure that the world wasn’t black and white in his day, and I’m also fairly sure there will have been some darkroom techniques used to create those beautiful images.


  1. Actually I *was* impressed sorry if I didn't convey that - this is why MSN is bad... lol :P I think the HDR images are way cool and not cheating at all.

  2. No I don't think this is cheating (and I have quite an absolutist view on cheatig generally)- it seems to me your end result is more akin to what you would have painted rather than the artificial reduced contrast of a bare digital image