Digital manipulation – What is and what isn’t


Digital manipulation – what is and what isn’t?

Beyond ethics, what can we really consider as acceptable nowadays?

Before we speak about manipulation let’s not forget pure and plain lies. Many photographers have been caught lying about location, context, subject manipulation on their photographs – beforehand this is about ethics, has nothing to do with digital post processing.

In spite of the natural grey area this issue implicates I believe that to make matters simpler and easier there is a perspective we must consider, as long as we are familiar with the analogue/film process.

Plenty of times I read or engage in conversations where it is affirmed that almost everything one can do with Photoshop or with any other imaging editing software is digital manipulation. Well, it is not. For those that have no idea of what is possible within the analogue realm it is hard to realise that plenty of what we can achieve with Photoshop nowadays was also achievable using film development and/or enlarging techniques during the film era.

Just a glimpse of what was possible with film development: using different chemical solutions, altering dilution ratios, changing temperature of the diluted chemicals, increasing or decreasing development time resulted in changes in the shadow and highlight areas of the negative. Furthermore, the fine silver halide particles “changed” when exposed to different chemical combinations/brands, the output changing accordingly. But, even prior to this step we could expose a film one or two EV’s below or above its nominal sensitivity (ISO) changing dynamic range and therefore the shadow/highlight relationship and rendering. We could compensate for this in the development stage or increase the desired effect changing recommended development times.

Once the negative was ready to be enlarged a whole new frontier opened up: more or less sharpness could be achieved changing the aperture in the enlarger’s lens, cropping, recomposing, correction of converging/diverging lines, enhancing shadow or highlight areas using masks or overexposing certain parts of the image. This was a very long process, trial and error, undo was not possible. I spent hours and hours of my life locked inside the darkroom experimenting, enhancing and fine tuning my images. I have to confess that we’ve gained a lot with the digital process, our life being much easier today. Undo is probably the best command the digital era invented.

Last but not the least, print development was the last frontier. And again, different papers combined with different chemicals, temperatures and timing provided exceptionally different results. Selenium toning was just one of the final touches available, changing a print’s colour and making the image more permanent by bonding selenium particles directly to the metallic silver in the emulsion. There were a few different toners usable to finish the prints, all of them providing dissimilar results. The output of fibre-based or resin coated papers was also substantially distinctive.


Ansel Adams book trilogy “The Camera”, “The Negative”, “The Print” is mandatory if you want to get to know (and learn) about the extraordinary potential of the analogue process. Ansel Adams was a master, second to none when it comes to exposure, development and printing techniques. “Manipulation” of the original image using analogue processes was absolutely mind blogging.

In my opinion, all that we could do to enhance and improve the original image back in those days was acceptable and therefore, my opinion again, acceptable nowadays within the digital medium. I do not consider digital manipulation everything that one can do to improve, enhance and potentiate the final result, starting from a RAW file (JPEG SOOC already have a considerable amount of manipulation/enhancement). I prefer to tag this process as “digital enhancement”, not manipulation. Jerry Uelsmann’s entire photographic carreer was based upon image manipulation using analogue techniques and his work demonstrates what was possible using analogue techniques to heavily manipulate one, or a set of photographs by creating a new reality, a completely new interpretation of a scene, clearly manipulated.

So before adding “digital” to this conversation I believe we must discern enhancement from manipulation. Putting this openly, Adams’ work is the epitome of enhancement and Uelsmann’s work is the embodiment of manipulation.

Of course, being unaware of the history, complexity and potential of the analogue process doesn’t help. Roots are always important, if not critical, for a better understanding of the present.

If you’re not adding or subtracting objects, subjects or any other items to the image or altering those that were present when the shutter was released I do not think you’ll be manipulating. If you’re using image editing software to crop, reframe, for perspective correction, to enhance shadows or recover highlights, to sharpen, to saturate or desaturate you’ll be enhancing the RAW file (the “negative”) and this is not manipulation.

John Gallo


Porto, many, many years ago… With a stunningly fast Canon EOS 1V-HS…


Porto, many, many years ago… With a stunningly fast Canon EOS 1V-HS… 10 fps…

Ainda mal se falava do digital, tínhamos slides, grandes lentes e grandes câmaras… e 36 fotogramas em cada rolo…

Produzida com uma Canon EOS 1V- HS… despachava um rolo de 36 fotogramas em 3,6 segundos…

Review aqui, para os nostálgicos:


Fisheye frenzy!


Voltaram a estar na moda, as velhinhas fisheye. Vulgarizadas nos anos sessenta, quem não se lembra da mais famosa de todas, a Nikon 6mm f2.8 Fisheye, a última das quais vendida por €150000,00 (não, não é erro, cento e cinquenta mil Euros) no Reino Unido. Apenas algumas foram produzidas e apenas por encomenda…




Hoje em dia as propostas são um pouco mais em conta: a excelente Olympus 8mm f1.8 para MFT, a já velhinha mas ainda actual Nikon 16mm f2.8 (já não é produzida tanto quanto apurei), a Canon 15mm f2.8, no que a focais fixas diz respeito.


A prova de que estão efectivamente na moda é o facto de Canon e Nikon terem apostado nos últimos anos em lentes zoom fisheye, a Nikon 8-15mm e a Canon 8-15mm (ambas muito, muito similares).


Usadas com algum critério são belíssimas ferramentas criativas, sem dúvida. Ficam aqui algumas imagens que fui produzindo ao longo dos últimos anos com lentes fisheye diversas, em cenários muito diferentes.


Have fun!…

Wim Wenders on his Polaroids – and why photography is now over (The Guardian)


Wim Wenders reckons he took more than 12,000 Polaroids between 1973 and 1983, when his career as a film-maker really took off, but only 3,500 remain. “The thing is,” he says, “you gave them away. You had the person in front of you, whose picture you had just taken, and it was like they had more right to it. The Polaroids helped with making the movies, but they were not an aim in themselves. They were disposable.”



Coordame “Mar Flat” wrist strap


Hand made in Portugal by Coordame, this is one of the finest wrist straps I’ve ever tried. It will have a place of its own alongside my X-E2s, replacing an industrial made, characterless, Joby.



Made of 8mm flat hollow cord – it naturally assumes a 13mm flat form factor, it is extremely lightweight and anti-perspirant – this one is military green, one of my favourite colours. The finishing is made of high-quality Portuguese leather and a small disc completes the set, which is a clever solution to prevent wear and tear around the camera hinge that supports the strap.


I used it for a week on an X-Pro2 with several different lenses, from the small, lightweight, 18mm f2 to the “massive” 50-140 f2.8 and I have to say that it was a real pleasure to use. The strap is made of a gentle, natural, pleasing material (non abrasive to your skin) and the leather made adjuster is easy to use.


Wrist straps from Coordame cost 18 Euros, shipping included to mainland Portugal, plus shipping if dispatched to a different country – a bargain given the quality of their products. If you’re looking for a trendy, high quality wrist strap, look no further – highly recommended! Of course, you can choose strap colour and stitching colour to suit your preferences – and packaging is retro styled, an absolute must.



Started in April 2016, Coordame Straps, is a small project that offers high quality fully handmade camera straps (wrist straps and neck straps) with add-on strap accessories. It’s an original fusion of Portuguese sailing and leather work history and the love for photography – “Coordame”, two words merged in just one “Cordame” – old word for rope/cord – and “Couro” – leather – each strap is made by hand from Portuguese leather, using high quality european cords.


According to Coordame, their straps and wrist straps are made with the users of mirrorless cameras in mind, such as: Fuji X Series, Olympus, Leica M, Sony’s, Pentax, rangefinders, point-and-shoot, although they state it is also possible to attach them to small-size DSLRs cameras.


For all inquiries about Coordame Straps please email:


Instagram: @coordamestraps

Facebook page: coordamestraps


All of Coordame Straps are handmade to order. Order processing time is within 4-6 business days unless otherwise noted (a notification will be emailed to the customer in case of an order delay). All payments by Bank transfer (Portugal) or PayPal (EU). Prices are in Euros (call to know).

Shipping Methods: Orders are shipped via the Portuguese Postal Service (CTT) in Registered Standard shipping method for both Portugal and international (Please allow between 9 to 15 business days to the rest of the world. Delivery times for all shipping methods are estimated).

Tracking number is provided for all orders (track your items on the Portuguese CTT website and after leaving Portugal, some countries Postal Service websites allow to track it inside the country).


All photographs Fujifilm X100T, one LED light source, Classic Chrome, ACR, Photoshop to taste.





‘The Impossible Project’ Documentary Tells the Story of Polaroid’s Rebirth

When Polaroid announced that it would stop making Polaroid instant film in February 2008, The Impossible Project was founded to keep the film alive. Filmmaker Jens Meurer has spent several years shooting a feature-length documentary film about the saving and reinventing of the Polaroid picture.


Mais aqui.


Long time, no see – Porto sentido, há vinte anos


A fotografia que todos fizemos quando passámos pelo Porto. Uma das cidades que mais me deu, onde mais gostei de viver. Esta imagem, com quase 20 anos, é a de um Porto que talvez já não exista, mas que certamente marcou várias gerações.

Fujifilm GA645 Professional, Kodak TMax 100 Professional – parece que há vinte anos tudo se intitulava “Professional”.

Para quem quiser saber um pouco mais acerca desta médio formato analógica, muito adaptada à street photography, já na altura, link abaixo.