Ethics about replacing the sky in your photos?

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I see no argument; I see only considerations. It's a given that each of us gets to decide for ourselves when and why to disclose particular details about our images. We've already seen in the thread that there is a wide variety of thought about that. My takeaway is that we all will draw the line at one of the two extremes or somewhere in between, so it's well worth at least to me to consider everyone's thinking about that.
No disagreement here....but if I've seen this discussion once, I've seen it probably 500 times and while this discussion is civil now, I've seen it turn on a dime far too many times.
The horse is dead! LOL
 
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There are shows that I enter that allow no manipulation. Only global corrections like mild changes in color balance and dust spotting. I enjoy the challange- sometimes.
Otherwise I think anything goes.
If someone asks, I always answer truthfully.
But, for the most part no one cares. They either like the art or they don't.
If the discussion is about the post processing, the image itself is likely not strong enough.
I have added a moon here and there, but I have never successfully replaced a sky. I have tried, but I am not skilled enough to have it look right-even using the newer apps.
Gary
 
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I think it depends on what you are trying to accomplish, and what is implicit in your posting of the photo with the replaced sky.

If the photo purports to be documentary, then sky replacement should be noted, and perhaps shouldn't be done at all. If the photo is posted for critique, then the sky replacement should be noted if the sky is an important element of the photo. If the photo is posted casually without seeking criticism, then perhaps the replacement need not be noted, consistent with ethics.

But there is obviously a continuum or multiplicity of conceivable situations, and not everyone would draw the line in the same place. Personally, I would err on the side of tolerance for other people's judgment on the ethical issue, and for most situations I would forbear from imposing my own feelings. But at the same time, there could be extreme situations where I would feel that an unacknowledged sky replacement would stray into plagiarism.

That said, while I don't scruple to enhance my photos with post-processing software, and in particular I try, not always successfully, to extract some detail and drama from ugly skies, I personally would never actually replace a sky. That's just not my kind of photography, without being judgmental of others. With the exception of Silver Efex Pro, I don't use presets, either. But that's just me.
 
When I shoot a photo and then later take it into post-processing, although I may do something like cropping it, or boosting contrast, cloning out an unwanted small bit, or converting from color to B&W, that's about the extent of my modifications, unless I decide to go all out and get silly with some kind of weird filter, in which case that is perfectly obvious to any viewer of the image. I am not a fan of composite images nor am I a fan of HDR, which can unfortunately result in images which are to my eyes "overcooked," and I am definitely not a fan of swapping out skies or people or backgrounds. If there's a stray piece of paper lying on the ground in an image I've shot, sure, I'll whisk that away with the "erase" or "healing" tool, but that's the extent of it. If there is a person at the far side or very background of an image and I don't want him or her there, I'll also crop or clone that unwanted element out, too, in order to present a "cleaner" image overall.

To me that is far different from deliberately veering away from the genuine reality of a scene by swapping out the actual sky that was there, or adding in elements which weren't there in the first place.....To me that is no longer photography, it is more in the category of "digital art." That's fine, as long as it is so labeled and acknowledged by the person presenting the image. Unfortunately, not everyone is that honest.
 
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swapping out the actual sky that was there, or adding in elements which weren't there in the first place.....To me that is no longer photography, it is more in the category of "digital art." That's fine, as long as it is so labeled and acknowledged by the person presenting the image. Unfortunately, not everyone is that honest.
I don't believe it's necessarily a question of honesty; it might just be a different sense of values that has nothing to do with honesty. I could give a lot of examples but in the end it would always come down to where you and others who believe differently from you simply draw the line as to what you believe photography is and what it is not. Those who believe differently from you about what photography is are not necessarily dishonest.
 
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I suppose then the corollary to this question is, how ethical is it to remove unwanted objects ( that are not the caused by the camera eg dust spots) , like people, telephone wires, etc from an image as it takes away from the "realism" of the scene. If what you see is what you should present, is there a difference between adding or subtracting. Personally I don't have a problem with either
 
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is there a difference between adding or subtracting.
The interesting detail about replacing anything such as a sky is that when we do so we both add and subtract. Moreover, as mentioned before, we might be using someone else's photo of the sky to be added. And when we make a replacement, are we obliged to mention that we made it?
 
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I guess my opposition to gross manipulations like replacing a sky relates to my lifetime profession in science and engineering, writing scientific and technical papers for publication and critical reading of such papers in the scientific literature. In my field, the most important attribute is brutal attention to honesty and correctness.

My PhD advisor required that every paper written by any grad student in his group be read by every other student and the mathematics checked in detail. And the final copy of a paper must be read both backwards and forwards, because sometimes reading the normal way, your mind creates the words you expect to read when they are not there.

That experience creates a mindset that can't tolerate dishonesty or imprecision of any stripe.

Now I recognize that art is an entirely different discipline where a pleasing final result is what matters most. And photography sits at the intersection of art with science and technology, so there is room for manipulation to create a pleasing result. But please tell me that you have done that if you make gross changes.

What would Ansel do?
 
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What would Ansel do?
He famously changed plain bright skies to very dark skies, which in my mind is tantamount to replacing one sky with another sky. He explained that he did so using a red filter, specifically Wratten #29, when he made Monolith, The Face of Half Dome. He also explained that he used a yellow filter, specifically "a strong orange filter, a Zeiss optically flat filter mnade for the Zeiss Hasselblad lenses" when he made Moon and Half Dome.
 
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He famously changed plain bright skies to very dark skies, which in my mind is tantamount to replacing one sky with another sky.
Not to me. He simply chose filters to emphasize certain features of the scene.

But the question is, if he had had access to the tools we have now and could make wholesale sky replacements, would he have used them? We can only speculate, but I think he would have considered that dishonest.
 

NCV

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I would never be be happy with a picture, if I made a picture with a swapped in sky as a documentary photo, self expression or "art". For me it is no longer photography.

I would be fine with it, if it was a shot put on my work web page as advertising material where the importance is to have a striking image.

I would add that a good eye for shadow detail can probably tell when a sky has been dropped into a shot as the lighting angles will usually be different.
 
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^^Thank you for forcing/enabling this provocative discussion. I was just thinking about this in musical terms—Imagine the Back-40 Symphony Orchestra playing a famous piece, but half the instruments are replaced by recordings of NY Symphony musicians.
 

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