Does Nature Need Our [Photoshop] Help?

In his article “Nature Gets in the Way,” Thom Hogan asks the question that may or may not bother us: should we retouch a picture of an animal taken “in the wild?” His beautiful picture of the owl eagle has a lint in its eye and is therefore not “perfect.” While many of us won’t even think twice about cloning it out, he is of the opinion that doing so amounts to tampering with the “wildness” of the image.

Update June 10, 2011: Thom fooled everyone by refering to his picture as a “wild owl.” Turns out it was neither wild nor an owl. It is a captive eagle. The cheekiness! Oh, you clever Thom.

If you remember, we’ve had a couple of high profile contest winners demoted for this very reason: either setting up a photo scene and calling it wild or a slight retouching in photoshop was enough to invalidate the authenticity of the scene.

Read the article and view the image at: byThom. [You may have to search for the article “Nature Gets in the Way” if it has moved off the front page.]
As far as what I think about this question: I remember seeing a photoshop tutorial about cloning an eye so that a woman’s face may look perfectly symmetrical. The author was pretty proud of this technique, this tip about how to attain perfection since, as he admits in his video, no one has a perfectly symmetrical face in nature.

Granted, it was a great photoshop technique to learn and that technique could be useful in many situations. But would you really want your eye cloned so that your portrait looked perfect? No, don’t answer, since many of you already have your face (and other parts of your body) digitally altered starting as early as for your school yearbook photo (and who knows, maybe even earlier).

As for a wildlife picture, I know I would be pretty upset as a buyer if I found out that any part of it was digitally altered. Likewise, I would be furious (if I had paid good money for the picture) if a captive bird was represented as a wild owl. Thom? 😀