Through doing automotive photography professionally over the past four years I've spent countless hours "Photoshopping-out" distractions from my images. Advertorial photography asks for a very clean image, directing all attention to the product. It's not only more aesthetically pleasing, but it's also a more effective way of telling the story. Editing this way has changed the way I see when shooting and has carried over to some of my person work.
The images below are from a weekend basketball game in Venice Beach. I've attached the frames from before and after editing to show what was real vs the final images.
Editing life this way gives me great pause because it's not necessarily honest. Traditionally, this style of photography has to be honest. It's supposed to depict a moment in time that actually happened. I really do believe in that. If reportage photography didn't have integrity then history could be altered way too easily. Famous photos are timeless, but if they're changed in photoshop they lose the integrity required to be revered. On the other hand, I do believe that photography is, in it's purest form, a function of storytelling. And I think that it's okay to embellish stories... In fact, I think embellishing stories can be a beautiful art form. It takes extraordinary creativity to ad-lib and exaggerate with such certainty as all great storytellers do. So this creates a definitive line between photographic integrity and storytelling. And I think that line is drawn with morality. If it feels okay to embellish then be creative and tell the story you want to tell, but if it goes against the grain then have the integrity to depict it honestly. That sacrifice is always noticed – there's equal beauty to an honest photograph as there is to one developed beautifully in the creators mind.
In the instance of the images below, I was so focussed on the basketball players, and the hoop, and the ball, and the relation they all shared in the frame that I didn't notice the building, or the bird, or the distracting palm trees. Photoshopping these distractions out later was a natural progression because it's as if they weren't there in the first place.
I don't think there's a good answer. And rather than prying for one, I'll enjoying watching this paradox play throughout my photographic career.