Altered Architecture Photos: How Far is Too Far?

Altered Architecture Photos: How Far is Too Far?

Photographers often Photoshop images to align with an architect’s vision. But how far can you push those alterations before you distort reality? We put one image to the test.

Due to the ubiquity of digital media, many people now experience the built world through images – not through physical buildings themselves. It’s a topic that writer Nicholas Hune-Brown explores in his essay True or False, featured in the March/April issue of Azure. Through a series of conversations with top international photographers and architects, Hune-Brown asks: how far can you alter a photograph before it become a false depiction of reality?

Of course, that’s an ethical question, and one with no easy answers. Some photographers argue that images should be edited to align with an architect’s vision – they shouldn’t be penalized for poor workmanship caused by budget cuts or inferior contractors. Or, by mandated street signage or lamp posts that inadvertently interfere with a building’s silhouette. Others say that editing photos is a slippery slope, and that as photographers, it’s their role to depict reality, flaws and all.

Virtually all professional-shot architectural photographs are tweaked to some degree during post-production. But how far can editing go before the images distort the truth? As an example, we’ve edited one copyright-free photo, of the Library and Learning Center in Vienna by Zaha Hadid Architects, breaking the image down step by step to see if there is a point where the alterations have clearly gone too far. Take a look and let us know what you think at [email protected].

 

1. The original, unaltered photo taken by Böhringer Friedrich

 

2. The photo, with guard rails and passersby removed

 

3. The photo, with guard rails, passersby and nearby buildings removed

 

4. The photo, with guard rails, passersby and nearby buildings removed, with a different sky.

 

What Photoshop edits were acceptable? Where do you draw the line? Send us your thoughts at [email protected].

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