Is Using Lightroom Cheating?

Someone told me today that they thought using Lightroom to adjust and alter photos was cheating. I’m not sure that I can agree with that philosophy.

An artist uses all the tools that are available to him or her to create their vision.  Just because the tools have changed doesn’t mean the work is no less artistic. Dodge and burn tools aren’t just Photoshop tools; they were used in the darkroom to enhance a print.

NO-20090126-0363-Edit If you consider editing an image cheating, how do you not cheat? Images adjustments start in the camera, with settings for sharpness, white balance and more. If I shoot an image on a sunny day using Tungsten white balance, it’s not going to look anything like the original scene. Is that cheating?

And if you shoot RAW, you have to choice but to make decisions about processing the image. Lightroom is one of the tools that can help you make your images look their best.

I don’t dispute the idea that news and documentary photographers should not change what they capture in their images. But for everyone else – amateur, artist, portrait photographer or whatever – you should do whatever you can to make your photographs reflect your artistic vision.

The image above was taken on a dull and dreary day in early afternoon. The light sucked, to put it kindly. But I used the tools available to me (Lightroom) and created something I’m proud to post on my website.

These tools don’t give you the excuse to be a lazy photographer, though. If you start with a good image, you’ll end up with a better one. If you start with a bad image, it’s not going to get much better. There is no “un-suck” filter in Photoshop.

Every image I create – without fail – is touched in some way by image editing software. Some may only be to crop or sharpen, but I edit every single image I post or sell. This includes the thousands of theatre images I create each year.

Am I cheating? Or am I creating art?