I've been getting a bit more serious with my photography. These days, that means going digital. With the advent of digital SLR cameras, photography becomes way more versatile.
With this change has come increased digital editing and the thorny issue of distinguishing between cleaning up, enhancing, improving or manipulating an image. Any judgment of this depends on the purpose - and if deception is involved. Recently the Charlotte Observer sacked a photographer (Patrick Schneider) for digitally enhancing the background (sun in the sky) of a picture he took.
Because I also create photographs intended to convey what I actually saw, my emerging rule of thumb is: any changes should not take the image away from what the eye saw. Because, generally speaking, the camera takes a static image, the photo has a single exposure that has to suffice for the whole image. However, I can sit at my desk and look out the window and it appears to my constantly adjusting eyes that the darker room around me and the brighter scene outside are both clearly visible. In a photo, not so. If I want to reproduce what the eye sees, I will digitally lighten the interior so that it shows up in my picture. Apparently this is what the press photographer did for his picture and he got fired for it. If I had altered the picture at right so you could see the back of my chair as more than a silhouette, the Charlotte Observer would have found it unacceptable (as a news picture).
While I want my news "unmanipulated", I find the photographer's argument a strong one: recreate what the eye saw. The problem is, not knowing what his eye saw, where do you draw the line? Perhaps the solution will come pretty soon, as cameras increasingly learn to compensate for lighting differences like this. It will probably be more acceptable if the digital "manipulation" happens in the camera.