Photo editing, photo retouching, photo enhancement, photo manipulation – all of these terms are correct, depending on the objectives of the individual or group publishing the photos. The truth is, since Louis Jacques Daguerre developed the photographic process in 1836, photo editing has existing. There are proponents and opponents of it, the same as there in writing or music.
Some photographers believe all settings for focus, contrast, exposure and cropping should be done at the moment of capture. How that photo comes out is how it was meant to be.
Then there’s others who believe, as in writing or music, that it’s all about the editing. No, editing isn’t alchemy. You can’t make a shit photo into something award winning but great editing also can’t hurt it. Editing presets, or editing settings that are ‘pre-baked’ might not address every nuance in a photo, but if you pick the right one, they can certainly help.
Which leads me to Instagram. I think it’s a great tool. My brother, thinks it’s the equivalent of AutoTune in music. A cheap parlor trick. I say, we’re both right – it just depends on who’s using it. The more educated and experienced you are in a particular art, the more sensitive you are to it. When you’re educated you can tell Bad from Decent, and Decent from Great. No amount of editing can make an amateur photographer into a Diane Arbus or an amateur author into a Kurt Vonnegut.
For the inexperienced, Instagram can resolve 101 photography issues like contrast and color. What it can’t do is tell someone if their chosen crop is good or not. It also can’t tell someone they’ve picked a filter that doesn’t work with their photo.
Instagram, for instance, can never provide the level of detail in editing that Richard Avedon aimed for on his photos (via):
For me, Instagram gives me a way to quickly edit the photos on my iPhone with a effect I feel is appropriate for the shot and a crop that looks right. If the perfection accuracy of Avedon’s editing is 100%, then perhaps Instagram’s accuracy can range anywhere from 5-50% improvement over the original.
It’s a fun tool and I use it as such.