When Does Retouching Turn into Digital Art?

Since I picked up Photoshop Restoration and Retouching a while ago, I’ve been browsing the retouching forums lately. Something I’ve noticed myself getting a bit annoyed with them… seems 45% of what goes on in there is taking a normal and plain looking picture and inserting a new sky, huge moon, etc. The other 45% is going overkill on the latest-and-greatest effect action (search for lucisart or smudging to see what I mean about fads and overdoing it). The last 10% is what I consider “real” retouching, adjusting colors, taking away haze, reconstructing, etc.

The folks doing a lot of the major stuff where skys, moons (meen?) and whatnot are completely changed or inserted kinda bugs me. It takes huge talent to do that (sometimes anyway), and I give full kudos to them for that, but when someone posts a message saying “here are some vacation pics, how can I make them look better?”, and the suggestion or image created by way of reply is something that not only makes the image pop but also gives it a sky or view that wasn’t there to begin with, how “fair” is that. Do you want to be able to pull out photos of your trip in 10 years and see and remember how it actually was, or some fairy tale version of it?

I’m not saying that that sort of massive retouching isn’t valid or needed, just wondering at what point “retouching” should be called “digital art”?

One Comment on “When Does Retouching Turn into Digital Art?”

  1. Total agreement, esp the part about 10 years later, that’s when you want to see the real and not the art.
    I’d say the fun part is when you re-touch an old photo, not de-noise it, tedious but rewarding