Photo editing – ethics?

I improved the color and contrast on one of the photos I entered in a recent quilt contest.  Do other quilters do the same?  My quilt photos had been looking washed out – dull colors, flat light, boring.  I’m not a trained photo editor, but even I can see some intriguing options in Microsoft Office Picture Manager – color, brightness and contrast, auto correct!  I increased the contrast, and slid one of the icons from side to side until my color looked more true to life.

But was I cheating?  I read a later post by another contestant lamenting that her photos didn’t look as good as the real project.  I thought about giving her a tip about using Picture Manager, but I’m trying to stop myself from telling others what to do.

Here are two photos.  One has been touched up, the other hasn’t.  It makes a big difference!

petals, edited

This photo has been enhanced, probably too much since the orange isn’t really that bright.

This is the original photo.

This is the original photo. Obviously not very good.

What do you think?  What do you do?  Do those who have access to technology have an unfair advantage?  Is photo editing the steroid of the quilting industry?  Am I making a mountain out of a mole-hill?

Let me know what you think.  In the meantime, I think I’ll keep enhancing my photos.  🙂


  1. I think enhancing the colors to look more realistic is fine… it’s when you photoshop a finished binding (when there is none) or edit stitches or other actual changes to the photo that I think it’s crossing a line.
    I’m happy to have found your blog! See you at the next meeting!

  2. Personally, I’d rather look at photos that are bright and inviting rather than dull and washed out however the final product is achieved. Most times, it is simply the lighting and place a photo is taken that can make or break it.

    A few years back, two gals in PMQG gave a great presentation on photography. It was very helpful. Check with Amber @ lifeincolor. They discussed time of day and location as well as many other choices we make in taking a photo.

  3. Hmmm. Is it any different than the advantage one has who owns proper photographic lighting equipment? Or who can pay to have professional photographs taken?

    More clear to me is that it would be unethical if the photo looked better than the real thing, if it were possible to do that.

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