How much photo retouching is acceptable?

Phormium ‘Maori Chief’ with Wisteria and Leucospermum – interpretation

This is a question I consider every time I work on my photos on the computer in the post production process.  I hereby confess that I will sometimes change the photo to show what I thought I saw, rather than what the camera actually saw.

Years ago I started a series on the blog Gardening Gone Wild called “The Camera Always Lies“. I tried to make the point that every photographer makes the decision on what photo to take, how to crop it, and what to show to others. This whole process is a “lie” in order for the photographer to tell story that he or she wants to tell.

I saw this Phormium under a wisteria vine, tucked in Diana’s garden behind Leucospermum ‘Scarlet Ribbon’.  What did the camera see?

Before and After Slider


What do you think? Was it okay to take out a few of those blemishes – the dead branch, the leafspot ?

And what about the opening photo with a Topaz art filter? It’s how I felt, but not exactly a realistic photo to appear in a garden magazine.

Oh well, this is not a garden magazine.