For this I have prepared a black and white image that is not quite
finished. I have completed everything else except the removal of the sensor dust.
I I realise now that the dust correction is best done before adding grain to an image, I had to return to the image in Photoshop and use the history tool to go back to be sure I was looking at dust. The particle is on the top right hand corner of this crop from the image. I went back and used the spot healing brush to remove them. Sometimes I find it can be difficult to decide what is dust and what is from the actual scene, generally dust looks different though, the edges are softer. I have a photograph that I took in Iceland where, after processing into black and white, there are a lot of small white specs on the right hand edge. At first I could not decide what they were. However when I checked the photographs taken around the same time they were not present. It transpired they were birds in the far off distance. Dust is usually dark, also it only really shows up when you use a small aperture, in this case f 16. I have no ethical issues doing this kind of correction, even with the clone stamp.
Here is an example of flaring that I took deliberately. At the time I was interested to see how it could be used as a leading line.
I used content aware fill to remove the flare in the second example and I think its pretty convincing. One thing I find when I am doing this kind of alteration is that I find it hard not to see the blemishes in the repair but in this case I think its pretty convincing. Now the question of whether its ethical or not, I am not certain. I have carried out corrections on smaller areas than this and don’t see any problem with it. But on an area this size is out-and-out digital manipulation I guess.
Perhaps the photographers intention is the most important factor. Otherwise it could be said that repairing an old damaged photograph in Photoshop would be unethical, for instance when someone discovers a family photograph or a negative and has it repaired.
The other factor here is the amount of effort for very little gain. I mean I think that a little trouble taken at the time of capture to ensure you get a clean photo is a lot more efficient use of your time as a photographer.
Nowadays people tend to think that photo manipulation on this kind of scale is a new phenomena. Last summer, I was at the Rencontres Arles and I saw an exhibition by a Chinese artist called Zhang Dali, I think it was called second history where he showed the photographic manipulation carried out by the communist party during the time of Mao. Basically they did everything we do today with a graphics tablet and more using a scissors and glue.
“In this body of work, Beijing-based photographer, Zhang Dali, uses pairings of doctored archival photographs, that were published in various magazines, newspapers, posters, etc. during the Mao era, with un-doctored newly printed images made from the original negatives, discovered by the artists, showing how photography was used to improve the official public image.” from artnet.com