Flipping heck!

In her comment to my Bad weather,good photos post, Livia asks if it is " ... possible to get your fisherman on the left side."

Easy. Just flip horizontal in Photoshop (or similar).

But is it ethical?

And is it a better image?

I'm not sure. As, in our culture, we read from left to right I feel the photo is better with the man facing into the image from the left side. What do readers think?


DL NELSON said...

I like it unflipped, but it would be interesting to do a test between Arabic readers and western readers.

Ralf said...

What would be the worries about ethics here? Just flipping the image? You already manipulated the scene a lot more just by choosing the lens and the clipping etc.!
Maybe worries about ME flipping YOUR photos. I never hesitated to flip my own.

I am surprised, though, how much less I like this particular photo after the flipping. There's a sort of tension I feel when I look at it now.

Alistair Scott said...

Interesting comments. Thanks. Both DL and Ralf prefer the original. Are there any of my readers brought up on a language that reads right to left?

As for the ethics ... choosing a lens and clipping don't fundamentally alter an image. Flipping it does. For example, if there had been writing in the scene it would come out as gibberish.

This scene never existed. But does that matter? A lot of photographic images we see, especially nowadays, never existed.

Livia said...

Funny how I have never considered the ethics of fipping a photo. Yes, it's not "real" anymore, but who's to know or care? It's the final product that counts, as long as it's not a forgery passed off as authentic. I'm thinking back (a very long time ago!) to my darkroom days, and I believe it was possible even then to print a negative in reverse, or am I remembering incorrectly?

Alistair Scott said...

Yes, you could (and can still) print a negative in reverse. But the quality could suffer a teeny bit. The reason is because, with film, the light sensitive emulsion is on an clear base. When you print it the right way round you send the light through the film in the reverse direction to which it came in through the lens of the camera.

Film base > Emulsion(with image) > Printing Paper.

In other words, the image is closest to the printing paper.

When you do it backwards the light passes through the emulsion first and then through the clear base before it gets to the printing paper. That could cause a little loss of quality.

As for the ethics ... I don't think it's unethical. I just posed the question to get some responses. There may be some purists who think it is. I've been criticised for 'tweaking' the colours in a photo before now.

Anonymous said...


I too prefer the original (and I saw the flipped version first). This discussion reminds me of something I teach my students my students about in my course on public speaking: where to stand when using PowerPoint or Keynote. You can read an article about it here: http://wp.me/pwfa1-2n.

Sticking closer to photography, I always tell people that if they have a picture of a person on the screen and some text, to make sure that the image is "looking at" the text. Psychologists have found that if the person is the picture is looking away from the text, it is a bit harder for the audience to digest as we want to read the text on the one hand, but our eyes are drawn to the area where the person in the picture is looking.

A subtle, but interesting point to help make your next presentation that much crisper.



Alistair Scott said...

Thanks John. It's the same with book/magazine page layout too. Look at an images of people in printed material. I would lay good money that, without exception, they will all be looking into the page. That's why graphic designers, etc. will often flip a photograph.

However, with regard to photographic composition, this is a rule that can sometimes be broken to achieve an effect. Having someone looking out of a photograph can give it a wistful, or even slightly disturbing effect.