My Photo Editing “Code of Ethics”

by Scott Kelby  |  15 Comments


A couple of weeks ago, RC, Corey, Matt and I were sitting around talking about photography, as we basked in the afterglow of a triumphant Bucs win (which sadly we did not enjoy yesterday after our one-point loss to the Jaguars). Anyway, we wound up discussing what we feel comfortable doing to our photos, and the more we talked, the more it became clear that each of us has our own personal “Photoshop Moral Code” or our own “Photo Editing Code of Ethics.”

Basically, since none of the four of us are photo journalists, I guess we each keep an internal list of what we will or won’t do to a photo, and still be able to sleep at night. Now, as a “Photoshop Guy” you’d probably think that since I know how to do a lot of things in Photoshop, that I’d want to. But if you’ve been reading this blog for any time now, you know that my goal is to do as much “right” in the camera as possible, and use my time in Adobe Photoshop for finishing my photos, and not “fixing” them. That being said, here’s a short list of my internal guidelines; my own personal “Photo Editing Code of Ethics” for what I will or won’t do to one of my photos.

  • (1) This may sound silly, but I absolutely hate cropping in Photoshop, and go out of my way to avoid it. I want to do my composing in the camera, so if I wind up having to crop later in Photoshop, I feel like I didn’t “Get it right in the camera,” and it drives me nuts.
  • (2) I have no qualms whatsoever with removing any distracting element in my photo. So, if there’s a distracting telephone wire, or a sign, or a piece of trash on my beach photo—it’s gone. No questions asked.
  • (3) Although I don’t think twice about removing an object from a photo, I don’t like to add anything to a photo that wasn’t there when I took the photo. In fact, I hate it. For example, even though I know how to replace a bad sky in my photo, with a sky from a different photo, I have to be really, really, really desperate to do so, and I can count on one hand the times I’ve done it. The reason I hate it is; personally I know “I cheated,” and I’ll never look at that photo the same way again.
  • (4) Although I don’t want to add anything to a photo, I have no problem whatsoever with duplicating something in my photo. For example, if I take a photo of a child standing in a pumpkin patch, and there’s a empty spot to the child’s right, I’ll clone one of the other pumpkins in the photo over that empty spot to fill in the gap. My personal Photoshop moral code says; “If it’s already in the photo, it’s OK to have more of it in the photo.”
  • (5) I feel like I should make the final image look as good as it did when I took it, but if it winds up looking a little better than the original, or a lot better than the original, I’m fine with it. In fact, I’m happy with that. So, if the grass wasn’t as green as I remember it (or I would like it), it suddenly becomes greener. If the sky was kind of gray that day, it won’t be when you see my final image.
  • (6) I think nothing of: double-processing my images (exposing one version for the foreground, one for the sky, and combining them in Photoshop), or making creative choices with White Balance after the fact, that might turn a dusk photo in a dawn look. I also don’t think twice about creating a “look” using Photoshop, but I don’t like to use effects filters. I know, I’m weird that way.
  • (7) When it comes to retouching people, I have a simple guideline: Make them look as good in print—a medium where each and every flaw will be magnified—as they do when I met them in person, and if need be, I’ll use each and every Photoshop retouching trick I know to reach that goal. In fact, if it’s a portrait or headshot of me that needs retouching, I will actually hire teams of people, working in round-the-clock shifts, using large mainframe computers, with the mandate that they continue retouching my portrait until I look at least somewhat like George Clooney. Clearly, these teams are still at work.

Here’s perhaps a weirder thing; my Photoshop code-of-ethics only applies to photos I’ve taken myself. If it’s someone else’s photo, and they ask me to edit it in Photoshop, then all bets are off, and anything goes. I’ll use anything, and everything in my bag of tricks to make their photo look the way they want it to, so I definitely have a double-standard.

Now, there are two things I need to clarify: (1) I am not in any way trying to impose, or convince you that these should be your code of editing ethics. That is totally a personal decision, and you have to decide what you feel you’re comfortable with, so I was just sharing—not dictating or instructing on any level. And (2) I can’t defend any of my decisions listed above. In fact, I can’t even give you solid reasons how I came up with my list of what I will and won’t do, and why some things I find totally acceptable while other things absolutely make me cringe. It’s just how I feel about my photos, and about how I feel about editing them, so it’s a totally personal thing.

Now, if you’re not a photo journalist (who is bound by the strict rules of photo journalism, which I fully support), I imagine you probably have your own personal set of rules–your own “Photos Editing Code of Ethics” (even if you haven’t sat down and thought about them in that light), and I’d love to hear some of your own guidelines, so I encourage you to share them by posting a comment here.

I’m interested to know where you “draw the line,” and what you’re willing to do, or not do in Photoshop to create the type of images you feel good about. Thanks for “baring your soul” here, and giving other readers some insight into how you feel about your photography and editing them in Adobe Photoshop.


Friday News Wrap-up

by Scott Kelby  |  0 Comments


Here’s what’s up to take us into the weekend:

  • Last Month, NAPP (The National Assn. of Photoshop Professionals) launched a new weekly news show (hosted by NAPP’s own Executive Director Larry Becker), with the latest scoop on new discounts, special deals for members, and much more (it’s pictured above). It’s already become hugely popular with members, and if you’re a NAPP member you can watch it right online on the NAPP member’s home page.
  • Terry White has just released his 2nd annual Holiday Gadget Guide, and it’s just packed with the latest gadgets, electronics, video gear, and all kinds of cool stuff for the gadget freak in you. It’s very well thought out, and produced from top to bottom. This is a must-download (it’s a PDF). Here’s the link.
  • I just checked and right now Barnes & has my new Photoshop 7-point System in-stock and it’s shipping now! Also, good news; a reader named George posted a comment yesterday regarding an email he got from telling him his pre-ordered 7-point-system had shipped! Here’s his post from yesterday.
    • “I had pre-ordered from Amazon and got the same email as everyone else. I replied to the email, stating that I accepted the delay. I just got an email from Amazon saying that my order has shipped!! Since I’m a prime member I get free 2 day shipping. So, I’m very excited, hoping to get my book very soon. Oh, and by the way, since I had pre-ordered the book, I got a $1.50 discount on the book. Total is $28.49, shipping included.”
  • I have incredible news: Last week I was totally humbled by the genorosity of a gentlemen who bought one of my fine art prints (from Digital Art &, and then donated $1,000 to the “Spings of Hope, Kenya” organization (where 100% of my proceeds from the sale are donated to help with in building a small clinic and orphanage in Keyna, or homeless and orphaned children). Well, I was blown away once again yesterday when I learned that another print had sold, and an additional $1,000 was donated by the woman who bought the print. I am just humbled, elated, and literally overjoyed by the generosity of these amazing people, who join me in helping in this small but impactful way.I talked with my friends at Spring of Hope Kenya yesterday and they were as blown away as I was. My sincere thanks and gratitude to everyone helping to support this group.
  • There’s a detailed review (complete with before and after photos), from one of the first people to receive my Photoshop 7-Point-System book, over at Shrew’s Daily Shutters blog. Here’s the link. 
  • I did a quick radio interview with my Publisher, Nancy Ruenzel over at Peachpit Press, and we discuss my new 7-point-system, and some other book projects I haven’t officially announced yet (well, I guess the cat will be out of the bag during this interview), and if you’ve got a couple of minutes, click right here to hear it online at

  • One last thing: Moose Peterson was a guest on Photoshop User TV this week, and posted a cool photo (taken with the Nikon D3) of the set, between takes. Here’s the link.

That’s all for this week. Have a great Friday and a wonderful weekend! :)


Wednesday’s Winner Was…

by Scott Kelby  |  0 Comments

Brad Darge (Yippie, Yeah!, etc.).

Don’t forget; THIS FRIDAY we’re drawing for a signed copy of my book, “The iPhone Book” (co-authored with the amazing Terry White), PLUS a FREE Apple iPhone. Click here to enter the giveaway drawing, or click here to pick up the book from or Barnes & (it makes a great holiday gift for your “iPhone freak” friends and family).


I’m Digging The Free Shipping From B&H Photo For NAPP members

by Scott Kelby  |  4 Comments


This week, I placed two different orders with B&H Photo, and since NAPP members get free shipping, I saved $51.70 on UPS shipping on my first order (some C-stands), and then another $26.80 on my second order for empty sandbags (for a total shipping savings of nearly $80.00). Considering that a full year NAPP membership is only $99, that ain’t too shabby.

I know a lot of NAPP members take advantage of this discount, but then I always run into members at my seminars that have no idea this discount is in place, so since I was on my “I saved $80 bucks” high, I thought’d I pass it along.

Also, another discount that might come in handy during the holidays is one NAPP members get from Apple, on everything from new Macs to Monitors, and loads of other cool Apple gear. They’ve set up a special NAPP members version of the online Apple Store and we get emails from members who have saved more than their annual membership fee in just one order.

To get these discounts, just go to the NAPP member website, and click on the Discounts link. If you’re not a NAPP member yet, click here for the full scoop.


Your Work Hanging In A Museum (Well, At Least it Looks Like It Is)

by Scott Kelby  |  2 Comments


Jeff Revell (from Jeff’s Photo Gallery), sent me this link to a very cool site that lets you upload one of your photo, and then you choose one of four different museum layouts, and it takes your uploaded photo (or a photo from a Flickr gallery), and puts it up on the wall, like my photo you see above. It’s really a no-brainer; it does all the work. Check it out right here.


A Note From The Book Publisher of my “Seven Point System”

by Scott Kelby  |  0 Comments


Hi Friends of Scott,

This is Scott’s publisher, and I just heard that some of you who pre-ordered the book at Amazon may have received an automated email message from Amazon stating that The Scott Kelby 7-Point System for Adobe Photoshop CS3 Book has been delayed. The book has already released from our warehouse and is already selling, but because Amazon hadn’t fully received the inventory before the trigger to put in place an automated email date change message went out, you may have received that automated email saying the book wasn’t yet available. Please ignore Amazon’s email, as the book is available from us, and will be shipping from Amazon within the week.

Thanks to all of you for your patience. And I can tell you now, after having read the book myself, it’s SO worth the wait of a few days from Amazon. Enjoy.

- Nancy

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