Photomanips for Beginners pt1 – what is a photomanipulation?

There are many different names floating around the internet for what I could be called a photomanipulation. I’ve heard: composings, composites, blends, edits, manips, photomanips, matte landscape / painting, retouch and probably quite some other expressions I have forgotten again. Sometimes these terms can be used interchangeably, sometimes people will quite forcefully insist on what to you might be subtle differences (or no difference worth mentioning at all).

As with a lot of things, it is impossible to please everyone. Instead I will tell you my take on some expressions and use them throughout this site just so we have a common baseline. If you want to call it differently, by all means do so. What is important in art is to create and not to fit into a box (that might kill your creative juices).

My “definition” of a photomanipulation:

A photomanipulation (or photomanip / manip / composing / composite) to me is basically the classic “put a model / animal / object on a new background”. Or it can be the combination of several landscape images into a new scene, too. What these have all in common is that you compose two or more photographic elements to create something new.*

Afloat // photomanipulation, before and after

*if you think this definition is familiar somehow, it might be because it’s deviantArt’s definition of the photomanipulation category, which I came up with years ago when I was volunteering for them – that might’ve changed in the meantime, come to think of it 😉

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Castle Grounds // photomanipulation

Dreamwalking // photomanipulation

Other expressions I’ve heard I would describe as follows:

Blends are what you get by putting a collage of photos in one image and making them blend into each other, then add embellishments and/or text. This is often done as fanart for a show or character in a show, a musician or otherwise famous person, often in the form of wallpapers, signatures and avatars. Fun fact: this is how I started out many moons ago 😉

This is one of the oldest images in my archive and the one most similar to a “classic blend”. Though it does lack the celebrities…

If you want some cooler examples, visit rosesylla’s deviantart gallery I especially like this one: Call it Magic.

The problem with the “classic” blends is that they use copyrighted images which is simply not legal. In case of fan art it is often just not prosecuted, but technically, you can’t just take stuff that is not yours and use it to create (no matter how much work you put in).

Edits are any changes to photographs you can think of that do not go far enough to be a composing. Any retouching work may be called an edit for example. But also anything you do to change colours, exposure, etc. Basically anything you can do in Lightroom is an edit (in my book).

A retouch is an edit that goes beyond colour corrections. For example a classic beauty retouch will smooth out skin, remove blemishes, correct circles under the eyes etc. Part of that is usually done in Photoshop.

An expression I choose to use in addition is heavy edit. For me that basically means doing what might be considered retouch work, but since I don’t do it on a model, it feels off to call itba retouch. For me this will include adding textures or changing out the sky because the original one was boring. According to the definition above, we are right into manip territory with that sky swap, but for me, especially if I use my own images and no stock, I feel more comfortable calling it a heavy edit than an actual manip. Yes, I basically just invented that one to have one more term for my stuff – and that from the girl who doesn’t like to be put in a box by others. Yes, I can see the irony, I’m complicated #sorrynotsorry ;P

“Canneto” is an image shot during a cloudy day in one of the coolest alleys I’ve ever seen. To create something worth that sight, I switched out the sky and changed the light to fit (all my own images). This is what I’d call a “heavy edit”.

A matte landscape/painting is a term that comes from the world of concept artists, but it has found its way into the manip community, too. I’d say that’s because that type of image is so fascinating. It is a scenery image that aims to set the mood for example for a movie scene or a game. It focuses on landscape and architecture, mostly excluding any humans (and animals, too) and often features epic shots in 16:9 movie format. It is done by painters who will use photographic elements (textures and/or parts of the landscape of architecture) to save time in cranking out lots of these for art directors to choose from. That technique is often called photo-bashing. Meanwhile also non-industry related artists will call an epic scene like that a matte landscape, no matter the actual technique.

This is my manip No Place Like Home which kinda does have that scenic, set-the-mood kind of feel. I personally wouldn’t call it a matte, since to me that is ffirmly linked with painting, but others might see it as one.

What I don’t consider even remotely part of the manip world, are pictures with text slapped on (think memes) or pictures where someone has drawn a smiley face on an object. Both have nothing whatsoever to do with manipulating or composing images. I’m not saying they can’t be fun, but they just don’t qualify.

In the end, whatever you call your edits / manips, I think the most important part is that you like what you do.

  • What do you think about the above mentioned terms?
  • Have you heard them before?
  • Do you know any I missed (but should definitely be up there)?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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