Learning how to professionally develop digital photography is hard. It’s taken me years to learn how to set the colors, tone curve, and detail just right. It’s even harder when developing astrophotography, and I’m still learning. In weeding out the good techniques from the “faking it” ones, my eyes have also learned to spot a lot of the fakes. You may be disappointed to learn that quite a lot of today’s professional, award-winning photographers and ambassadors have come to depend on techniques that fake their photos, in order to earn those awards – and successfully doing it. Many, brazenly enough so as to teach others the same through expensive workshops and paid tutorials. A good photo will usually have a little bit of embellishment worked in, just like a good story does, but today’s landscape photography has gotten almost as fraudulent as food photography, and companies like Epson, Zeiss, and Canon are rewarding professionals for creating sometimes blatant fakes of otherwise mediocre shots. A lot of professionals are faking it just as badly as amateurs with photoshop, they’re just better at it.
It’s difficult to explain the extent of this endemic problem without outing the professional photographers who depend on them for their livelihood, and my goal here isn’t to make enemies or to publicly shame anyone. Without providing samples to prove my point, I’ll simply give a few examples of typical fakes, and explain some of the techniques they’re using.