Some time ago, I mentioned that an image of mine had been disqualified at a major contest because of the unallowed use of Photoshop. Now let me state that I am not angry, disappointed or anything like that about it. I just did (and still do) not agree and am curious to your opinion.

To the left is a comparison between the entered image (top) and the original image (bottom). As you can see, other than some slight levels and contrast work, all I did was reduce the red in the eyes that resulted from the use of fill flash.

The contest rules are not very detailed and state something along the lines of “please stay as close as possible to what you saw at the time of taking the photograph”. Of course, removing or adding items is not allowed. Now, when I photographed the owl, it did not feature red eyes from hayfever or a night at the bar. The eyes only took on the red color from the use of fill flash.

So in my opinion, by removing the red color from the eyes, the image got a lot closer to what I saw at the time of taking the photograph. If what I did to the original is put along the non-detailed contest rules, I cannot do anything other than conclude that a disqualification of the image was not rightful. What do you think?


  • Hi Marijn,

    It seems to me that you complied to the regulation of the contest. I would be disappointed as well if they would disqualify me for ‘editing’ a photo the way you did.

    I wouldn’t bother to much about it. Maybe you can use this picture in a contest where they understand you.

    Perhaps you were disqualified by using a fill flash. Using a flash can be considered as disturbing wildlife and according to the regulation of most contests this is not allowed.

    However, I agree with your that the photo should be admitted to the contest.

    By the way, keep inspiring me (and others) with your great photo’s.

    Best regards, Pieter.

  • Ik sluit me volledig aan bij Pieter Jongenelen.


  • Hi Marijn,

    I really agree with you that disqualification of this image is not right.

    Just the small contrast boost and the red eye removal should be allowed as part of the rules of the contest.

    The contest should clarify the rules on what’s acceptable or not.
    They should be more specific on what modifications are allowed for the images that are attended to the contest.


  • I’d agree with you. Reducing red eye is quite normal and natural. Generally flash duration is way to fast for us to ever see it. Simple fact is a camera does not “see” or compensate the way our eyes do and sometimes fill flash is required. I can understand that maybe wildlife will react badly to the flash. If flash is banned in the competition this needs to be specified. All you can do is chalk it up to experience. How did they pick up on it? Was it declared on entry?

  • Hoi Marijn,

    Je hebt van de foto gemaakt wat je zag, dus ik vind de diskwalificatie ook nergens voor nodig. Erg mooie foto!

    Gr, Jarno van Bussel

  • Thanks guys for your opinions and the kind words. Motivates me to keep posting! Oh: it’s not the use of flash that was banned, but the removal of the resulting red/steel eye.

  • Hi marijn, let me first state that I like the final image better.

    It is more natural, yet it was your decision to actually use a flash. Positioning and use of the flash determines the red eyes, so I actually would agree with the decision. Selectively removing actifacts intruduced by your decisions during the photographing of the image is in my book a bit too much photoshopping.

    Just a though, albeit a purist one, in a world covered with sliding scales…


  • Hi Marijn,

    Adding a paralel to my comment, what do you think of removing ghosting when shooting into the sun. I mostly do not see the gost with my eyes, and they are sometimes even hard to spot through the finder. But removing them in pp? Curious about your take on it.

    Cheers Wouter.

  • Hi Wouter,

    Interesting take on it. How about removing dustspots? You could be the ultimate purist by stating that not cleaning the sensor before going out is a decision that affects the photograph. Yet everyone agrees that dustspots may be removed. The ghosting or flare caused by shooting into the sun is actually enhanced by dustspecks on the lens surface. Cloning dust is ok, but cloning flare caused by (the same) dust is not ok?

    For your info, the flash was on a bracket above the lens. Not high enough to remove the redeye, caused by the relatively large distance to the owl (and thus not a steep shooting angle).

    It remains an interesting discussion and I agree that the scales are sliding. Hopefully not too much in the near future. I remain of the opinion that the photograph should reflect what you saw at the time of taking the shot. Then removing dust, flare and redeye is allowed, as the naked eye could not see it either.


Comments are closed.