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Image Manipulation

Updated on January 26, 2013
Image manipulation in Photoshop
Image manipulation in Photoshop | Source

Image manipulation means adding especial effects to the photos with creative and technical retouch. It can be as simple as adjusting brightness and color or as complicated as altering the subject and creating photomontage. Image manipulation is editing and retouching images through digital or analog mediums to enhance photos or create illusions.

Image manipulationexisted long before computers and photo editing programs were available, long before the invention of camera. In the early days, artists created perfect looks for their subjects in the portraits, removing skin flaws as they painted. They even extra subtleties to the landscapes.

Photography popularized image manipulation. In Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany photographers often manipulated images as a part of state propaganda.

Digital image manipulation began in the 1980s with the advent of programs such as Paintbox, Scitex and Barco Creator. These image manipulation programs were later replaced by Adobe Photoshop. Unlimited scope of image manipulation programs has changed image manipulation into an art form

Photo montage created from 10 pictures. It took almost three hours to create this image in Photoshop.
Photo montage created from 10 pictures. It took almost three hours to create this image in Photoshop. | Source

Types of Image Manipulation

Technical retouch is done for restoration or enhancement of images. Color and light adjustments, removing objects from the images or erasing flaws from the subject are done as a part of technical retouch.

In creative retouch, images are manipulated to created illusion or surrealism. Image compositing is done as a part of creative retouch by combining multiple images into one. Creative retouch adds extra dimensions to the images, which the photographers have failed to capture in their camera.

Photo manipulated in image manipulation software
Photo manipulated in image manipulation software | Source

Photo Manipulation

Image manipulation is also called photo manipulation. Before the advent of digital camera, photos were manipulated by retouching negatives and positive with ink and paint, or scratching the polaroids. Airbrushes and double exposure were used to manipulate photos in the darkroom. Because of the use of airbrushes in the early days of photo manipulation, the word “Airbrushing” is also used for photo manipulation.

Today as a part of photo manipulation, photographs taken from digital camera are retouched technically and creatively in photo editing software. Adobe Photoshop is the most popular photo editing program, and image manipulation is also referred as photoshopping.

Photo manipulation refers to anything such as adjusting light and color, correcting flaws in the subject’s skin or background, removing or adding objects, altering and merging photos, applying makeup and creating abstract art. When a skilled digital artist manipulates photographs, it is difficult for the audience to recognize the illusion. Processing image manipulation is intrinsic part of advertisement industry and fashion photography.

The issue of photo manipulation is highly contentious. Photo manipulation often castigated for unnaturalness and illusion effects.

I adjusted color and light in this photo. Image manipulation lightened the birds
I adjusted color and light in this photo. Image manipulation lightened the birds | Source
The original photo
The original photo | Source

Processing Image Manipulation

Some people believe processing image manipulation as a way to express creativity, while others think it removes naturalness and promotes artificiality. Photo manipulation is very popular with advertisement and beauty industry. Processing image manipulation has become as important as makeup and style in glamor photography. However, photo manipulation is castigated for altering body image unrealistically, such as creating flawless skin, curvaceous body and perfect beauty. Processing image manipulation for beauty industry is also seen as a way to elude audience by creating perfect looking subject.

There is also growing outcry against excessive image manipulation in glamor photography. Some celebrities have come forward and castigated image manipulation for trying to alter people’s perception of body image. Some of the Hollywood actresses have appeared on magazines without digital retouching.

Governments in some countries think excessive image manipulation in the advertisement is detrimental because it misleads people. They have also tried to regularized image manipulation in advertorials.

In journalism, images have often been manipulated to exaggerate incidents, or even create hoax photos to make news. Journalism strictly forbids image manipulation.

You can do anything with image manipulation program; 20 years are technically taken away from the 76 years old woman.
You can do anything with image manipulation program; 20 years are technically taken away from the 76 years old woman. | Source
Cartoon created in Photoshop. Probably Photoshop is the best photo manipulation program
Cartoon created in Photoshop. Probably Photoshop is the best photo manipulation program | Source

Image Manipulation Programs

Adobe Photoshop

Photoshop was created by two brothers Thomos Knoll and John Knoll. Adobe Systems Inc. bought the distribution rights of Photoshop in 1988, and the copyrights in 1995. Photoshop is undoubtedly the best photo editing software and photo manipulation program. In 2003, Adobe released Adobe Creative Suite which included Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign and Acrobat in one. In 2004, Adobe Creative Suite was released as Photoshop CS. Photoshop CS3 became available in 2007. The later versions of Photoshop CS feature wonderful tools for digital editing and design.

With Photoshop, you can not only create perfect looking skin by removing wrinkles and blemishes but also resize body size shape. The Liquify tool in Photoshop allows you to do literally anything. Because of the immense popularity of Photoshop, the most common program used for photo manipulation, the term photoshop has also emerged has a verb, even though Adobe Systems has discouraged the use of verb potoshop. Today, photoshop means image editing, creative and technical retouch in photos, splicing photos and graphic designs.

Corel PaintShop Pro

Corel PaintShop Pro is an image manipulation program for graphic designers as well as photographers. It runs in a computer with Microsoft Windows Operating System. Some of its unique features include face recognition and photo location. PaintShop Pro is a photo editing software that allows you to edit and enhance your photos, and create designs for print, online and video. PaintShop Pro has social media sharing options, you can share your designs and photographs across multiple social media platforms.

Screenshot of GIMP, one of the best free photo editing program
Screenshot of GIMP, one of the best free photo editing program | Source

Free Image Manipulator Software

GNU Image Manipulation Program

GNU Image Manipulation Program commonly called GIMP is wonderful free image manipulator software which is often called “Free Photoshop.” You can download GIMP for free. For the users of Photoshop, GIMP may be lacking many features, however, those who want to try image manipulation programs, however, do not have Photoshop, GIMP is the best option. It can be used by amateurs as well as professional photographers and designers for photo editing, adding effects, retouching, and creating images and animations. It is compatible with Windows (XP, Vista), GNU/Linux and Mac OS X.

Of course there are some problems in GIMP. Interface looks cluttered with multiple floating palettes, there are no adjustment layers, custom shapes are not available, and does not support 16-bit per channel color and CMYK. However, this is free photo editing software, and you may overlook these petty problems.

Screenshot of Paint.Net. Paint.NET was developed as free replacement of Microsoft paint, however, now it has become widely used free image manipulation program
Screenshot of Paint.Net. Paint.NET was developed as free replacement of Microsoft paint, however, now it has become widely used free image manipulation program | Source


Paint.NET is pixel-based free image manipulator software. It was developed with an aim to replace Microsoft Paint inbuilt in the Windows. However, it has now grown into a very useful free picture editing software. With the likeness of Adobe Photoshop, Corel Paint Shop Pro and the GIMP, Paint.NET is suitable for everyone who wants to do image manipulation and enhance photos.

Paint.NET is better than GIMP in a sense that it does not have floating palettes, however, lacks extended plug-ins. There is wide range of image adjustment tools such as Curves, Levels and Hue/Saturation but no Dodge or Burn tool. There are many photo effects tools but limited options for brush. Since it is free photo image manipulation program, shortcomings of Paint. NET can be overlooked. You can find it handy for image manipulation and photo editing.

Screenshot of free photo manipulation software PhotoScape
Screenshot of free photo manipulation software PhotoScape | Source

What do you think about image manipulation in glamor photography?

See results


PhotoScape is a free image manipulation program and fun free photo editor for Windows. Some of its features include photo resize, light and color adjustments, red eye and mole remover, and combining many photos to create one file. Some of the tools in PhotoScape are clone, text, paint, slice and drawing tools. You can crop and add filter effects to your photos, even capture screen shot. This free picture editing program also allows you to search similar faces on the web. PhotoScape is also an image viewer, you can view your photos in slide show.

In PhotoScape, you can create animated GIF and convert camera RAW to JPG. You can retouch your photo with different tonal adjustments, add multiple effects such as convert to cartoon, and add fun frames. Some of the limitations in PhotoScape include working with only one document at a time, no photo montage option, and limited pixel-level editing tools.


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    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      7 years ago from southern USA

      Fascinating hub here. I did not realize photoshop was going on so long ago. It really has advanced! Wow and Yikes at that first photo!

      You have really done a great job here in this extensive hub in explaining all of the aspects to this process.

      To me, it is a bit frightening, i.e., when it comes to the news or government and they are able to manipulate reality of a news event or in the political arena, representing somethig as fact when it is not so.

      Also, when there are people out in this world, that would manipulate a photo to ruin a person's reputation just because they are able to manipulate a photo. Also, I can see those who would manipulate photos of themselves to be . . . manipulative (may not be the right word to choose)?

      However, I love your photos.

      Voted up ++++ and sharing

      God bless, Faith Reaper

    • Angelme566 profile image


      8 years ago


    • Vinaya Ghimire profile imageAUTHOR

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      8 years ago from Nepal

      Hi sky

      On hubpages we all are learners. What we do here is share our knowledge and learn from others' expertise.

      Thanks for your wonderful comment.


    • skye2day profile image


      8 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      vinaya Thank you so much for taking the time to guide us though photo imaging and sites. I really appreciate all of your hard work. There are a host of talented people at the hubs. You being one of them. I am honored to meet you bro. Love, Skye

      linked out, voted!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile imageAUTHOR

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      8 years ago from Nepal

      I believe manipulation is only for technical and creative retouch. Beauty is god gifted, everyone is beautiful.


    • Angelme566 profile image


      8 years ago

      so if my picture will manipulated i will be beautiful then?

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile imageAUTHOR

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      8 years ago from Nepal

      Hi Phoebe,

      thanks for stopping by


    • profile image

      Phoebe Pike 

      8 years ago

      Awesome article.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile imageAUTHOR

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      8 years ago from Nepal

      @Midget, if you do photography, you also have to learn photo manipulation. Thanks for sharing your experience.

      @Alastar, CGI is also one of my subject of interest, I mean not learning the technique, but knowing how they do it. Thanks for sharing your knowledge on the topic.

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Superb article on image manipulation Vin. This is what a hub of this type should look like- no pun intended there my friend. It also reminds me of the difference in the CGI technology for movies today vs the previous stop-motion employed by masters like Harryhausen. When comparing many of the former with the latter in movie re-makes, the stop-motion often comes out charming while the CGI is merely overwhelming.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Vinaya, for sharing this very useful hub. I have recently developed an interest in photography and am really interested in these! Thanks for sharing and I am passing this around!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile imageAUTHOR

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      8 years ago from Nepal

      @DDE, thanks for always reading and commenting on my works.

      @Christy, I have tried Paint.NET, it is a powerful program. Thanks for being here.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 

      8 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Excellent source of information here about photography! I like Paint.NET and as you say it have become very popular. Happy to vote up and useful.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      8 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Incredible work so well put together and the photos are good too. A unique idea. Voted Up!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile imageAUTHOR

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      8 years ago from Nepal

      @Martie,I loving doing technical and creative retouch.

      @Jennieinabottle, I have no experience of picmonkey. I will check it out.

      @Audrey, it is fun to work with images.

      @Mhatter, thanks

      @Rosemary, you can outsmart me with practice. Cheers

      @Peggy, I don't favor excessive manipulation in glamor photography, but I love manipulation for design.

      @Tycoon, thanks

      @Sueswan, that is what I believe, but I also favor manipulation for graphic designing.

      @xstatic, there are many free photo editing programs, you should try them.

      @prasetio, I'm gladthat you found this useful. Cheers

      @always exploring, give me your photo I can fix that. LOL

      @fpherj, wrinkle and blemish eraseor is very popular with people working in glamor photography. Thanks for your comment.

      @Love doc, I'm glad that you found this interesting. Take care.

      @teaches,manipulation is fascinating indeed.

      @Frank, thanks for always being with me.

      @Eddwen,thanks for being here.

      @JUst Rodney, I use photoshop for creative and technical retouch. Thanks for your comment.

      @tillsontitan, thanks for always reading and commenting my hubs. Cheers

      @yumhealthyfood, you should give it a try.

    • yumhealthyfood profile image

      Shruti Sharma 

      8 years ago from Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

      Its really very interesting and creative. I'll try this with my friends image, am sure they are gonna love it...!!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      8 years ago from New York

      This hub is superb. Your critique of different softwares is so helpful both to those with Photoshop and those without....Your pictures are excellent examples of some of the things that can be done. This is really a great hub!

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

    • Just_Rodney profile image

      Rodney Fagan 

      8 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City

      This is where photo Art now joins the realms of Salvador Dali, great hub if that is what you enjoy. I have used photoshop a lot, mainly for colour enhancing and solarisation as well.

      I am now trying, only using the camera's built in features to try to create moods and feelings.

      Like having a "ghost" walking behind a person or buildings. Have some interesting images already.

      Will post these to a hub.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      8 years ago from Wales

      This gem is going to be so useful Vinaya and I vote up,interesting and useful.

      Have a great day.


    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      8 years ago from Shelton

      you can use this for fun and creativeity love the whole concept Vin :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      8 years ago

      Thank you for the informaiton on photo image manipulation. I don't know if I could do this, but I find it quite fascinating.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Hi Vinaya, when I saw this image, the first thing that came to mind was domestic violence or something closely related. I've never heard of image manipulation. I found this hub useful and interesting besides the fact that I learned something new today.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      8 years ago from Carson City

      Vinaya.....I would be willing to bet, the "wrinkle eraser" feature will be the most popular and the most used!!......This is so very interesting. It's quite impressive what can be done....although I'm amazed some images require 3 hours to create!...UP+++

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      8 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This must be so much fun to do. I want to try it, but i am not sure. The old woman's wrinkles disappearing is like a miracle. I have a crow sitting by my eyrs that need to fly away..Hee..Thank you...

    • prasetio30 profile image


      8 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Very informative hub. Again, I found useful information about photo editing from you. I'll visit the sites you gave to us. It sounds interesting. Voted up (useful, awesome, beautiful, interesting). Take care!


    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 

      8 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      Fascinating information. I use paint to resize photos for HP, but do not have Photoshop. My wife has it on her computer but I have not learned to use it yet. It would be very helpful at times.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Hi Vinaya,

      Very interesting and informative. I believe image manipulation should be used to enhance photographs like you did in your photo of the birds.

      Voted up and sharing.

      Take care :)

    • TycoonSam profile image


      8 years ago from Washington, MI

      Vinaya, Very detailed and informative hub.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Vinaya,

      Wow! That is a scary photo at the top! The way photos can be manipulated in this day and age it is harder than ever to know what is real and what is not. I would love to be able to make montages such as you have done. Thanks for another excellent tutorial. Up, useful and interesting votes. Will share.

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 

      8 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      Excellent hub Vinaya, I love what you've done with the photos. I like to play with images but they are nowhere near as good as you do with Photoshop.

      Thank you for teaching these methods.

      Voting UP

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      Very informative. Thank you for this.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      8 years ago from California

      I love the idea of playing with images--great hub!

    • Jeannieinabottle profile image

      Jeannie Marie 

      8 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      I love your photos! Thanks for sharing this information and listed some free websites. I have been using, but I am happy to try some new sites. Great hub and voted up!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      I love playing with pictures in Image Manipulator Software, but not with the intention to fake reality, but rather to be creative, making collages and posters. Thanks for this most informative hub, Vinaya.


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