What Is Image Manipulation, and How Is It Used?

Tom Blackwell/CC-BY-2.0

Image manipulation involves making changes to the appearance of a photo for various purposes, such as advertisements, magazines, book and music packaging, and gallery artwork. Photos are also retouched in the modeling and acting industries, where professionals submit portfolios or photos for auditions.

Also referred to as photo manipulation, images are altered with the use of computer software. Artistic image manipulation is creative and imaginative, producing images that are unexpected, visually appealing, surreal, striking, humorous or eye-catching in some way. Photographs are modified to develop magazine covers, page layouts, and album or book covers. Multiple images are often combined to create a juxtaposition, collage or unique image.

Photo retouching is a type of image manipulation frequently used in the modeling and acting industries. Photos are retouched to correct or perfect shots, with refinements, such as removing blemishes or moles, brightening eyes, whitening teeth and smoothing wrinkles. Lighting filters, contrast enhancement, brightness, sharpness and various other tuning adjustments are also common types of photo retouching.

Professionals who manipulate images are referred to as digital artists, graphic artists, graphic designers and photo editors. In addition, professional photographers and photojournalists often have experience with photo retouching and manipulation. Many computer users also use image editing software for personal use or to design gifts for family and friends.