A polarizing topic that usually has two camps consisting of I don't edit vs I edit. Look at any photography group on the web there will be almost as many threads on the topic as there are Canon vs Nikon vs Sony vs Hasselblad (wait that one is vs anything?) or film vs digital. Prior to this I wonder if it was large format 8x10 is better than a 4x5 film or 35mm is for novice. Things that run through my mind lol.
Back to the topic .Every image out there is edited.... every one without question there is zero that you can say that will change my mind on that. Why do I say that you ask? Well, we use lenses that give an expanded view or one that zooms in tight the lens edits our viewpoint. When making a picture we decided consciously or subconsciously what to include and what to exclude from the frame. We move our camera up or down to hide x or y . We have the subject move left or right to remove the object from their head (seems painful having a tree growing out of your head). But wait that isn't editing, is it ? I would say it is because we are editing what we see before we press the shutter button. Take a look at the two pictures below . They tell a part of the story. Would the story be the same if I used a telephoto lens on the first image or a wider angle lens on the second one?
Another way we edit a picture is shutter speed. We can freeze motion that is fast or we can slow the shutter speed down and give a picture a dream like quality.
What about when we use flash to light a subject . We are editing the light to do what we choose . I know that is a bold thing to say and it maybe a bit of an over simplification but we can use light from the flash to create many different effects. Like Low Key or High Key even strobe the flash to get movement in a picture that we do not see with our eyes.
Then onto after we press the shutter. I don't post process vs I do post process . Well I don't is somewhat correct. The cameras software does edit the information we send it when it outputs the jpg file. It adjusts color saturation sharpness contrasts it can even tweak the colors. Well I don't Photoshop things after all they did not do that in film days so it is not natural and it is a new invention. To that I would say the first HDR image was made in the 1850s (no I did not have a typo it was 1850 not 1950) . But removing objects like in Photoshop is wrong. Well it maybe but it is not new in 1865 (no not a typo) Mathew Brady added a General to the picture he took after the picture was taken. These are but 2 examples of how old this argument or discussion is. Dodging, Burning, split toning, and...... almost everything we do to photos now are techniques that were used by the masters of the darkroom .
What about the stitched Panorama shot you know where I take a series of shots and combine them.That is a new process right ? Well nope it goes back to the 1850s and film cameras.
If you currently make a black and white image with a DSLR then it is edited even if it is done in camera .The camera sees in color it then converts the data to black and white if done in camera it is whatever the software engineers decided needs to happen to have a good black and white in their eyes. For film the process was done on black and white film (which is a medium I love and miss). There is something about the tones and contrasts and a quality I cannot or have not been able to reproduce (yet) using a dslr.
Now the question might be better asked what is too far. I guess the answer to that is what genera . Journalism- Contrasts highlights shadows sharpening or another words the minimum because they are suppose to be documenting an event. Just like Joe Friday said "Just the facts..." Portraits - well that should be left up to the client and photographer . I cannot say what is Sues or Bobs thoughts on things. We could keep going on and on. Most importantly I think the level of edit done to a picture is ultimately up to the photographer there is no real right or wrong answer for 99% of photography the only one I would argue hard and long about is journalism but that is a narrow slice of the pie.
I am sure there are billions of examples that I have not mentioned that are very valid points or examples of ways we as photographers edit also there is billions of examples of what not to do or why it should not be done. I know I have done a few of those no no items like turning someone into a plastic doll or making the colors in the picture look like a bad acid trip HDR that well would melt your eyes and I am sure I have tried to make a blurry picture look good by calling it artistic. I think for me that is part of my learning experience. However before I ramble and rant anymore I do thank you for spending a few moments with me on my journey. This is a topic I would love to discuss as seeing others point of view is interesting to me and most of the time it is educational.