Image Manipulation: The What, How, and Why

Image Manipulation goes back as early as the Earliest Photographs
Image Manipulation

What is Image Manipulation

Image Source: Webneel

Image Manipulation refers to the act of transforming images to arrive at the desired output. Through the art of photo manipulation, you are able to transcend your image into a true piece of art, Whereas, image manipulation can be done through the use of various image editing tools or software.

It is a blend between photography and graphic design. Designers use numerous effects to transform an image into a remarkable one, their aim to bring realism into an unreal picture.

The magic about high-quality manipulated images is that although one can understand that it does not portray reality, the plausibility of a picture makes it worth pondering about!

Image-Manipulation then and now
Image Source: “Man juggling his own head” – Unknown French artist, 1880. & Webneel

Image Manipulation, however, goes back as early as the earliest snapshots. Back then photo manipulation was done manually inside darkrooms.

Retouching was done through the use of paint, ink, airbrush, and scratching techniques during the development of Polaroids. Manipulations are introduced to the negatives of each photograph by piecing them together or washing parts of the photo with bleach.

Since then, the manipulation of images has come a long way.
The emergence of Digital Cameras, Photo Editing platforms & tools have led us to a much simpler process of photo manipulation.

With the use of tools like Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, and Canva, graphic designers are able to digitally manipulate photos with much more ease today than ever before!

How It’s Done

The first step before going into manipulation is to set a goal. Once you have a purpose you can then focus on the ways to achieve it. The tools you’ll be using vary widely based on your needs.

Today most professional image manipulation work is done using Photoshop.
Here’s a photoshopped image that has been manipulated that we’re going to break down the process for easier understanding. The image has been used for print advertisements.

The image you see above is a composition of 4 different images – The Skies, The Landscapes, The Cup, and The Stream. Brush, Burn, and Blur tools are used to help blend the pictures. The mountains are retouched to add different shades of green. Shadow and Reflection are added to the cup and brush tools are used to darken the bottom third of the picture.
For final touches, the skies and water are retouched and the whole image is then treated with color correction.

As we’ve seen in the treatment above, photo manipulation is an intricate process that draws from heavy imagination, vision, and tools (based on one’s needs).

You can find plenty of tutorials online to help you get started with image manipulation techniques.

Here’s a few softwares commonly used for Photo Manipulation –

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Affinity Photo
  • Cyberlink PhotoDirector 365
  • Luminar AI
  • inPixio Photo Studio
  • Pixlr
  • Corel Paintshop
  • Adobe Lightroom CC
  • Photoshop Elements
  • GIMP


From lifestyle and travel to fashion and weddings – images dominate our waking life.

We spend hours staring at our screens, billboards & magazines. While some of us are interested in reading materials, most of us are enticed by attractive visuals.
And it’s almost impossible to arrive at sensation imagery without manipulating them. Photographers know this very well.
Limitations in natural settings, lighting, and shadow, as well as device limitations lead to a not-so-perfect output.

Resultantly, it comes down to image manipulation or post-production to bring out a vivid output. And those highly polished images are the ones you see all around; they’re the images you’d want to spend your time and senses upon.

From eCommerce and social media pages to image exhibitions (and all other places you can think of that display images), highly treated images are today’s norm.

Here’s a few popular mediums where you’ll see wide usage of photo manipulation:

  • Social Media Marketing
  • Posters
  • Books, Magazine & Album Covers
  • Billboards
  • Newspaper Ads
End Note

This wraps up our piece on the basics of Image Manipulation. Keep an eye out for more on this subject.

Tazim Ul Mulk

Tazim Ul Mulk

As a fervent writer and an enthusiast in the beauty of imagery, I wish to show the world the true meaning behind each image.