We tend to believe what we see and once we also believed in the truth of an image. Jerry Lodriguss dwells into to this more in his “The Ethics of Digitial Manipulation” and Dartmouth University has their “Photo Tampering Throughout History”.
Manipulation of images has existed since the start of photography and digital technology has just made it easier and more convenient. For news photographers, a strong code of ethic needs to be followed, otherwise you fall from grace and get disqualified from contests such as World Press Photo. (More information on ethics from NPPA, National Press Photographers Association for those who are interested.)
However, in the current economic climate, everybody wants to reduce costs, including magazine titans such as Vogue. One of the cost savers introduced is to utilise the option of capturing the models in a controlled studio environment and sourcing backgrounds from exotic locations and create a montage, superimposing the model anywhere you want. Take a trip around the world on your personal computer.
It was not cost reasons that made us use the same workflow recently for Mot Tre magazine, it was mainly time constraints. We could manage to capture two fashion stories, one cover and cover interview as well as an advertorial session in one day instead of having one day on location and another in studio. Photography time was two days nevertheless, as the background images had to be captured, but without the need of a location crew. I could sling my camera over the shoulder, jump on the motorbike and travel around scouting locations.
It’s a good exercise as you have to pre-visualise where you want to place your model and put your focus point there. Later, you use your EXIF information to find out the exact exposure information (f stop) and if you are using a zoom lens, the range you used.
Then, in studio you recreate those settings, do the post production work and you end up with the results as you can see below.