I am often asked, "Is that the original photo or did you do something to it?" at art shows when my work is exhibited. I think this is a trick question. Of course it is the original photo and, of course, I did something to it. I usually reply with a clarifying question..."Are you asking is this the image that a single shot in the camera caught without any editing? Or is this the way the scene looked when I stood there and witnessed it?" The questioner then pauses and usually says, "I guess I mean did the you get this shot straight from the camera?"
I then go on to explain the difference between the human eye and the mechanics of a camera. There is no camera yet created that even comes close to being able to emulate what the human eye can see. Human vision is amazing. We focus and move our eyes constantly. Our color range is infinite and adapts to different lighting situations with ease. Add to that the fact that our eyes see, but our mind perceives and is influenced by a multitude of factors. (For an easy to understand and in depth look at this discussion click here). Then I explain that my role as a photographer of this scene is to record it as I believe I see it. The resulting photo is what my memory of that millisecond in time looked like to me.
The camera has a limited depth of range in vision, color and depth. Ever since Ansel Adams first began working on his images in his darkroom, photographers have been trying to over come those physical limits of the camera and film. Now with Lightroom and Photoshop and other digital editing tools it is easier than ever before to create photos that come close to being what the human eye perceives.
So I guess my answer is "Yes, that is the original photo that I created. I used several tools, including a camera, a filter, likely a tripod, specific camera adjustments, photo editing, controlled printing and my years of experience." Or, "No...it is not a single shot from my camera with no adjustments made. If it were, it would not likely have been accepted into the art show."