The Impact of Reversing Images

Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) in Churchill Canada - Photo has been reversed 

Polar bear in Churchill originalOriginal Polar Bear Image

Recently I read an article in Outdoor Photographer: Create Visual Tension that made me reflect about the visual impact reversing a photo can have. I'm familiar with the concept of reversing a photo, but prior to reading the article I never considered it for my photos. Landscapes with identifiable landmarks like Yosemite's Half Dome or Colorado's Maroon Bells would look wrong reversed. On a deeper level part of me is bothered by a feeling of misrepresenting what occurred.  I do edit my images and modify things like color and contrast.  I have no problem using HDR processed with natural settings.  The camera cannot accurately represent all the colors that the eye sees so it does not seem a stretch to modify these areas. However, reversing a photo has always felt like it crossed the line in representing the scene differently.

The sample photo, which is reversed in the article, really drove home that the same image can have more impact being reversed.  Does it really matter if the image is reversed if it is not something that is a known landmark?  I decided to try reversing a Polar Bear image I took in Churchill, Canada.  The reversed image seems to flow better as he walks from left to right.  The impact of the bear and its environment is still there - reversing does not take that away.  For now I have decided that I may be open to using reversed images, but if I do I'll note it in the comments.

So what do you think? Please feel free to add your comments on which version you like better and the ethics of reversing an image.

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  1. I'm ok with it... especially in this instance where nothing is identifiable or influential in the environment of the photo. Ethics... eh, there are certainly photographers who would speak against it, but how many old film photographers dropped a negative in a print setup the wrong way and ended up with a reversed image... I agree with how you said, if its not impacting the meaning of a photo only gives it more visual appeal or spark, I say go for it.


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