Upload & Sell: On
Great questions Jim.
Slippery slope / Pandora's box for many, to be sure. Here's how I've come to (loosely) wrangle this monster.
I once had an ultra-purist view that if it didn't come out of the camera that way (shooting slides back in the day), you we're cheating as a photographer, and it was an indication of your lack of skill. ("Youth is wasted on the young". )
I remember entering a photo competition that I received numerous monetary awards back in the 80's. I raked in about $600 (that was about 2 weeks pay for me back then as a service member) with several first's & seconds. But "Best of Show" went to a darkroom double exposure partial silhouette that was a short lit portrait and the American Flag. It was "killer" ... but I still felt "cheated", as that wasn't "photography" ... that was manipulation.
Much time has passed since then and my crying out "He Cheats" (same year) regarding AA's efforts. Ironically, the reason I went to shooting slides over prints was that I could never get the "lab" (one hour photo ) to get it right. All I wanted was to have it come out the way I shot it. If I underexposed it (i.e. intentional) for a silhouette or increased saturation, then I wanted it underexposed ... so I kicked prints to the curb and went to chrome to get a "what ya shot, was what ya got" relationship.
Going back to the prints, though ... the latitude of print film was much wider than that of chrome and so while slides essentially used "standard" processing only, print film negatives were "analyzed" by the computer / lab for the necessary adjustments. The point here for me was that I came to appreciate (over much time) that while AA did not follow the "standard" processing for a negative/print ... really, even consumer prints had a degree (much lesser) of manipulation involved to get the lab to reprint the image until they got it where I wanted it if it didn't come out that way on the first try.
I think the sticking point get's pretty slippery and/or hyper-opinionated when we try to ascribe the term "photographer" and how it is defined. That one can make for some pretty lively and sometimes polarizing discussion. To that end, I have come to consider that I am an "image maker" and my tools are a camera, lenses, capture media (film/digital/etc.) processing and display media (digital/paper/etc.). When I think about "image making", I tend to recall those who have been making images long before "photography" was born.
They mixed their own paints and were always striving to get a "leg up" on their contemporaries, developing different processes (Mona Lisa), styles and techniques to bring a "fresh" or "signature" approach to their craft. Things like trompe l'oeil probably fell into that category of is it "art" or is it "chicanery".
Everyone is going to have their own threshold at where they "draw the line" ... mine has changed from "He Cheats" and that diminishes his "value" as a photographer ... to trying to appreciate that "image making" is really no different today than it was thousands of years ago ... it is a visual communication. What & how you choose to deliver that message to your viewer(s)and the tools and techniques you use to create it ... that's your call. I suppose that part of the polarization on this is the degree to which we are ascribing to our produced works as a "trophy shot" (i.e. look what I did) vs. a "message" for our viewers (i.e. look at what I want you to see).
It seems the more I focus on the message, the less I care about sooc and purism ... striving more toward the understanding of the mastery of those image makers (photographic or other) before us and around us.
Even forensic photography has a "not real" element (ultra-niche) that is intentionally manipulated. This is in the case of a photograph that is trying to represent how a person would have seen a scene at night. This is not going to be a "properly exposed" image. It is one that has to be skillfully (and admittedly) manipulated (with intent of fair representation) to represent that "reality". So, if manipulation has its proper place in forensic photography, I see no reason to consider it "taboo" as long as we're honest about its representation, and it doesn't significantly alter the validity of the message. It's one thing to have a picture of an alligator at the North Pole and say, "How odd would that be." and quite another to suggest "I saw this alligator at the North Pole."
While there will always be the battleground for "upmanship" and garnering acceptance of our works, I think that if one focuses on the message that they are trying to convey to their viewer ... the perspective of "image maker" creates less internal angst than "photographer".
Sure, it is the photographic medium ... but it is still an image that is being made to convey a message. Your call at what you put into your message ... be that technical accuracy, aesthetic appeal or something far different from either. The degree to which you use "standard" processing vs. "non-standard" processing ... that's your call too. But, in all cases ... I strive for my message to be well delivered ... knowing that sometimes it will be well received, and other times not so much.