So my question is, as the Digital Age booms does true photographic integrity become extinct? At this point, I am hardly able to create a great shot with both my camera AND post-processing with digital software, so the thought of my own ability to take a "poster shot," just right out of the box with no manipulation at all, is simply amazing to me. Yet wouldn't this be true photographic talent? Isn't post-processing essentially an admission of inferior skill in taking photos with one's camera? I am curious how most people feel about this subject, philosophically.
Should we embrace the fact this is the "Digital Age," and should we therefore use all the photo-modifying software tools we have to our utmost ability?
Or should we lament the fact that true photographic skill is a dying art, and that all of this digital processing means more mediocre photographers are able to digitally-manipulate their images from so-so to acceptable, only thanks to software?
I would be curious how people felt about this, or if they even thought about it.
I'm sure you're going to get the full gamut of responses and each one will be valid to one extent or another. I don't think there is a definitive answer to your questions. I think its a matter of degree and personal opinion. Here's my take on it.
Relatively modern photography started with glass plates and contact prints. At that time one had to be proficient at safeguarding the fragile plates, processing them and them making a contact print.
As we progressed to cellulose film we no longer needed the skill set required for glass plate photography but we developed new skills to deal with the new technology. We could now make projected prints. We had a wider variety of films and papers to choose from and chose the appropriate ones to suit our needs for any particular photo situation. As technology advanced we got new developers to enhance or retard a multitude of characteristics of film and paer and again we made decisions on which process and material to use. Negatives that were not perfect could be "saved" by the use of different chemical processes, burning and dodging in the darkroom and a host of other means.
I honestly don't know if any of the above compromised "photographic integrity" Maybe that's not even the right term to use.
When you shoot a raw image and then start work using software I would argue that you are just using the same philosophy as we did in the past. Choose a "film type" choose a "process" and do things like burn, dodge, tone or crop.
If those things seem innappropriate to you, the answer is simple. Don't do it. No one is going to think any less or more of you regardless of your choice. Your photography is your own.
Photographic skill or talent has many meanings. For some it means composition, for others it means technical skill at focus and exposure, for some it means the ability to control your equipment and process to achieve the results you want. I'm sure there are also more criteria and more combinations of them than I can possibly list here. As I said, in my opinion they are all valid.
As far as I'm concerned you should use any and all tools you have available to you as long as you're happy doing it.
Go take some pictures and have fun