HERE’S my approach to photo editing:
Photography, as I strive to practice it, is an art form. While I generally try to keep my images as close to what I saw as possible, I totally respect other photographer's choice to manipulate theirs considerably or not at all. What I don’t like though is when highly edited photos are passed off as reality. It can certainly skew how people interpret reality and create false expectations for other photographers. I don’t farm parts of some photos for later use in others. Nor will I intentionally shoot a mediocre image with the intent to make it Zing later in post-production.
That being said, I do have exceptions. I shoot in RAW format which produces an image that does not accurately represent my perception. As such, I tweak Clarity, and Saturation by 15% and Luminance by 10%. I determined this by comparing a real subject directly to what I see on my calibrated monitor. Also, the human eye typically has the ability to simultaneously see the light and dark parts of a scene (dynamic range) in a range of about 8 f-stops while my camera can capture a 5 f-stop range. Therefore, I occasionally adjust exposure in parts of the image to reflect what the eye can see and add clarity to portions for the same reason. I often crop photos to create meaningful compositions as well.
This conservative approach goes out the window when I intentionally create an image that obviously does not depict reality such as Black and White (for most of us) and Abstracts, Long Exposures which I do a lot. Editing software is a very alluring and powerful tool which can create some wonderful images but it can be a “slippery slope” for a realist! Rest assured though, I'll not try to “sneak one by you”!
OK, now get in there and enjoy my photographs. Better yet, go get your own!