People often say, and I have said it myself, that the only thing which matters is the final image. Photoshop or not, who cares?
I have come to the conclusion that, to a degree, process does matter. Or, more exactly, perceived process matters. Why else would Peter Lik's sales associates go on about how he only uses film (false) and that he doesn't use photoshop (also false)? These are in fact words of power used to drive sales.
I don't know everything that's going on here, but at least part of it is that the sales associate is building the perception that the picture is a true representation of what was there. This is reality, as discovered by Peter Lik. The incredible scene in the picture is the result of Mr. Lik's efforts in finding the location and getting to the location and in shooting, and not "merely" photoshop.
And so on. This piece of the puzzle is about the reality, the vérité of the photo. The viewer places additional value on the picture if they hold the impression that it is real, in the sense that what is shown is what was actually in front of the lens at that moment. The actual content of the picture is not relevant to what I'm talking about here, although of course that is part of the whole experience of looking at the thing.
In truth, I agree with the viewer. We should place additional value on it if it's real in this sense. This is what makes a photograph a photograph and not a painting. It is not that a photograph is more valuable than a painting, it is that a photograph's value is partly in the fact that it's not a painting. If it looks like a photograph, but is not, surely that cheapens the thing? It loses the vérité that lends value to a photograph without gaining much visibly in terms of the personal interpretation and so on that lend value to a painting.
A diamond has larger absolute dollar value than a watermelon, but nonetheless makes a terrible picnic snack for a hot day. We should value a genuine watermelon over a diamond -- as a watermelon.
Paintings and photographs are not watermelons nor are they diamonds. Unlike the latter objects, they arguably exist on a sort of spectrum, with "unaltered" photos on one end, and Rembrandt and all his friends on the other end, and in between all that digital art and paintings made with a camera obscura, and so on.
Still, I see no reason the the same general ideas cannot be applied.