I have noted an increase in what I call Lord of the Rings photography. This kind of photography is one of the ugly spin-offs of digital photography. It’s fairly easy to spot, because people or landscapes suddenly don’t look like normal people or landscapes any longer but, instead, like characters or scenes from any one of those effect-ridden, yet ultimately utterly forgettable Hollywood movies (like Lord of the Rings). I don’t know what planet you live on, but the one I am sharing with lots of other people is not populated by old people with Grand Canyon-style features or girls who look like they’re out of Carnegie-Mellon University’s robotics lab.
Note that overdoing it with the “Unsharp Mask” filter and going nuts with the various colour tools is not quite the same as taking a b/w photo and then using very hard paper to boost the contrast. While it’s true that those kinds of photos look somewhat unflattering or harsh, they don’t look outright artificial. I think if I was a photography teacher (which I’m not) one of the things I would tell my students is that if you can see that you’ve used the “Unsharp Mask” filter then you’ve overdone it.
Which doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do any of that kind of stuff. If your dream job is in Hollywood and you want a job there go ahead. Or if you want to use the effect for whatever reason also feel free to explore what you could get out of it (now THAT I would really love to see). But if you want to portray someone you don’t do that by making the person look completely artificial. Oh, and if that doesn’t convince you here is another reason: So many people are doing it already that you don’t even stand out. altphotos is filled with that stuff.