Whereas wIth portrait and commercial photography, many people touch up photos in Photoshop because the end product is to make the client look their best. Although good portrait photographers will enhance their subject, but not change their identity by removing moles, scars, and other marks that make the person who they are. You do not want to make the person unrecognizable. This type of editing is nothing more than what was done in the film days in a darkroom, such as dodging and burning to bring focus to the subject.
There are other photographers who specialize in the art of totally revamping and redesigning the image. They basically create an image in photoshop. It is usually pretty obvious that it has been altered and that's not considered cheating because it is a piece of digital art.
When cheating comes into play is when a photographer misrepresents their work. If they digitally manipulate a shot and represent it as straight out of camera or minimally edited, they are cheating. For example, if a photographer enters a contest and represents their photos as something that they were not. Such as a nature photographer claiming they caught a rare wildcat in its natural habitat when in fact they photoshopped the animal into a landscape shot. Additionally, if entering contests, photographers should pay close attention to the rules. Some contests do not allow editing, while others allow minimal edits.
Photographers use Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, or any other form of editing software to scrapbook, as well. They add frames, graphical elements, and special brushstrokes to enhance and preserve family memories. Scrapbooking is not cheating. It is another form of digital art.
Let's not forget that the camera already edits your photos. If you shoot in auto, select a picture type, and produce JPEGS, your camera determines saturation and sharpness. Think of it as dropping your film off at the lab and having the lab determine the end result of your photos. Shooting in RAW and editing in Adobe Lightroom is the equivalent of developing film in your own darkroom. I edited the photo attached to this blog. I shot in RAW, converted the shot to black and white, and sharpened it. That's it, but that is still photo editing. Is that cheating? No. It's developing the digital negative.
Whatever your photography style, remember that it is art and can be interpreted in many ways. The camera and photo editing software are just tools for the artist. The artist must get the photo correct in the camera before they can even consider editing it. Otherwise, the photo will be a bad photo with a lot of editing slopped on top of it. No amount of editing will fix a poor shot. Remember that before a good photo can be created, an artist has to understand their tools.