I think that with too much editing, it stops being a fractal and starts being a graphic composition using fractals as a tool or component. It's difficult to say where that line is, but I appreciate fractals largely as scientific things that are beautiful, so I personally don't care for too much editing. I'm not a fan of fractal images that have a bunch of layers and are highly edited. I'm the same with my photography. A little color or contrast adjustment overall is fine, but I like to see (or show) the intrinsic beauty in things and not fabricate beauty by after the fact editing.
Pretty much agree with all you say. I also do photography. The only thing I would add is that I do play with turning a photo into abstract art; but that's a totally diffirent thing. I pretty much have thought that your fractal should "stand on it's own" I only thought about this when talking about the spring coontest Trifox mentioned that entries could be edited.