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FYI: Reuters Policy on Digital Editing Of Photos

Reuters has bitten the bullet and prescribed some rather bright line rules on the limits of digital image editing — by couching them in terms of the particular tools in Photoshop. Ethics mavens will find them interesting.

http://blogs.reuters.com/2007/01/18/the-use-of-photoshop/

Wonder how PJs using Aperture will apply these. I don’t use it but I assume Aperture has different names for some of its functions from those in Photoshop.

by [a former member] at 2007-01-19 15:27:51 UTC (ed. Mar 12 2008 ) Washington, DC , United States | Bookmark | | Report spam→

Interesting, and a useful set of guidelines. Why, though, do all the burdens fall on the photographer when much of this stuff is a pre-press concern? In the old days, when you handed off your film to the newspaper’s or magazine’s lab, all these “ethical” concerns fell on somebody else, and the nuances of photo manipulation (cropping, contrast, saturation, etc.) had to do with the needs of the printing press operators. Why can’t photographers just hand off their JPEGs and let the editors and designers do the editing? It’s really an abdication of responsibility, if you ask me, that the media world regards Photoshop as a dangerous and subversive tool, so tempting in the hands of photographers that ethical guidelines must be issued — when all of Photoshop’s functions were available in the in-house film labs before they were shut down. I mean, does James Nachtwey sit in a hotel and tweak the levels of his images before beaming them to Time? Doesn’t Time have someone whose job is to get the images ready for print?

by [former member] | 19 Jan 2007 15:01 (ed. Jan 19 2007) | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
This leads on to a question I have been meaning to ask for a long time.
I have never done news photography and never had to file digital images in a hurry.
I (and from recent conversations I don’t think I am alone here) work on the basis of one day in front of the computer for one day’s shooting, sometimes more.
For a long time now I have wondered how PJs in the field prepare their files for transmission. I don’t think I have ever had a digital image that I was happy to send to a client ‘out of the camera’ and I hope I’m not that poor a technician. So I presume that all images get worked on somewhere along the line – exactly when and by whom I would be curious to know.
During the recent war in Lebanon there was a Time cover with a photograph by (I’m fairly sure) Thomas Dworzak of a lone figure surrounded by ruined buildings – very moody, deep blacks, fairly apocalypitc. When I looked at the reportage from which the image was taken on the Magnum website I was amazed just how different the original was from the published image.
Don’t misunderstand me – I have nothing against doing whatever is necessary to make a picture as strong as possible and am not criticizing anyone here – it’s the methodology that interests m ehere.

by DPC | 19 Jan 2007 17:01 | Paris, France | | Report spam→
As a non-PJ photog I’ve read a bit of that Reuters self cleansing proclamation and comments here on LS. But what was their image processing policy before Photoshop? Darkroom people did their thing with film, not the actual alteration of content,but normal photo enhancements to make the photo talk. No pic out of a camera, be it film or digi ,is a final image.Who better to describe, not change content, than the photog under fire or an editor in an office half a world away. No one mentions the extremely stylized content of say… VII people (sorry to offend the Gods).Would they be in violation of the new Reuters statement? Just curious…no ax to grind.
G.

by Gregory Sharko | 20 Jan 2007 00:01 | Brooklyn, New York, United States | | Report spam→
uh, yeah, many photographers out there would be in violation. there are several photographers i can think of right off the bat whose pictures are fairly reliant on how they tone them. but remember, these photographers are NOT working for a wire like reuters. some people live and work by different rules, it’s how the game works….wires operate by different standards than, say, someone from vii or magnum. oh, and by the way, not everyone gets paid the same “dayrate” either. fun!!!

by Kenneth Dickerman | 20 Jan 2007 02:01 | NYC, United States | | Report spam→
ya know.. one of my all time most influential photogs has been Eugene Smith. But his work is not without controversy. One of his most famous frames (or combination of) is this one http://www.masters-of-photography.com/images/full/smith/smith_schweitzer.jpg – a shot of Dr. Albert Schweitzer, which was in fact a composite of two or three frames, or so say the critics.. (I’m not sure if anyone knows for sure!) But, Smith was notorious for alteirng his pictures in the darkroom, using ferricyanide to bleach out areas, and bumping the contrast and burning things way beyond what we now call “ethical.”

I think the digital age has turned us into watchdogs, and stolen some of the “art” from us photographers. Yes, it is too bad there are a few who take liberties for selfish reasons, or to alter the truth…. And, yes, some photographers try and put an emphasis here or there with contrast and burning, extra saturation, and cropping, but why don’t we look at them with the same “it’s okayness” as we do with a photographer like Smith?

I think the new Reuters policy, which is largely “don’t do anything but push the button” is short sighted. it’s good for Reuters to cover their butts here and there, but if they just want our images out of the can, their writers might as well be forced to hand over taped conversations instead of articles. And their video guys?…. probably should all have a lawyer in the truck.

And the best part of it all is the citizen journalism sight on yahoo. The polar opposite of it all. Ugh.

by Micah Walter | 20 Jan 2007 04:01 | Portsmouth, Dominica | | Report spam→
And what when photojurnalists have exhibitions – or is that Art?
In the film about Natchwey, they seemed to take forever to get the highlight around the little boys head with the burnt out buildings behind just perfect. Is that ethical? and Salgado does a major job on dodging and burning.
One could say that the person taking the photo is manipulating the information by the crop, angle, lens, speed even whether it’s in color or black and white, after all when reporting news it is the photographers personal perception of the information available that ends up as a photograph, fed by his/her cultural/social heritage and beliefs – it is his/her focus on what is happening that informs an audience, and we could also get into what is and what is not shown – the Paul Fusco show is a good example of what is not shown about the Iraq war (Mother Jones was the only Magazine to print them). Photoshop is Just the tip of a giant iceberg as far as news reporting ethics go. These guidelines are all about keeping the clients happy & buying by assuring them that Reuters is on top of their wayward photographers. Although have to say their guidelines seem to be pretty standard fare to me for photojournalist and documentary photographers, hhm! what does that say about what they think of their photographers?

by Angela Cumberbirch | 20 Jan 2007 06:01 | Manhattan, New York, United States | | Report spam→
bump!

by Jorge Luis Álvarez Pupo | 20 Jan 2007 06:01 | São Paulo, Brazil | | Report spam→
“Reuters photographers, staff and freelance, must not stage or re-enact news events. They may not direct the subjects of their images or add, remove or move objects on a news assignment. Our news photography must depict reality. Any attempt to alter that reality constitutes fabrication and can lead to disciplinary action, including dismissal.”

I kinda doubt if this rule is really followed, by the Reuters photographers and everyone else.

by Max Pasion | 20 Jan 2007 06:01 | | Report spam→
These rules would rule out the use of flash guns? Isn’t that an attemt to alter reality / manipulating (or something like that) when you use flash? Shoot without flash and add that same “flash like” light afterwards with photoshop…I bet that would be considered as a major no-no…

by Petri Uutela | 20 Jan 2007 09:01 (ed. Jan 20 2007) | Rovaniemi,, Finland | | Report spam→
My father told me: “Don’t lie. Don’t cheat. Not because people allways end up knowing you did but for your own conscience”…

I try…

You try…

by [former member] | 20 Jan 2007 11:01 | Phnom Penh, Cambodia | | Report spam→
We should not forget here that Photography IS subjective, so darkroom techniques (analogue or digital) are an inherent part of the process, of course wire services need to ‘protect’ themselves against the type of stupidity that occured in Lebanon last year.
Most of their guidelines are pretty ok though, especially the caption recommendations to tell when the subject is ‘overdoing it’ for the benefit(?) of the photographer, and apart for selective changes in photoshop(contrast, toning, etc), I find that I for one would actually NOT be fired by Reuters…
B.

by [former member] | 20 Jan 2007 11:01 | Brussels, Belgium | | Report spam→
Max hit the nail on the head.

When most the photos from (taken by most photographers) from the incident in Tyre (where the famous NYT photo was taken) all show the same thing: People on the foreground (close to photographer) acting in urgency while people in the background stand up and look at the scene with nothing to do you know that something is very wrong in describing what took place as rescuing wounded from the scene of a bombing…..

I 100% agree with Max who wrote:

“Reuters photographers, staff and freelance, must not stage or re-enact news events. They may not direct the subjects of their images or add, remove or move objects on a news assignment. Our news photography must depict reality. Any attempt to alter that reality constitutes fabrication and can lead to disciplinary action, including dismissal.”

I kinda doubt if this rule is really followed, by the Reuters photographers and everyone else.

by Eyal Dor Ofer | 20 Jan 2007 12:01 (ed. Jan 20 2007) | Israel, Israel | | Report spam→
Not shooting in the crisis situations like some in this post have experienced, I may not be able to speak with much authority on whether to stage or re-enact subjects for shooting. I can say, however, as a former newspaper editor and manager of a journalism organization that I would expect the shots that come in to me not to be staged, and if I found they were I’d be REALLY pissed (and probably never use that shooter again).

The purpose of photos in an organ of journalism is to take the reader or visitor actually to the place and the action, not to a stage where actors carry out what might have happened (or people wish had actually happened). All the rhetoric about photography being an art form can’t take away the requirement in daily reportage for accuracy. Sure, you can dodge and burn, or push, or do the digital equivalents, but not to the point where reality is distorted unreasonably. In the end it is a rule of reason tied to accuracy that must prevail. I think John Vink’s father got it, and I’ll bet that most successful PJs, including those in the VII and Magnum crowd that are shooting for daily organs and newsmagazines, do as well.

Having said that, I do think Reuters might think some elements of this policy through a bit more and not be quite so unyielding about some PS tools.

by [former member] | 20 Jan 2007 20:01 (ed. Jan 20 2007) | Washington, DC, United States | | Report spam→
What some photographers do is what some photographers do…….and we aren’t going to change what they do by posting about that here, are we? I think what we need to say as Lightstalkers is that we won’t do that, no matter how much money involved or how “important” the story is.

We can’t control what anyone does, we can only take care of ourselves. Photographers have and will continue to stage, or re-stage shots. The point is that I don’t and hopefully you don’t either.

If you see a situation where that is happening in the field, walk away, or have the courage to speak out immediately.

But rehashing this on a pubic blog is not going to serve any purpose.

As far as vii, Magnum, etc…….part of the problem is that too many people are carried away with all this bullshit, and its one of the reasons why photographers are cheating, to get approval, to become famous, to take the next level, etc.

What would Magnum do, what does Nachtwey do, the idea these agencies and people are somehow ethically better than the average person is laughable, as if no Magnum photographer would ever set up a shot or miss-lead, etc. Most of them do not, some have, but more point is that the more you idealize personality, the more this is going to go on.

by [former member] | 20 Jan 2007 20:01 | Back home again in Louisiana, United States | | Report spam→
I agree with Andy on every point, save one. I absolutely agree that Magnum and VII do not set the ethical standards. Some shooters — famous or not — will never accept the notion that they cannot edit their stuff beyond reality. They just have another view of these things, and it is not necessarily nefarious (though it can operate that way at times).

What I do disagree on is the need to remind ourselves what the public expects from us. I think that even the most art-oriented photog needs to come back to the ground, or at least to realize what the consequences are of not doing so.

I also think that it is important to consider what the limits actually are. I recall the firing of a Charlotte Observer photog last year over pumping in too much red in the sky behind a firefighter (second offense of a similar nature). There was quite a fuss in the NPPA ranks and even at the Poynter Web site. There are legitimate questions to be asked in this area, and they are best asked and answered by PJs and photo editors who can combine practicalities and philosophies. That’s the real reason I drew the community’s attention to this Reuters policy.

by [former member] | 20 Jan 2007 20:01 | Washington, DC, United States | | Report spam→


by Micah Walter | 20 Jan 2007 21:01 (ed. Jan 20 2007) | Portsmouth, Dominica | | Report spam→
No lassoing………and NO auto levels, verbotten.

by [former member] | 20 Jan 2007 23:01 | Back home again in Louisiana, United States | | Report spam→
jeez louise guys. calm down. reuters are a wire service. they are not an agency, they are not an art-distribution service. they are a wire. if you read articles that come from reuters, there is no editorial, it is the facts, straight reporting. that’s the way their photography should be, too. i have no problem with reuters stating that they have strict guidelines about what a photographer can and cannot do to thier images, on their laptop, in the field. how else are they supposed to ensure the news-reading public AND their customers that photographs which come over the reuters wire are credible journalistic works. we all know about the problems reuters had with certain photographers and certain images during the lebanon conflict of 2006, so it’s no wonder that they’ve moved to strictly define what can and cannot be done to digital images.

ultimately, if you don’t like the policy, don’t hit reuters up for work. if you consider your work to have more “artistic” merit (so much so that you can do more to your images than what these guidelines state), then feel free, just don’t expect reuters to pay you to shoot.

by Ed Giles | 21 Jan 2007 03:01 | Sydney, Australia | | Report spam→
Thanks Ed, I suppose the real issue is that Reuters could ask photographers to transmit RAW only and have the staff to do the rest, but they make a business decision to have the photographers do that for the $200. they pay for all rights, forever.

So excuse my cynicism about Reuters “guidelines” because what they really are are “instructions” as to how to prepare photographs for the agency, when the real way to insure integrity would be to require RAW and do the post-processing themselves.

by [former member] | 21 Jan 2007 18:01 | Back home again in Louisiana, United States | | Report spam→
$200 a day and no royalties to the photographers.hmmmm,to me thats the root of all this ‘fauxtography’ nonsense,and is a bigger scandal.

by Michael Bowring | 21 Jan 2007 19:01 | Belgrade, Serbia | | Report spam→
Andy,
I’m a bit curious here about why you mentioned the transmission of RAW files (large and slow)as opposed to a Jpeg (small and fast). How does that relate to the question of photographer honesty? Is that because with Jpeg the photog can still make some some basic in-camera quality adjustments to a pic?
G.

by Gregory Sharko | 21 Jan 2007 21:01 | Brooklyn, New York, United States | | Report spam→
Greg, yes, as I see it a Camera RAW would be less suspect than a jpeg…….and you are quite right that the RAW would be larger, but 6-8 megapixels for a 20/30 is not that much and most connections are fairly fast. Certainly, there might be cases where only a jpeg could be transmitted, but for the most part RAW could be the standard.

Reuters is not a stock agency, its a wire service to subscribers who pay up front. Reuters pays $200 and no additional transmission fees, these services want all rights, the photographers to process their images, sharpen, all according to these same guidelines. To some in third world countries that might be a lot, but it also means that much of the photography is being done by untrained photographers, and with that comes the issue of the cloned shot from Lebanon, etc.

So we have been here before on LS. If someone wants to come across with knowledge with a better deal from Reuters please do.

by [former member] | 21 Jan 2007 23:01 | Back home again in Louisiana, United States | | Report spam→
Some interesting perspectives here. To date i’ve personally only ever seen news photography as a drag…you can get some great access and some kudos from your friends, but at the price of either a hell of a lot of sitting around, or a hell of a lot of running around in often cold, dark, dirty, and dangerous places that few other people want to actually be in for long, and at the end of it all some picture editor in London or New York pays you next to nothing and picks a photo you wouldn’t have.

I agree with others here that frankly i’d prefer to just fire off a RAW and let them do all the post processing….far easier. It’s often quite interesting to see how others post process your image. Saves me an extra half hour. They’ll soon realise that almost every digital image requires, or at least enhances with, levels adjustment and sharpening.

I don’t think anyone here (or on the Reuters blog) disagrees with the manipulation issue; that isn’t and shouldn’t exist in news photography. Interestingly though i think post-processing/manipulation is invariably what ends up helping photos sell in the non-news market. What about polluted environments like Hong Kong where you can’t even see the harbour on most days….thank God for photoshop. I’ve got a photo of a sunset i took in Chile that i accidently pushed too far with curves and solarized it and it’s one of the most popular image I took there. You can also often get paid more for these. At the end of the day, with the basic tools, what’s photoshop but a bit of make-up? It enhances.

by Chris Lusher | 22 Jan 2007 02:01 | Hong Kong, Hong Kong | | Report spam→
I’m pretty sure that Reuters and most other agencies/wires that deal in news images (with very, very short shelf life) require a photog to transmit a much smaller file that 6-10mb (remebering that some RAWs are even larger from certain cameras), transmitting RAWs rather than JPEGS will likely add a factor of 6-10 to most transmission times. I’ve gotta say I’ve sent some images on slloooowww connections and even compressed JPEGS are a pain in the ass…

by Ed Giles | 23 Jan 2007 12:01 | Sydney, Australia | | Report spam→
As a Photojournalist the whole idea of turning in your work to somebody elese to proccess, print and edit sounds silly to. Since my first photography class way back when I have always taken controll of my images, from begining to end. Be it film or electronic your job as a photojournalist is to shoot, edit and prepare your images for daily use in the media. I run about 20 photojournalist on a dialy basis at our newspaper and it would be madness to just have them hand in thier cards and download all of thier work. For starters they are the ones who bring in all of the correct caption information and file data. Second all of our shooters are also interested in having a say on what gets edited and published in the paper. As a chief of photogrpahers I would not expect less from them.

The real problem with the reuters debacle was the hiring of an untrained and unscreened photographer. I went through four years of college education in journalism and photojournalism and had my ethics code burned into me during those years. Even then there where some students who did not understand the primordial importance of telling the truth. Do not pose your images, do not interfere in the event, walk away when others do, and in today’s digital world do not photoshop stuff that was not in the original image. The rules ar basic and simple. Reuters did not have the stones to spend the money to make sure that it had a shooter in the field that was properly trained in the ethical business of telling the truth. So they paid the price. The shooter had to go but more important to me was the question. What the hell where the editors doing at the time? That image that got them in trouble was so obvious that even the untrained blogger that discovered it could see it. The real culprit was the editor in charge of that region. He hired the photogrpaher and it was under his watch that the altered images slipped in. I feel sorry for him but he had to go.

The lesson here is to make sure that the people you hire to do photojournalism are true photojournalists. When you go cheap you will pay the price.

Tomas

by Tomas Stargardter | 23 Jan 2007 15:01 | Managua, Nicaragua | | Report spam→
Tomas is oh so right about editors in journalism. They are essential to accurate,high-quality output. I think that is one of our keys to our success here at NPR…we have some fabulous editors.

Take a look at local (and some national and international) television in the US. There are increasingly fewer editors. The reporter does the piece, reads it and it goes to air. The materials often are silly, skewed, and irrelevant, and in the local stuff all too often focusing on a police-fire department blotter-style of coverage. Editors are needed to identify the news strategy of any community. Without them coverage becomes ad hoc and superficial.

Let’s hear it for the editors of the world (photo and all other kinds)! They get little glory but most of the blame when things go wrong.

by [former member] | 23 Jan 2007 17:01 | Washington, DC, United States | | Report spam→
Interesting, and a useful set of guidelines. Why, though, do all the burdens fall on the photographer when much of this stuff is a pre-press concern? In the old days, when you handed off your film to the newspaper’s or magazine’s lab, all these “ethical” concerns fell on somebody else, and the nuances of photo manipulation (cropping, contrast, saturation, etc.) had to do with the needs of the printing press operators. Why can’t photographers just hand off their JPEGs and let the editors and designers do the editing? It’s really an abdication of responsibility, if you ask me, that the media world regards Photoshop as a dangerous and subversive tool, so tempting in the hands of photographers that ethical guidelines must be issued—when all of Photoshop’s functions were available in the in-house film labs before they were shut down. I mean, does James Nachtwey sit in a hotel and tweak the levels of his images before beaming them to Time? Doesn’t Time have someone whose job is to get the images ready for print?

The What the Duck comic above also reminded me of another one I Recently saw, and makes me wonder if this comic is the real culprit to Reuters policy:



And yet this thread is coming to mind: http://www.lightstalkers.org/spare_a_thought_for_the_senior_middle_east_photographer_fired_by_reuters

by Aaron J. Heiner | 05 Feb 2007 22:02 | Washington DC, United States | | Report spam→
This thread was just pointed out to me, so feel free to please disregard the following thread: http://www.lightstalkers.org/reuters_use_of_photoshop

by Aaron J. Heiner | 05 Feb 2007 22:02 | Washington DC, United States | | Report spam→

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Participants

DPC, Photographer DPC
Photographer
Paris , France
Gregory Sharko, photographer Gregory Sharko
photographer
Brooklyn, New York , United States ( JFK )
Kenneth Dickerman, Photographer Kenneth Dickerman
Photographer
Nyc , United States
Micah Walter, Artist Micah Walter
Artist
Brooklyn, Ny , United States
Angela Cumberbirch, Photographer Angela Cumberbirch
Photographer
New York , United States
Jorge Luis Álvarez Pupo, Photographer (freelancer) Jorge Luis Álvarez Pupo
Photographer (freelancer)
São Paulo , Brazil ( GRU )
Max Pasion, Street Photographer Max Pasion
Street Photographer
Bayonne, Nj , United States ( EWR )
Petri Uutela, photographer Petri Uutela
photographer
Rovaniemi, Lapland , Finland
Eyal Dor Ofer, Eyal Dor Ofer
Israel , Israel
Ed Giles, Photojournalist Ed Giles
Photojournalist
Sydney , Australia
Michael Bowring, photographer Michael Bowring
photographer
Belgrade , Serbia
Chris Lusher, Photographer Chris Lusher
Photographer
Hong Kong , China
Tomas Stargardter, Photojournalist Tomas Stargardter
Photojournalist
(Photo Editor at LA PRENSA)
Managua , Nicaragua ( MGA )
Aaron J. Heiner, Photojournalist Aaron J. Heiner
Photojournalist
(Sleeping his life away)
Baltimore, Md , United States ( IAD )


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