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SportsShooter.com: Member Message Board

Photo Manipulation
Michael Myers, Photographer
Miami | Florida | USA | Posted: 12:59 PM on 05.13.16
->> Years ago, there were several fascinating discussions in this forum about what kinds of photo manipulation are "legit". I just finished reading this article, which makes for good reading:

https://fstoppers.com/editorial/case-steve-mccurry-what-truth-photography-1...


I thought back to what I learned here long ago, that there "photographs" and "photo illustrations", and photojournalists need to clearly be on the right side of that dividing line. But, half way through the article, I found this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMFPe-DwULM

Richard Feynman is probably the most fascinating individual I have ever read about, and the books about him I've read and re-read. Watching that video of him makes it clear that there is no "dividing line", and simple rules can fall apart if you look into something deeply enough.



Thinking about this last night, I decided that if any of us have been producing both what we thought of as "photographs", and also "photo illustrations", then a person viewing one of our photos won't have any idea of knowing which type of photo it was, and therefore there is no need to avoid manipulation.

Only IF the photo is to be used for a purpose where it MUST BE "real" and not manipulated, does the image have to follow the rules we've sort of set up for ourselves. Otherwise, I'm no longer sure if any of those rules apply.

............or to simplify by an example, if my favorite photo at one of my favorite photo sites just happened to include a bag of garbage, am I free to remove it with Photoshop tools before I show it to friends or post on a website?
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Sam Morris, Photographer
Las Vegas | NV | USA | Posted: 12:53 AM on 05.15.16
->> Michael, you are not a journalist, and as long as you don't present yourself as one, feel free to remove the garbage bag and clone in a UFO to your heart's content.

Richard Feynman is a physicist, not a journalist. The simple rule of "do not add, nor remove, anything from the photo that wasn't there in the first place" never falls apart. You can cite your college philosophy texts and smoke all the weed you want (I'm not saying you smoke weed btw), but the rule never changes if you are a journalist.

I no longer view Steve McCurry as a photojournalist for this reason.

One of the reasons I love photojournalism is the fact that you have to get it right the first time, in the camera. You don't get a do-over. That takes a certain skill set, a lot of patience and a lot of practice. Others can run circles around me posing models or running Photoshop, so I am not saying I am better, or photojournalists are better.
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David Hungate, Photographer
Roanoke | VA | United States | Posted: 4:51 PM on 05.15.16
->> "One of the reasons I love photojournalism is the fact that you have to get it right the first time, in the camera. You don't get a do-over."

With respect to Mr. Morris, I appreciate the sentiment of getting it right in the camera. But as long as you can adjust exposure, color, saturation and crop after the fact, you have changed what the camera captured. The "line" so many are accused of crossing is fluid and that is where ethics come into play. You remove items that were there when you crop. You lessen the impact of something when you burn it. You can bring attention to something else to deflect attention by dodging. Manipulation is manipulation.

It there much difference in cropping out a telephone wire and removing it with Photoshop? I say not really. (I don't advocate the practice and don't do it, but that is a judgement the individual must make.) You change your perspective when you crop. When you add flash to a photo, you changed the moment. You created something that wasn't there before you pushed the shutter.

This said, when you pull out the clone brush in Photoshop, you are on an ethical downhill slope and it gets way too easy to change the soul of the moment you photographed. Cropping, exposure and lighting are a reality of photography and are a reality of being a photojournalist. So is digital editing and it is not going to change. It is naive to think that photojournalist do not manipulate images. The honesty of our profession requires us to be righteous in our edits without being sanctimonious.

There are no absolutes in being a photojournalist as there are no absolutes in life.
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Doug Strickland, Photographer
Chattanooga | TN | USA | Posted: 7:39 PM on 05.15.16
->> I'm pretty sure the idea that it is unethical to clone something out of an image is a widespread photojournalistic absolute. Surely there's no need to pull up the NPPA's code of ethics on this one.

There are innumerable grey areas in our profession, from specifics of toning, cropping, selective framing and deciding when to press the shutter, but this is certainly not one of them.

The crux of the issue with Steve McCurry, to me, is that his defense is he doesn't really claim himself as a photojournalist anymore, even that's basically what his 40-year reputation is based on. His audience believes that they're seeing truthful images because that's the foundation of all of his work. If it wasn't so phenomenally important to his image, he wouldn't have removed the images that were caught from his web site. Magnum's silence is also rather disheartening.
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Michael Myers, Photographer
Miami | Florida | USA | Posted: 8:20 PM on 05.15.16
->> I used to be a "photojournalist" as I worked for several magazines. I'm now retired, and I'm constantly running into this "problem".

Do I correct "red-eye"? Sure. Technically that means I'm removing something from the image after having taken it, so it's no longer "untouched", but it was MY flash that put the red-eye into the person's eye - it wasn't there before I snapped the photo.


For that matter, since I shoot in "raw", there is no image. It's just raw data copied from the sensor. I have to manipulate that data to get anything changed into a 'jpg' image. There's no other way.


My opinion - there needs to be a new definition of what constitutes photo manipulation. Removing a person, or a garbage can, is beyond the "line", but technically, so is removing red-eye.
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Jim Colburn, Photographer
Omaha | NE | USA | Posted: 8:40 PM on 05.15.16
->> "It there much difference in cropping out a telephone wire and removing it with Photoshop?"

Yes, a big one.

IMO of course.
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Nic Coury, Photographer
Monterey | CA | | Posted: 8:42 PM on 05.15.16
->> David, with all due respect, if "is there much difference in cropping out a telephone wire and removing it with Photoshop? I say not really. "

You're dead wrong, dude. Cropping something out is FAR different than spot removal or cloning something out.

Secondly, "When you add flash to a photo, you changed the moment." - hardly. You're helping to illuminate something. Using flash at, say, a press conference or a protest to fill in shadows due to harsh sun or something is legends different than editing a photo after the fact.
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Brian Blanco, Photographer
Tampa / Sarasota | FL | USA | Posted: 8:55 PM on 05.15.16
->> Sam Morris. Thank you.
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Doug Strickland, Photographer
Chattanooga | TN | USA | Posted: 9:07 PM on 05.15.16
->> Michael, you're reaching REALLY far if you're debating whether red-eye removal constitutes photo manipulation or whether shooting in raw is some kind of manipulation because there is "no image" (which is just ludicrous - just because it's not stored in the same format as a JPEG doesn't mean there is "no image." By that logic, no digital image is an "image.")
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David Hungate, Photographer
Roanoke | VA | United States | Posted: 11:50 PM on 05.15.16
->> I stand by my assertion that cropping, cloning, popping a strobe at an event or dodging or burning is all manipulation. And as the technology changes and grows, so does the techniques of the journalist. As stated, I do not agree that changing the "soul" of the image is acceptable.

The game is very different today than 20 years ago. And the game 20 years ago was very different than 1950. Journalism is a reflection of the times it represents and it is evolving. It is not a sacred cow, but a business. And if you don't believe me, go back and look at all the post on this site that lamented the hundreds of photographers that lost their employment due to no fault of the own, but because the industry changed.

There isn't a working photog that hasn't said to a subject, "stop" or "hold on" or "do what you just did again" or any other phrase that encouraged a better shot. And to say that kind of interaction is acceptable and removing a dust speck from a bright blue sky or the phone wire that just crept into the upper edge of a frame is a sin is more of a lie to yourself than a lie to the viewer of the photo. Most of us know where the line is, and that line is wide and fluid and variable.

You don't lie to the viewer. But manuliptutation of a photograph has happened and will continue to happen. If you want to be a purist, be my guest. But if you take that route, be sure to never light a subject. Never adjust your color or exposure after the fact or interact with the people you shoot. Because to do any of that, you have manlipuated the people to create the photo you wanted. You are not a witness to the event. You became part of the event. And if you can't see that manipulation, in all its forms, is manipulation, then you may wish to seek a good opthomologist. Because being that myopic makes it difficult to be a photographer.
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Gene Boyars, Photographer
Manalapan | NJ | United States | Posted: 8:22 AM on 05.16.16
->> Some realities to consider. The human eye sees far more in the way of color and light than any sensor,any piece of film. We as photographers have been working for many years to make our photographs look like what the human eye sees. Burning, dodging and cropping are one thing as long as they do not go beyond what is really there but adding color, removing distracting items, etc go beyond ethical manipulation is the world of journalism. We, as photo-journalists, are there to record the history, not create it. Sam Morris made some very good points. As journalists we demand the truth from the people we cover, why shouldn't our readers/viewers demand the truth from us? It is something to think about David Hungate.
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Steve Apps, Photographer
Madison | WI | USA | Posted: 5:31 PM on 05.16.16
->> David,

I just started by thirty-first year as a photojournalist and except for portraits I have never done this.

"There isn't a working photog that hasn't said to a subject, "stop" or "hold on" or "do what you just did again" or any other phrase that encouraged a better shot."

As a young photographer I hated when I saw other photographers staging photos for their publications. They were either lazy, or lacked the talent to capture the moment when it happened.

For the young photojournalists, just stop it. There just is no way to justify manipulation of an image.
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Michael Coons, Photographer
Camarillo | CA | USA | Posted: 6:35 PM on 05.16.16
->> Whoa David, I have never said, outside of a portrait, to "stop" or "hold on" or "do what you just did again." Maybe that's why I'm a just a mediocre photographer but I rather capture the real thing.

This argument about photojournalism comes up every couple of years on Sportshooter and it always brings out heated responses. As photojournalists we all crop and tone are photographs but we don't digitally clone out objects. That's what we were taught and I believe most of us live by those rules.
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David Hungate, Photographer
Roanoke | VA | United States | Posted: 9:09 PM on 05.16.16
->> It goes without saying on this site, but correct me if I am wrong.

I believe shooting a portrait, a press conference, spot news and an enterprise photo all fall in the realm of "photojournalism". So, you've coached a person while taking a portrait for a newspaper, are you no longer a photojournalist? Hell no. It is how it's done. But, you just staged a photo.

I know most shooters have had to go out and work up a photo of a person in their natural environment and had to say, "just do what you normally do". But what he or she normally would be doing isn't what the story is about.

Your assignment is to shoot a guy making horse shoes BUT he normally would be sitting in his office doing paperwork when you are schedule to shoot his photo. But he says (or you suggest) he fires up his furnace and beats a piece of metal making sparks and showing movement and light. Are you less of a journalist because you either asked or took advantage of the suggestion? Again, I say hell no. It make you a professional working for a living.

You have to shoot a house for an architectural feature. You move plants around. You add light outside a window. You have the homeowner remove all the clutter off the kitchen counter. YOU HAVE JUST STAGED AND MANIPULATED A PHOTO.

So, do you stage shots? I say every working photog has and will continue to do it on a basic level, as I just demonstrated.

Do you fan the flames at a fire to get a better shot? No. Do you ask the widow to cry at a funeral to have some "real" emotion. You are damned as a human if you do, on so many levels. Do you Photoshop smoke into a frame taken at an industrial accident. That is deception. Do you clone out a big, angry zit on person's chin in a feature photo? Maybe. (I would if they asked.) Do you clone the mayor sneaking out of a brothel door? Never.

I say MOST PHOTOJOURNALIST DO NOT TRY TO DECEIVE THE VIEWERS OF THEIR WORK. We are part of an honorable profession that, because of the very nature of a photograph, stands for truth. Opinion, slant and agenda is rare in the ranks of a news photog's work.

We all have a job to do and not every shoot is on a front line of a war or at the scene of a riot. The bread and butter for most photojournalist is providing the images for a political piece or a feature or other basic newspaper or magazine story. It's the job and it's what is required. And sometimes it requires a level of staging a photo. And staging is manipulation of the image. But is it manipulation of the viewer? That is an ethical quandary that cannot be answered by me. Or you. But it is answered every day from the moment you push the shutter until it is printed on the page and the gross majority of the time, it is answered with the truth.

Again, I stand by what I posted earlier in this thread, "The honesty of our profession requires us to be righteous in our edits without being sanctimonious."

"There are no absolutes in being a photojournalist as there are no absolutes in life."

In the end, you will believe what you will believe, as will I. In no way have I inferred that any of you reading my rants are unethical or untalented or mediocre or anything less than honorable, talented and trying to do your best in a fast-changing world. I just think is is self-delusional to say "I never stage a photo" when, if you are a working photojournalist, you have. On some level, regardless of how basic, you have.

There isn't a working shooter who just walks the streets with her Leica M6 looking for "that moment". You get assignment and you have deadlines. Leave being a "purist" to the still life photographer shooting their wet plate negatives with an 8x10 view camera.

Now, let me climb down from my soapbox.
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Jim Colburn, Photographer
Omaha | NE | USA | Posted: 9:21 PM on 05.16.16
->> "I stand by my assertion that cropping, cloning, popping a strobe at an event or dodging or burning is all manipulation."

Then so is the choice of lens, the type of camera used, the choice of film used (remember film?), the use of a tripod, the use of a UV filter, etc.

Then there's the 'manipulation' involved in releasing the shutter at a certain time.
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Doug Strickland, Photographer
Chattanooga | TN | USA | Posted: 11:50 PM on 05.16.16
->> David, I don't have the patience anymore to form a measured and reasoned response to your post, which exhibits a clear misunderstanding of any of the issues you claim to be addressing. It should suffice to say that you simply have no idea what you're talking about if you claim that every one of us has at one time or another staged a news photograph, or are willing to repeatedly stage news photographs, simply because we have made someone's portrait in a directed setting. It's indicative of a great misunderstanding of the profession and of photojournalism as a craft if you believe that posing someone for a portrait, which is a discernibly different action that (should be) always clearly noted as such, means that you'll similarly pose people for news photos.
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Mark J. Terrill, Photographer
Simi Valley | CA | USA | Posted: 6:53 AM on 05.17.16
->> David,

This statement "Do you clone out a big, angry zit on person's chin in a feature photo? Maybe. (I would if they asked.)" just guaranteed that you won't be working as a journalist for any reputable company, certainly not the one that I work for. It doesn't matter if the President himself asks you to do it. You don't do it! There are several examples of people that had a similar attitude as you and as soon as they were caught, their careers ended. In all of the incidents that I can think of, not one has ever worked in journalism again.

Several of the things that you seem to think are okay or a "grey area", would get me fired in a heartbeat. "Stop" or "hold on" or "do what you just did again," with the exception of a portrait, would get me fired. There are VERY few times in my career that I have seen a stills shooter do this, but I do see video do it all the time. Altering the content of a photograph (i.e. cloning something out, cloning something in, moving an object, applying color that wasn't there) would all get me fired. Intentionally manipulating what appears to be a candid situation or a news situation would get me fired.

You seem to be confusing several different types of manipulation with deception. This is all about not deceiving the viewer. We would expect that any viewer with an I.Q. higher than an eggplant would realize that a portrait, by definition, is a setup and posed and therefore are not being deceived. A photographer merely being present at a situation often inadvertently alters a situation, but there is no intent to deceive. A photographers' choice of lenses alters what the viewer sees but there is no intent to deceive. When we manipulate the color after the fact to approximate what we saw, there is no attempt to deceive but it is a slightly grey area because we all perceive color differently and so do different cameras. If I use a flash, most viewers can recognize that flash has been used and therefore there is no deception. If you are talking about someone posing for you, you say so in the caption and therefore there is no attempt to deceive. If your horseshoe guy fires up his furnace and works on a horse shoe for you, you say in the caption "Joe Blow demonstrates his horseshoe skills for the camera." and therefore there is no attempt to deceive. Do you see where I'm going with this?

This last one comment of yours, "There isn't a working shooter who just walks the streets with her Leica M6 looking for "that moment." You get assignment and you have deadlines." tells me that you really have no clue what you are talking about. With that one sentence you have succeeded in insulting all of those who do exactly that. You may find it hard to believe, but there are hundreds of extremely talented people that go out everyday an hour before deadline and come back with extraordinary features without setting it up or manipulating it.

Also, the fact that you can't seem to comprehend the difference between cropping out or hiding elements from a photograph, which you could also do via lens choice, and removing elements that are within the visible frame would also keep anyone from hiring you. In order to remove something from a photograph, you have to replace it with something. So not only have you removed something that was there, you have added something that wasn't. There is no moving line. There is no grey area and there hasn't been for the nearly 35 years that I have been in the business. You say "There are no absolutes in being a photojournalist" but I've got news for you. THERE ARE! YOU ABSOLUTELY DON'T ALTER THE CONTENT OF THE PHOTOGRAPH! And it doesn't really matter if you agree with it or not, those are the rules. If you can't reconcile that, then it's probably best for everyone if you stay out of journalism.
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Steve Apps, Photographer
Madison | WI | USA | Posted: 12:54 PM on 05.17.16
->> I wish I could have stated my opinion as well as Mark Terrill did, but he nailed it.

Photographers who take shortcuts or stage photos still makes me angry. Twenty-five years ago I was working at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida and was asked to cover flooding in the small town of Arcadia. I was walking around looking for anything to photograph when I was approached by a man that said "I just worked for the (naming competing newspaper)" I asked him what he meant, and he told me that the photographer had asked him to walk around in chest deep water so he would get a few photos. The guy wanted to know if he wanted me to do the the same thing. I told him no thanks, and that I can't stage photos.
I spend a couple more hours looking for pictures, but didn't get much.
The next day my editor held up the competing newspaper and asked me why I didn't get any photos like this? I told him the photographer staged the photo.
That was a long time ago, but it brings back some anger at photographers who cheat.

Young photographers, print out what Mark wrote and read it every week.
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David Hungate, Photographer
Roanoke | VA | United States | Posted: 2:29 PM on 05.17.16
->> It surprises me that some cannot see that manipulating a photo is manipulating a photo. It doesn't matter when it happens; when you shoot it, you crop it, tone it or adjust exposure. It is manipulated and every photojournalist has done it. It is part of the job. It is unlikely that every image you have published has not been corrected in some form.

How can you set up for a portrait, light it, direct the subject while on site, then come back and crop and do all the other things necessary to generate a quality image and not see that as manipulation? By the very fact you scheduled the shoot, went to a pre-arranged site with lights, and at the scene you gave direction to the subject, YOU STAGED A SHOOT!!! As a photojournalist, that is what many do every day, and there is nothing wrong with it. Is it staging a photo like Mr. Apps referenced above with a guy wading in flood waters? No. That is ethically wrong. We all know that and that is an unbreakable rule. But by setting up a photo shoot as described, it is staged. No amount of tap dancing can change that.

And any shooter with an I.Q. greater than an eggplant can see that. It isn't a judgement on the act of shooting a portrait. It is reality that shooting a portrait is a staged event.

It seems odd that Mr. Terrill takes offense of my saying there "isn't a working shooter who just walks the streets with her Leica M6 looking for "that moment". Sure, many photographers go out on deadline and generate enterprise photos that are amazing. I so admire that talent to see a slice of life and capture it. But for a photojournalist that is so adamant in his chastising me, intent on being strict in his zeal of journalism standards saying I should "stay out of journalism", you neglected to absorb one word- JUST. Should't you be as accurate in your words as you are with your photos? There is no working photojournalist I have ever heard of that JUST walks the streets like Caine in Kung Fu, looking for an enterprise photo. Everyone I know, without exception, has assignments that differs from day to day and has deadlines.

If I had the same desire to be as blunt and narrow-minded, I would suggest you stay away from reading as you don't know how to comprehend one little word-the word "just". Now, to suggest that would be silly and condescending and a bit dickish, so let's not do that.

I'm sure that will illicit a scathing reply and not a realization that my comments are a reflection of reality. People stage and manipulate photos, right or wrong. People manipulate a moment by their very presence. I'm not talking the classic O.J.Simpson on the cover of Time manipulation, but daily changing of the images we shoot.

And as for taking things away or adding to an image (cloning in Photoshop), no one actually believes that never happens... especially on the cover of a magazine? If the photo editor at SI called and said go shoot us a cover shot with LeBron James, you don't think that image would be worked over? Not an action shot from a game, but a formal portrait. By taking the picture of LeBron and having it Photoshopped make you less of a journalist? Not just no, but hell no. You performed just one aspect of the job.

My point is this. You don't deceive the viewer. I've said that in three post- a thread that is specifically called "Photo Manipulation".
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Gene Boyars, Photographer
Manalapan | NJ | United States | Posted: 4:17 PM on 05.17.16
->> Thank you Mark Terrill and Steve Apps for concisely stating what the is really all about. Ethics matter not matter what an editor says. We are the ones on the scene and we are the ones with the responsibility to report what we see accurately. It is that simple. Make it real people. Be honest, be accurate.
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Andrew Nelles, Photographer
Nashville | TN | usa | Posted: 5:09 PM on 05.17.16
->> David. You just don't get it, you've established that. Let it rest.
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Eli Lucero, Photographer, Photo Editor
Logan | UT | USA | Posted: 5:23 PM on 05.17.16
->> Mark, you can't see me right now, but I gave you a standing ovation after reading your comment.
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Mark Loundy, Photo Editor, Photographer
San Jose | CA | USA | Posted: 10:23 PM on 05.17.16
->> As much as people want to bring up gray areas or logical imperfections in accepted journalistic practices, none of these apply to what McCurry did. This was not a close call.

--Mark
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Jim Colburn, Photographer
Omaha | NE | USA | Posted: 11:04 PM on 05.17.16
->> Dave, you've lost. Get over it and move on.
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Mark J. Terrill, Photographer
Simi Valley | CA | USA | Posted: 7:50 AM on 05.18.16
->> David,

Sorry for the delayed response but I was working. You know, setting up and manipulating images like we all do.

I have read what you have written several times, but I can’t for the life of me figure you what your point is. The ethics of what we do is such a simple concept that you have muddied by calling everything we do manipulation. Yes, everything that we do requires some form of manipulation in order to accurately depict any given situation but the word “manipulation” is pejorative to photojournalists. Most of us equate that word with deception. Is adjusting color either pre-shoot or in post manipulation by your definition? Yes, but those of us in the real world call it “color correction.” What do you want us to do, shoot daylight balance in a tungsten environment? Do you think the viewer wouldn’t feel deceived when they are looking at an orange picture?

On one hand you say “You don't lie to the viewer.” and on the other hand you say “Do you clone out a big, angry zit on person's chin in a feature photo? Maybe. (I would if they asked.)” Cloning out a zit isn’t lying to the viewer? Please justify this. Your varying opinions on manipulation are schizophrenic at best.

In this sentence that I apparently misunderstood “There isn't a working shooter who just walks the streets with her Leica M6 looking for "that moment". You get assignment and you have deadlines.” You appeared to be implying that shooters don’t go out there and make features without manipulating the situation in order to make deadline, which would fit in with your assertion that everyone tells subjects to "stop" or "hold on" or "do what you just did again.” I’m quite sure that I’m not the only one that misunderstood you. If you had said “There isn't a working shooter who ONLY walks the streets with her Leica M6 looking for "that moment,” I would have understood. However, I still don’t understand the point that you are trying to make. What does a working journalist that ONLY walks the streets looking for features whether on deadline or not have to do with manipulation or ethics? Were there ever journalists that only did this? Jay Maisel comes to mind, but he does there things as well. Perhaps I do suffer from poor reading comprehension.

You keep saying that photojournalism is constantly evolving and that is correct. For example, we no longer use the “hand of god” burning that was acceptable 30 years ago but you seem to be saying that the line should or will move the other way or should be left up to the individual which would make your zit cloning ethical in the future. That would be de-evolution and that will happen the same day that it becomes acceptable for writers to make up quotes.

So you have relentlessly made your point that everything we do is manipulation. What should we do? What do you think the line should be now and in the future?
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David Hungate, Photographer
Roanoke | VA | United States | Posted: 11:58 AM on 05.18.16
->> Mark,

I'm sorry, but I think you are wrong. The ethics of what we do is NOT a simple concept. You have different ethics for different shoots. A spot news shoot requires a different level of ethics than a fashion shoot. Shooting a football game requires a different set of ethics than shooting a portrait of an athlete. Hard news has no gray areas. Features gives you a far wider latitude. (Don't believe me? You can't move that bag of trash that is in your way on a hard news shot. You can move all the food on a plate for the restaurant review. Does one image become less honest than the other? I don't think so. It's just a different level of interaction, or manipulation, of the image.) I would think we can all agree on this, but we won't.

Many thing we do, by the very nature of what we do effects, therefore, manipulates (in some way) a situation. My initial response was simply to say we have an obligation to be aware that our actions, by having a camera, effects those we shoot and, by that effect, changes reality. How we post process and crop CAN (not necessarily does) effect the reality of the images we create.

I shoot for magazines, not newspapers. I often touch up images. That is a necessity for my side of this profession. Heck, I've had shoots where whole scenes are created in a studio. That was nothing but staging an image. I also shoot straight, traditional photojournalism-type stories, too. You have to wear many hats in this business. But I have never, nor would I advise, Photoshopping an image for a straight news story. And while the word manipulation may be pejorative to photojournalist, it does not have an exclusive negative meaning. It should serve as caution in a world where more and more images cannot be trusted to be real or honest.

With this comment directed at no one specific, I think there is an arrogance amongst our trade that says "I never manipulate an image", when in fact, ON SOME LEVEL, I believe we all do. Shooting a portrait is a perfect example. That was all I was inferring. And if a photographer thinks they never manipulate an image, good for them. I just find it... as I choose my words carefully... odd... that some can't see that they have an influence on the people, and by that truth, the images they photograph as well as how those images are processed. And any outside influence, whether on purpose or inadvertent manipulates the moment.

In the context of this thread, I wrongly assumed a different point of view would be fodder for a discussion on how to avoid the pitfalls of inappropriate manipulation of our images. I figured there were enough talented and open-minded shooters that would see technology has dramatically effected our industry and our viewers perception. I said in my first post, "The honesty of our profession requires us to be righteous in our edits without being sanctimonious". I guess the lens some people read with only allows them to see what they want.

So, for those of you who have never coached a subject while taking a portrait for paper, who never Photoshopped an image for a feature or magazine, who never talked to someone while shooting a profile piece or never cropped out something you saw in your viewfinder yet still shot, I offer you and only you an apology for inferring everyone manipulates an image at some point. For everyone else, I guess you were just doing your job in the best way possible. And if you're still a working photojournalist in these difficult times, congratulations.

What should we do and where should the line be now and in the future? Be aware of just how slippery the slope is. Not a single image is EXPECTED to be honest in the world today. Viewers assume everything is fake. Anyone with a computer and a little practice can make some amazing images. But as photojournalist, we can still show a clear and honest view of the world we cover.

I'll say it one last time, as a photojournalist, you don't deceive the viewer.

Oh, and Mark, I thank you for referencing the "hand of God' burning technique. I hadn't thought of that in decades.
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Mark J. Terrill, Photographer
Simi Valley | CA | USA | Posted: 5:05 PM on 05.18.16
->> I get what you are saying, but there is a simple litmus test for type of manipulation that are unethical. You ask yourself, does any given manipulation deceive the viewer? I would contend that in portrait or food photography, the viewer is very aware that this is a setup or contrived situation. In other situations that are not obvious, we let the viewer know in the caption. Outside of portrait photography, if you ask someone to do something again, you have deceived the viewer. If you clone out a zit or a child running through water, you have deceived the viewer. Cropping in no way deceives the viewer any more than using a 300mm instead of a 50mm does.

The company that I work for is so hypersensitive to this that we include a note in the IPTC field when a fisheye is used and we are not allowed to use tilt/shift lenses.

My company also fired one of our Pulitzer winners for doing what McCurry did. Here is a good article about it.
https://medium.com/@RaminTalaie/contreras-but-not-mccurry-4ac359daff16#.cce...
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Mark Loundy, Photo Editor, Photographer
San Jose | CA | USA | Posted: 11:13 PM on 05.19.16
->> David,

The "shooting is manipulation" argument in support of weakening journalistic ethics does not hold water. After 189 years of photography, the viewing public is well aware of the artifacts introduced by the process. I do not accept that it is OK to remove objects from within the frame of any journalistic image, be it hard news, soft news, sports, feature or portrait.

Journalistic ethics are based upon an implied covenant with the viewer: "What we present to you within the cropped edges of the image are what you would have seen if you were looking through the viewfinder yourself. We will not mislead you"

Yes, there are post-production variances of the above, but they are minor and do not include removing or adding anything.

You say you shoot for magazines. Magazine editors are notoriously close-lipped about dodgy ethical practices and only "come to Jesus" when caught red-handed. Lapses are typically leaked, not announced or admitted. In other words, the industry is conscious of guilt and ashamed of the practices.

The magazine industry is tanking along with the rest of the print industry. Messing with trust could not be helping that at all.

--Mark
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Jim Colburn, Photographer
Omaha | NE | USA | Posted: 11:42 PM on 05.19.16
->> "I shoot for magazines, not newspapers. I often touch up images."

Do the magazines know that?

Have you told them, specifically, that the images you supply to them are 'touched up'?
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David Hungate, Photographer
Roanoke | VA | United States | Posted: 2:15 AM on 05.20.16
->> Yes. Photoshop services and other forms of manipulation are invoiced.

It may come as a shock, but magazines use Photoshopped images. The viewing public is aware that portraits, features, food and architecture images get Photoshopped. Editors, art directors and publishers are too. Every publication I contract with would never accept, nor should they, images for news that have been deceptively manipulated. But yup, they like those fashion images to be polished. They like skin to be radiant on a model. They don't want to see a smudge on a plate for a food shot. They don't care to see a distracting lamp cord in a photo of a living room.

It appears there is a very small segment in publishing (and shocking enough, some of them must shoot sports) who are unaware that this often happens and that for most magazines, it is an accepted practice. Even in sports magazines. But I guess some photographers assumed all those posed sport celebrity portraits, including those swimsuit models on the cover of SI, do not get Photoshopped. I'm sure those naive shooters don't visit this site.

And as for the argument that "shooting is manipulation", it is. Whether you agree is irrelevant. I'm not saying it is right or it is wrong. It just is. Your choice of lens affected the image. A 200mm for a portrait has a much different look and style and perspective than a 50mm. Same scene, same exposure, but a different look and feel. Cropping is manipulation. Color correction, dodging and burning, overall exposure adjustment is manipulation. Right or wrong, it just is. Doesn't matter if the public assumes that we adjust exposure or whatever. There is no unwritten pact with viewers that says thou shal not manipulate a photo. Sure, they know without knowing the details that adjustments are made to photos. The pact we have is thou shall not lie to the viewer.

Is manipulating a photo deception? Most of the time, no. (Miss a goal in hockey and decide to "burn" a puck into a frame is deception. Crop out a vital element of an image is deception. Change contrast and exposure and hue to make someone appear more "guilty" (see above reference to O.J.) is deception. There is a big difference between manipulation (the act of changing, on whatever level, something you shot) and deception.

And it's not semantics. Knowing the difference between the non-pejorative act of manipulation and deceptive manipulation is knowing where that ethical line is and knowing not to cross it.

Most images are manipulated to present whatever the photographer saw as the photographer saw it (in the case of hard news). In my opinion, the gross majority of photojournalist do not deceive their viewers.

So, yes. I manipulate feature photos. I manipulate portraits with light and gels and posing the subject and Photoshopping a zit and adjusting exposure. I find no ethical dilimia in removing a ketchup smudge from a plate for a food feature anymore than I have an issue with moving the fries on that same plate before I shot the photo.

I will manipulate a straight news photo, too. I will dodge and burn and crop. I will turn a color image to black and white and manipulate the contrast accordingly. I won't add to, subtract from or clone a news photo.

And I'm sure, except for the sanctimonious trolls out there, understand my point of view.
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Doug Strickland, Photographer
Chattanooga | TN | USA | Posted: 11:06 AM on 05.20.16
->> David, the only sanctimonious troll in this thread seems to be you. Literally every working professional who has taken the time to engage your bad ideas has disagreed with them and made stunningly well-crafted responses to your repeatedly misguided posts. These are photojournalists with decades of combined experience who, quite frankly, know better than you do. That you haven't taken the time to listen and learn is indicative that the problem here might just be you.
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Jim Colburn, Photographer
Omaha | NE | USA | Posted: 11:31 AM on 05.20.16
->> Thank you Mr. Strickland (mic drop...)
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Michael Myers, Photographer
Miami | Florida | USA | Posted: 5:40 PM on 06.23.16
->> I guess I'm on the other side. I read what David has to say, and it rings a bell. I think people viewing a photo usually see what the photographer wanted them to see, not "what was".

I saw a documentary about Ansel Adams, who would count as "my hero" if I had one. They showed a photo that is famous all over the world. Beautiful. Then they showed a print, direct from the negative - it was NOTHING like the image we're all used to seeing.


Me? I wish I was able to create images that might be more like what Ansel Adams created, and while he might not clone stuff in or out of an image, it's not possible to say he didn't manipulate the image.


......suppose you wanted a photo of someone doing a "wheelie" on a motorcycle. I suspect most photographers would ask someone to do one, in a pre-determined location. Is that "manipulation"? If it's for a newspaper article on a group of bikers coming to a small town, yes.... but if it's for a story on motorcycle "wheelies", no.

Lastly, if I, as a photographer, add "red-eye" to someone's eyes, I don't think it's not acceptable to remove it. ....but it certainly is manipulation.


Can we agree that when a photographer tries deliberately to deceive a viewer, THAT is what is unacceptable?
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Will Powers, Photographer
Tempe | AZ | USA | Posted: 9:46 PM on 06.23.16
->> There is a huge difference between being a photographer and being a photojournalist. It seems that you are on the side of a photographer, allowed to make all kinds of manipulations and possibly art in the process. Adams never claimed, to my knowledge, to be a photojournalist. In fact, he claimed to be a printer from some accounts I've read.

As a photojournalist, one is tied to a certain ethical standard. some clients play looser with the rules, some are very strict. The photojournalism community has its standards, too, and we hold our "members" to a particular standard. Some might say it is a moving standard, others say it isn't. Most of us adhere to the standard of The NPPA. I try to, and do a good job of it. My publisher seems to be happy.

We cannot just agree to disagree here. I stand behind what Mark Terrill and Doug Strickland said earlier.
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Stanley Leary, Photographer, Photo Editor
Roswell | GA | | Posted: 8:44 AM on 06.24.16
->> Here is the NPPA code of ethics that is the gold standard for photojournalism:

https://nppa.org/code_of_ethics

When you read the list you will notice you are agreeing to not being manipulated or manipulating in any way. This includes a lot more than just PhotoShop.

Now I believe you can manipulate if a photojournalist, but not when performing your job as a photojournalist. When you put on the hat of advertising then you can manipulate.

The hard problem today for the freelancer is that they rarely able to make a full-time living just as a photojournalist. They shoot commercial jobs where you have to take control for the client requires it.

You must be able to clearly keep these roles separate and clear for your audience as well.

I believe that the largest problem with Steve McCurry is it wasn't really clear when he was shooting photojournalism or art for the audience.
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Michael Myers, Photographer
Miami | Florida | USA | Posted: 10:53 AM on 06.24.16
->> Technically, the following would be true, based on what has been posted here...

None of us should use external lighting, as that is adding something to the scene that was not there.

None of us should use a polarizing filter, as that is removing something from the image.

There is a question about using lenses with anything other than a standard focal length, as wide angle lenses make a scene appear deeper than it really is, and telephoto lenses do the opposite.

Perspective control lenses would be out, as they "distort" a scene.

Stop-motion, and slow-motion video would be out, as people don't "see" the world that way.



To me, if you're trying to deceive the viewer about what was there, or what happened, that is manipulation. Everything I mentioned up above is "tools". To me, they're all "legit".


One question, regarding what David said up above. If it's not acceptable to ask two important people to shake hands again, because you missed a shot, why is it acceptable to take photos of the people shaking hands deliberately for the benefit of the press? Why have sessions so the press can capture photos like that?

(To me, the line is drawn when you're trying to deceive the viewer about what happened, or is happening.)
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Mark J. Terrill, Photographer
Simi Valley | CA | USA | Posted: 12:09 PM on 06.24.16
->> "One question, regarding what David said up above. If it's not acceptable to ask two important people to shake hands again, because you missed a shot, why is it acceptable to take photos of the people shaking hands deliberately for the benefit of the press? Why have sessions so the press can capture photos like that?"

This is really, really simple. If something is being done for the benefit of the cameras, something that they are doing on their own, then you say so in the caption. If you miss it and ask them to do it again, it is now something set up by the photographer and much different.

People don't expect news writers to write fiction. Photojournalists are subject to the same standard.

Also, when we use fisheye lenses or anything else that is highly distortional, we let people know in the IPTC.

"None of us should use external lighting, as that is adding something to the scene that was not there."

Adding a flash to the scene does not add content. It simply illuminates content that is already there. Removing a zit or a telephone line is removing content that had been there within the frame. Same goes for adding content.
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Gregory Greene, Photographer
Durham | NH | USA | Posted: 4:22 PM on 06.24.16
->> What I don't like is the hypocrisy between hardware and software manipulation. Blur the background with a 400/2.8 lens and it's ok, blur it in PS and it's not ok even though the two pictures look the same.

Use an external flash to light a scene and it's ok, but push shadows by 3-4 stops in post and get into trouble.

Camera's now do multiple shots and merge the files internally for greater DR. Try doing that in post and see the reaction you get.

Whether using RAW or JPEG camera's are doing more and more preprocessing of the image before the photographer even downloads the file. Much of that processing if done in post would not be acceptable to many photographers.

What if a camera company licenses Adobe's Content Aware processing and embeds the logic in a chip and puts it in a camera. Is it now ok to eliminate trash in photos automatically because it's in camera? How are you going to police that?

Photographers have been using hardware to manipulate images according to their own ethics for a long time. Technology is going to really stress those boundaries as time moves forward.
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Andrew Nelles, Photographer
Nashville | TN | usa | Posted: 6:03 PM on 06.24.16
->> I can't help but notice the people here who are taking time to carefully explain every aspect of ethics here are working news photographers. Those who are flogging the dead horse, dragging this on and on, are not.
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Mark J. Terrill, Photographer
Simi Valley | CA | USA | Posted: 6:22 PM on 06.24.16
->> "What if a camera company licenses Adobe's Content Aware processing and embeds the logic in a chip and puts it in a camera. Is it now ok to eliminate trash in photos automatically because it's in camera? How are you going to police that?"

Absolutely not. How would it be policed? It depends on what you mean by "trash" but, if I am interpreting what you are saying correctly, eventually, your boss will see a picture of the same scene shot at the same time, see that there actually was "trash" in there and fire you.

"Photographers have been using hardware to manipulate images according to their own ethics for a long time."

This is true and, for many of them that were caught, their careers are over. Photojournalists don't get to make their own rules. They have to adhere to the rules of their overall profession and, especially, the company that they work for.

"Technology is going to really stress those boundaries as time moves forward."

I don't really think so. Technology that enables someone to digitally manipulate the content of a photo has been around since the early eighties when National Geographic moved some pyramids to make them all fit on the cover. People were just as outraged then as they would be now. The rules remain the same no matter what new technology exists when it comes to the content of the photograph.
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Gregory Greene, Photographer
Durham | NH | USA | Posted: 6:45 PM on 06.24.16
->> Of course the photojournalist industry has made their own rules. They allow flash, they allow extreme DOF, they allow ultra wide field distortion, they allow all the preprocessing that modern camera's do internally. They have set an arbitrary line for ethics so they can use those tools.

If you are truly going to police the manipulators then there is a lot of guilt to be spread around.
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Mark J. Terrill, Photographer
Simi Valley | CA | USA | Posted: 7:14 PM on 06.24.16
->> Gregory, Have you read the NPPA rules on ethics? Arbitrary or not, I think that the rules are pretty clear as far as what you can and can't do and that is what the industry has settled on. It's really simple, if you don't like the rules or can't follow them, then don't participate.

As I have mentioned before, there are some gray areas like color correction, but I feel that as long as you are trying to approximate what you saw, you should be in the clear.

(Not necessarily directed at you Gregory) I tend to feel like those that want to argue the semantics of those ethics are often trying to justify things that they have done that go against the universally accepted rules. I don't know anyone that possess a lot of photojournalistic talent that is actively campaigning to be able to manipulate photos. The reason why they aren't is because they are able to get it right the first time.
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Gregory Greene, Photographer
Durham | NH | USA | Posted: 7:39 PM on 06.24.16
->> Exactly, the rules are made to allow manipulation in certain ways. My problem is that manipulation is still manipulation whether it's in the camera or in post processing. Isn't photojournalism supposed to be about the truth? It's totally hypocritical to allow this in camera and yet be against the rules in post processing.

I'm not trying to allow photographers to be able to manipulate images. I'm pointing out that they already do and the rules allow it. If you want to get up on a soapbox and declare your photojournalism purity get your rules straightened out.
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Andrew Nelles, Photographer
Nashville | TN | usa | Posted: 8:48 PM on 06.24.16
->> I think the core of the issue here is that you're focusing on labeling things manipulation, instead of focusing on the issue which is deception.

Sure, you can call shooting with a 85mm at f/1.2 instead of a 50mm at f/16 manipulation if you want. But it's (typically) not deception. The average viewer understands that a photographer's lens choice can have aesthetic impact on the image. As Mark stated, a lot of news organizations require it to be stated in the caption if an extreme lens choice was used, fisheye, tilt shift, whatever. I've worked for clients who had bans, for ethical reasons, on items such as tilt shifts, polarizers, etc. Personally, I don't use them anyway.

At the start of this thread we were discussing a photographer who cloned out content from his images. He fundamentally altered the image from being a visual record to a fictional moment that he wished had occurred. That's deceiving the viewer in the most extreme way.

As a photojournalist, I set out every day with the goal to present what I see to a viewer in the most truthful way possible. Possible being the key here. Sure my lens choice, my framing, the moment I choose, all can be called manipulation. But I'm working with the goal of communicating truth to my audience.

If I dodge and burn the hell out of a photo to make it look way more dramatic than it was, color correct a flat cloudy day to look like a vibrant sunset, clone out a distracting element, then I've created fiction, and I'm deceiving my audience. What's printed on the page is not what actually occurred.

There are definitely some ethical grey areas, but a lot of it is simply black and white.
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Mark Loundy, Photo Editor, Photographer
San Jose | CA | USA | Posted: 8:53 PM on 06.26.16
->> David,

If you ever expect to do photojournalism on a professional level, it would help you a lot if you moved away from equating cropping with cloning. Not knowing the difference will get you fired if you are a staffer and banned as a vendor if you are a freelancer.

--Mark
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Yamil Sued, Photographer, Photo Editor
Peoria | AZ | USA | Posted: 11:26 PM on 07.12.16
->> I'm not a PJ, nor do I play one on TV, but this shocked me:

http://petapixel.com/2016/05/06/botched-steve-mccurry-print-leads-photoshop.../

http://petapixel.com/2016/06/07/eyes-afghan-girl-critical-take-steve-mccurr.../
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Andrew Nelles, Photographer
Nashville | TN | usa | Posted: 1:13 AM on 07.13.16
->> This post has come full circle.
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