|Do it in ads, but don't screw up. Look|
close and see the reflection of a lower
capacity card (8 on top, 4 on bottom).
However, in journalism, don’t even think about it.
The end. See you next week.
The long discussion is that some photography manipulation in journalism is acceptable and understandable, such as contrast, cropping and sharpening, but the fine line is crossed when an editor or photographer fudges information because they either believe it is necessary, doesn’t matter or that they won’t get caught.
I have fudged the rules a little and justified it (gasp!). I have had indoor news photographs where my flash caught glass in the background and made a glare and I Photoshopped the glare out. Call me a sinner, I don’t care because I was not changing the information. I have also printed photos that the lighting above was too bright to raise the contrast of the whole photo without burning in, so I selected the glaring light, added grey, and then raised the contrast of the whole picture. Bad me.
I once Photoshopped a news photo where one of the people covertly flipped the bird on his sleeve. I should have Photoshopped his stinking face too, but I resisted.
When I think of my minor photo transgressions I remember a photojournalism class I took at TCU sponsored by the Texas Press Association. During a class discussion I disclosed my glare eliminating techniques and my flipping the bird story and the guest speaker, a photo editor from the Fort Worth Star Telegram, completely freaked, condemning my actions saying only cropping, contrast and sharpening are acceptable and nothing more. My response was, “but it is OK when you crop someone completely out of a photo, and that is manipulating the information. Right?” He had no response.
I attribute his Photoshop paranoia to the fact that his paper got in trouble for photo manipulating earlier that same year. It happened during the internationally famous America’s Cup boat race when a boat sank and another team abandoned the race to go to the rescue. The neighboring Dallas Morning News printed the only photo available to the media, which was a frame from the television broadcast, and the Star Telegram printed the same picture but Photoshopped out the network emblem on the television screen and gave no credit to the contributing network, making it appear it was a Star Telegram photograph.
Contrast, although acceptavle, can also be a transgression, as Time Magazine learned. Former football star O.J. Simpson was arrested and accused of murder and the front page of Newsweek featured Simpson’s arrest mugshot, and the cover of Time had the same photo but darkened with sinister, evil looking shadows. Time was ridiculed in journalism circles for the biased blunder (see Simpson covers here).In the early years of the Iraq War, a couple of Associated Press photographers were fired for different incidents of manipulating to make their photos look more dramatic in hopes of getting their work chosen for release. A stoic soldier was photographed looking over a valley but smoke was added to bombed out trucks, and another altered a picture to bring frightened citizens closer to a soldier.
In media, manipulation feature photographs is acceptable if you are trying to be artsy and not altering information, like the Time/OJ Simpson incident. For instance, I took a normally dull posed group photo of marching band members for an award they won and swirled the background with the school’s colors and it looked very cool in the newspaper.
There are transgressions outside journalism that have little consequences. In a photograph of President George Bush at a table signing a bill, corporate bigwigs who financially supported the bill are standing to the president’s left and right. One company took that photograph and moved their company big cheese from the end to just over the president’s shoulder and printed it in their company newsletter. No harm no foul, but it was embarrassing for the company when the photos went viral in photography and journalism circles.
In journalism, the acceptation is feature photos in some cases, but don’t go too far and don't alter information. In news, if you can't get the perfect shot just try harder next time. That is part of the challenge of being a Ninja photojournalist.