Ethics of Photography: Career Suicide by Photoshop
Digital photography by definition relies on being processed with photo editing software such as
the popular Adobe Photoshop. As many photographers know editing can encompass traditional
post-processing (curves, levels, contrast, saturation, sharpening, spotting, etc.) to provide an
accurate representation of the subject or scene and can extend into more elaborate digital
manipulation (removal/addition of objects, color changes, etc.). As a result of the boom in digital
photography and the availability of applications like Photoshop one of the most common
philisophical and ethical discussions with in the photographic community is about the
appropriate use and extent of photo manipulaiton.
With in the nature and landscape world there are those that feel digital manipulation is part of the
art form and on the other end of the spectrum there are purists who feel minimal editing should
take place to accurately represent nature. No where is the purist philosophy of minimal to no
editing stronger than in the world of photojournalism. The essence of photojournalism is
centered around the pillar of accurately representing or documenting a photographed scene as it
happened or as the editor of the Toledo Blade stated “an accurate representation of the truth”.
A basic rule: Newspaper photos must tell the truth – Toledo Blade
Over the past year or two a growing number of photographers have been snared bending or
breaking the ethics of photojournalism. Only last year freelance Reuters photographer, Adnan
Hajj (with photos), was outted and dismissed for his digitally altered images of Beirut. This
month a former Pulitzer Prize nominated photographer, Allan Detrich, has been caught
publishing digitally manipulating photos(PDF) for the Toledo Blade.
His edits by most standards would seem minor. The removal of distracting elements; someones
legs behind a sign, the removal of a wire passing through his image or the addition of a
basketball. Sadly truly accurate representation, flaws included, are essential in photojournalism.
As a photographer that makes minor edits to my photos from time to time it’s amazing to think
that such a small edit can have such detrimental impact to ones career.
The result of these edits by Allan Detrich has resulted in painful consequences including
suspension of publication of his photos by the Toledo Blade, Reuters and AP, and his ultimate
‘Blade’ Probe Turns Up More Questionable Photos by Detrich – Editor & Publishing (4/12/07)
Update: Toledo ‘Blade’ Photog Suspended During Probe – Editor & Publisher (4/7/07)
This just goes to show how important it is for photographers to keep track of ethical standards
for their genre of choice.
Where do you fall philosophically in regard to photo editing for your photographic genre of
– added after originally posting –
Allan Detrich in his own words, Forgive Me, I Am Human
See what other photographers are saying on the subject:
One oops, two oops, three oops, fourâ€¦ – Gary Crabbe
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