Modifications In The Elements Of A Photo Is An Important Deal For Photojournalists

By Janna Williams

Once upon a time, photo editing was a real chore. It took a lot of time and was tedious. You could figure on spending hours if you wanted to do anything beyond simple darkening or lightening of the picture.

If you had to paint away a feature you would have to make an entirely new picture and cut the object bit by bit into the new image. For instance, if you had a group picture and you wanted to 'remove' one of the group members, this could take days.

Nowadays that is no longer the case. With Paint, and Photoshop, and similar programs, you can change elements of your photos quickly and easily.

There is a major downside to this. Unfortunately, it is also quick and easy now to add elements to a photo that were not there when the image was taken, or to take out elements that were in fact there.

When we have a picture taken by a photojournalist, this is supposed to be news. That means facts, rather than fiction. This should be the guiding philosophy behind any changes made. It's one thing to correct a color problem or to darken an overexposed image. It's another to change a calm sky to make it appear stormy.

Think about it. You would not deny that putting a celebrity's head on someone else's body is a form of dishonesty. By that same token, changing an image to make it more "dramatic" by adding smoke, or by adding people to a crowd scene, is also very dishonest and is not appropriate in journalism.

Where's the line between fixing a photo, and making it fiction? The basis for that divide is content. If a photographer changes a picture in any way that affects the meaning of the image, then the change is not appropriate for a photojournalist to have done.

When you are editing photos, you should keep these standards in mind. How closely you need to adhere to them depends on your role. A picture that is "art" can be stylized, because the photographer is an artist. The artist has full artistic license. But a journalist is a journalist, and has journalistic standards, even when their medium is photography.

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