Photo development guidelines

what is allowed in photojournalism?

Hungarion version

Illustration (Photo and editing by Attila Volgyi)

It is an ethernal debate what editing can be done on a digital photo and what type of retouching is forbidden. I have searched through many sources for details on this topic. I think I found the most detailed description.

Every newspaper and especially all the agencies serving a vast number of papers have certain type of guidelines for photo development. These descriptions may differ more or less, but the basics and the spirit they are built up are the same.

I got an answer to my question from the Hungarian state news agency MTI. Photo department leader Istvan Viragvolgyi summed up their principals this way: “MTI has an Editorial handbook that has an appendix on Photo editing, but it is reserved for internal use only. However regarding alterations to the photos we too use the popular rule of thumb that forbids altering the content of the image for both photographers and editors.”

AP news agency guidelines are as follows:
AP pictures must always tell the truth. We do not alter or digitally manipulate the content of a photograph in any way.

The content of a photograph must not be altered in Photoshop or by any other means. No element should be digitally added to or subtracted from any photograph. The faces or identities of individuals must not be obscured by

Photoshop or any other editing tool. Only retouching or the use of the cloning tool to eliminate dust on camera sensors and scratches on scanned negatives or scanned prints are acceptable.

Minor adjustments in Photoshop are acceptable. These include cropping, dodging and burning, conversion into grayscale, and normal toning and color adjustments that should be limited to those minimally necessary for clear and accurate reproduction (analogous to the burning and dodging previously used in darkroom processing of images) and that restore the authentic nature of the photograph. Changes in density, contrast, color and saturation levels that substantially alter the original scene are not acceptable. Backgrounds should not be digitally blurred or eliminated by burning down or by aggressive toning. The removal of “red eye” from photographs is not permissible.

When an employee has questions about the use of such methods or the AP’s requirements and limitations on photo editing, he or she should contact a senior photo editor prior to the transmission of any image.

On those occasions when we transmit images that have been provided and altered by a source – the faces obscured, for example – the caption must clearly explain it. Transmitting such images must be approved by a senior photo editor.

Except as described herein, we do not stage, pose or re-enact events. When we shoot video, environmental portraits, or photograph subjects in a studio care should be taken to avoid, misleading viewers to believe that the moment was spontaneously captured in the course of gathering the news. In the cases of portraits, fashion or home design illustrations, any intervention should be revealed in the caption and special instructions box so it can’t be mistaken as an attempt to deceive.”

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