When photos don’t tell the truth.

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Photos are just another way of telling stories, and therefore, together with all other mediums is subject to the perspective and interpretation of the storyteller.

I believe it is totally unethical to remove elements from a photography by digitally manipulating it. Maybe a good way to determine how much a photo can be manipulated is to ask oneself, “Is this photo still telling the same story that the photographer intended?”

The June 2010 cover of the Economist

It probably all comes down to the editor’s preference. Just as text piece can be changed from what the original writer intended so can a photograph. Simply by cropping it differently a photo-editor can make the photo tell a totally different story.

The reason why so many people care about it is because you often see the original photo somewhere else but not the original text of an article that has been modified.

The National Press Photographers Association says, “As journalists we believe the guiding principle of our profession is accuracy; therefore, we believe it is wrong to alter the content of a photograph in any way that deceives the public.”

Click to see more on digital tampering.


2 Comments on “When photos don’t tell the truth.”

  1. I’m surprised by the example you gave of the Economist. I’m not sure I consider it unethical. The revised cover art is much more artistic and draws more emotion than the original photo. I see your point that Obama standing (alone) on the shore never happened and is misleading but I don’t see it doing any actual harm? What do you think of this photo?

    1. Well in the economist case the photo wasn’t just cropped, it also had a person digitally removed. I agree the final photo looks better. But does it represent the truth captured by the photographer? If the magazine discloses that the photo is an artistic illustration than there is no problem with it. The harm in changing photos without disclosing it, is that it is misleading.

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