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Wednesday, 08 April 2009


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Although I agree some of the images are excessively processed, I think the sample image you put up on TOP is just the result of ETTR (expose to the right). If you follow ETTR you get results like this prior to curve adjustments.

I can't see the problem. we did the same sort of things with an enlarger. DW

See how much digital sucks: not only is it the source of fake journalism, but the print quality is so bad you really only need 3 MPs, for web shots.*


"we did the same sort of things with an enlarger."

Uh, no we didn't. I spent thousands of hours in color darkrooms, and nobody ever did anything remotely like that with an enlarger. Not starting with a negative that looked like the bottom picture. That's why you never saw pictures that looked like the top picture in those days.


Looks like a photographer that knows how to use all of his tools. Photoshop opened up a whole new can of worms. Some day PJ's are either going to have to drop their software prejudice or start flagging guys like Joe McNally for excessive use of light and helicopters. Rare is the PJ that accurately records the ambient scene without some form of manipulation. Make the rules as rigid as you want - Someone's going to feather your selection.

The sad part is that simple levels adjustments and some other conventional editing would have produced probably-competitive results. I see the same thing in so many photo magazines these days, shots overcooked well beyond the bounds of good taste. Not saying that it's not a legitimate style--and probably a kind of art on its own terms--but the definition of photojournalism just doesn't stretch that far.

The results shown in the linked article all have what I think of as "the HDR look" (recognizing that there are in fact many rather different looks you can achieve through HDR, including some that look quite normal). I wonder if he's maybe using synthetic HDR from his RAW files.

I'd have said they fell within guidelines for honest representation, myself.

The one you ran, in particular, has very low contrast due to distance and "stuff" in the air, and just setting the black point will bring you a long way towards that "objectionable" final version.

Well, the original photo is simply overexposed. Expose to right or not, there was almost nothing below 128.

It took me three minutes, two Curve layers and one soft gradient to get something that looks similar to the postworked one. But only similar. Mine's a bit more natural looking. :-)

In the example above the first shot is a bit over the top, but I would wager that underexposing Velvia by 1/3 stop would give you a result closer to the first image than the second. You could argue the original/before shows a poor choice of exposure if you were going for optimal results straight out of the camera; but for somebody exposing to the right and planning to set the black point during raw conversion, the exposure choice in that shot doesn't seem unreasonable.

Maybe if the Danish association had taken a similar position with photogs who switched from Kodachrome to Velvia, Kodachrome would still be thriving today.
I see this as quite different from earlier examples of photographers who had passed off composites as originals, or who had erased significant information from their images.

The main problem here is that the Photographer is taking an artistic licence with his photojournalism... which is wrong, as he is presumably presenting the images as 'truthful' (I cannot read Danish either).

If he were presenting the images in an ART context, then this sort of manipulation can be/is accepted.

Just my two pence.

It seems that it's OK with black and white but not with colour? Although I don't like what he's done with the other pictures in the article, the one in your blog entry just looks like the contrast has been increased (dramatically).. I agree it's a lot of change but it's not too different from the amount of contrast increase that some people would have applied to a black and white picture ...

Hmm... I am not a big fan of dramatic photoshopping, but there are cases where some processing *MUST* be used. For example, RAW are not RAW and the camera CPU must apply some processing. So is that "photoshopping?" Moreover, as I understand it, the Foveon RAW are "muddy" from the camera and must be processed.

Another example is digital IR. I actually tend to use my IR converted dSLR as a slightly tinted B&W camera (that sometimes has some false colors). Straight from the camera, the colors tend to be yellow, but in almost all cases, I just use Lightroom to set the color temperature to 2000 degrees, and change the tint to +50. Without this simple change, the image is not usable per se:


I am not sure exactly what the photographer did in this case, but if nothing is added or removed, then "extreme" photoshopping can be hard to define.

Should then the Arts Filter in the new Olympus be ruled not acceptable either?

Whilst I don't believe for one second that 'the default setting in Adobe Camera Raw' give some sort of absolute reality, the final images he presented owe more to advertising work than photojournalism in my view. The very high local contrast and (in part consequent) intense saturation refelct a current vogue style that is clearly not designed to represent in any direct way the world is observed.

Mike, as you observe, doing that with a colour neg would be a stretch without a digital stage:)


I have to admire the latest comment listed on the referenced page, which begins:

"Jørn Stjerneklar: Jesus H. Christ... "

Some things need no translation!

The image shown above doesn't bother me as much, but the image with the woman in the left foreground is just grotesque. If this is intended to be photojournalism, it misses the mark widely.

And looking again at the pictures of the lady outside (presumably) home and the one with the toy windmill. Although the final work is dramatic, there is more pathos in the initial version that shows a flat and uninteresting rather than a post-apocalyptic view.


Google translation: tr.im/danishphotojob
Gives you a rough idea. And while some of the images are manipulated just as in that darkened Time cover, the very example that you gave here is just a haze correction. If the guy really wanted to flip a finger, using a Sigma/Foveon at a higher ISO and a grad would have saved his skin.
He might not be a PJ, but I actually like this artsy :) version.

Did he add anything to the image? I see about the right number of plumes of smoke. As far as I can tell he's not added elements to the image but is just working with what was there in the original.

I just took the original picture in your blog entry, adjusted levels to bring black point up and white point down. Applied a feathered selection to sky and increased contrast. Applied a wide area unsharp mask and bobs your uncle..

I don't think this guy should be vilified for anything other than bad photography and post production.. (having these attributes has never prevented people from judging pictures in the past -- why now?)

I think it looked better before he lightened it ;)

But seriously, that's a little over-the-top for sure. I'm surprised it would pass editorial muster.

Honestly, I don't get whats wrong with this? Maybe someone can explain? If you are in print journalism, thats by far within the range of variability you get just by not standing on every printers toes all the time.

I would be interested in the reasoning and I don't speak dansih.


Hmm. Having seen a comparison of Ansel Adams' straight print of "Clearing Winter Storm" to his final version, the difference is equally dramatic. I guess the main point is Ansel was not a PJ.

Yes. We did this kind of work with enlargers back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

When I worked in Hollyweird I learned how to make prodigious use of masks. The results were very similar to this guy's digital results. The BIG difference is in the amount of time it took in the 'ol analog days. Sometimes I'd work three or four weeks on an image. With the new generation of tools it takes a fraction of the time.

Yes, I did have prints altered dramatically with pro-developers. We did incredible prints with cibachrome and built density in photographers that weak. I am pleased to see that it is cheaper to do, we photographers have the flexibility to communicate exactly what we want with this technology with no limits to untalented developers like I have had to brow beat to get the dodge/burn where I wanted it. Great job!


@ Mike Johnston, we did do this sort of thing in colour darkroom using contrast increasing masks using lith film. It was harder, took longer but gave similar results.

I agree with Oliver, it appears like Klavs has exposed to the right to maximise the quality of his captures and brought back the blacks and contrast in post. These are adjustments that are accepted by most photographers as acceptable 'manipulation'. It is not like he has added something that wasn't there in the first place.

It all looks like ETTR to me.

P.S.: http://www.fotoco.dk/POY_2009/index.html
From that slideshow you can see that if you merely did "auto-everything" Adobe Camera Raw conversions (as opposed to default) it would get you half way there.
I think this PJ-to-the-extreme begins to look like a witch hunt. If only neutral conversions are allowed just to make the pictures "more" true, then black and white digital photography should be banished from any news, since there aren't any cameras that can do BW directly from the sensor.

The guy sure ain't into subtlety.

It's about time that pj contests started excluding this type of work. A lot of us in the field have been complaining about it for quite some time, this is the first instance I've seen of someone doing anything about it.

While the ethical considerations and limitations of photojournalism have been stretched and tested since the advent of digital photography, the basic philosophy has remained a constant: do nothing to alter the scene other than what can be done with SIMPLE darkroom techniques (burning and dodging). Those who have never worked in the field may be quick to sneer or criticize, but the vast majority of us who have worked as photojournalists take the ethics seriously.

This photog, while not altering any scenic information that I could discern, violated that ethical standard by creating images that were vastly different than the original. Sure, they looked better, but that should never be a consideration.

That said, if these photos were in b/w, I doubt there would have been the same reactions. Journalistic images in b/w have always been allowed to stretch reality and still be considered ethically acceptable. Questionable as this may be, it's understandable as color photography is considered to be a recreation of reality, whereas b/w is merely an interpretation. As such, b/w images are allowed, fairly or not, extra latitude in their interpretation of the scene.

Go here and click "Voteringen" to hear the jury discussing and see the versions with default, auto and photographers settings.
I think the image with the woman standing in the edge of an area filled with rubble, where colours of objects appear to have been individually tweaked for colour contrast pairs is the most dramatic to me..


Correction; your cut line to the images should read: "bottom photo by Klavs Bo Christensen. Upper image by Klavs Bo Christensen and Adobe." ;-)


Maybe the top photo more closely represents his emotional and intellectual reaction to the scene. This is what happens when you give a bunch of Socialists the right to censor somebody's work product.


Who processed the "unprocessed" Raw files for comparison? Looks like they could use a few lessons in ACR.

Contrast and curves are now "excessive photoshopping"?

I also think it's just a case of exposing to the right and then adjusting global parameters. Surely if he didn't add/remove anything that wasn't originally there, he's not falsifying anything.

For the film photographers: Couldn't you really obtain the same results as above using the darkroom? I mean, not necessarily starting from the bottom situation (we just do it this way in digital because its the best way for the medium). But you if you had the vision to begin with, could you go out and get it with the right film/development/print technique?

Interesting. As Oliver says above it just looks like a dramatic exposure adjustment from a flat scan, or RAW file. It doesn't look like he has created something out of nothing.

Wow!!! It's like the ultimate polarizer!

maybe this could be relevant to the discussion, taken from the council of science editors, and as a guideline to image manipulation in scientific journals:

"Adjustments of brightness, contrast, or color balance are acceptable if they are applied to the whole image and as long as they do not obscure, eliminate, or misrepresent any information present in the original."


All he did was auto-levels. Not even any curves.

I think the crux of the problem of altering photojournalistic images is, is there a substantive alteration of the image versus an aesthetic alteration?

While I think the same aesthetic alterations could be done by a highly-skilled darkroom technician starting with a negative, and I think something closer to the alteration could be done via the use of filters in front of the lens, I fail to see where a substantive alteration has been made.

I've taken the raw image, above, and used Photoshop CS3 to apply auto levels (Image/Adjustments/Auto Levels) only, and then re-saved it. Here's the image:

Første billede i serien fra Haiti. Foto: Klavs Bo Christensen Note that this image is copyrighted by Klavs Bo Christensen, and shown here under fair use.

So, I would agree that Mr. Christensen's editing is excessive aesthetically, but I would disagree that it alters the image substantively. Certainly his image is more dramatic than either the original or my version, but is it false? I don't think so.

He should be allowed to compete.

"Should then the Arts Filter in the new Olympus be ruled not acceptable either?"

That's an interesting question. I'd say no for photojournalism, but it's easily defended as being in the middle of the continuum somewhere.


oh please. you can't actually look at a RAW file. it has to be interpolated to some curve, and a boring curve on an optimal exposure (that minimizes effects of sensor noise etc) looks exactly like the bottom picture. this press assoc. sounds like a bunch of luddites

"When I worked in Hollyweird I learned how to make prodigious use of masks."

Well, yes, you could probably come close to this with multiple masks.

Chris, do you know the work of Charles Phillips at all? He was a complete madman--in a good way, I mean that as a compliment--who would pack an 8x10 on a mule to remote locations and then make gigantic prints (up to six feet high as I remember) using multiple masking techniques. I imagine his style has been coopted by digital but he did it all with traditional methods, including using fiber paper! He used to buy giant rolls of MCC from Ilford...had to build all his chemical baths and print washer from his own custom designs. Very interesting guy.

His results were more over the top than a lot of Photoshop stuff I see.


You can translate the web page here.



Perhaps I'm missing something but I think the judgement is harsh - I do not see cloning - though perhaps I've not looked close enough. It seems to be simply saturation and contast increased.

The other example given with the link is to me a better reason; the landscape is simply 'beautified" but for me with the photograph of the woman in Haiti, the contrast has been used to make prominent the rancid conditions that fade in the straight jpg conversion. Were it converted to B&W first, I doubt there would be the criticism - yet b&w is "old fashioned" and editors demand colour images even when colour detracts from the subject. To my mind, all the photographer has tried to do in PS is recreate his vision.

Had a significant part been added or removed which manipulated the narrative, my feelings would be very different.

He has increased the contrast and saturation . I see no smoothing, cloning, adding, subtracting which is what I understand to be "photoshopping" (as a Corel user I prefer the term "photopainting" ;-) )

What if the final images have been black and white, dramatically edited to the same extent? I wonder if it would have drawn criticisms.

If Salgado's original black and white Tri-X negatives were given straight prints, I wonder how much of a difference will there be from the final prints we now see?

my point is that we seem to be more accepting of editing if the image is b/w.

To Klavs Bo Christensen's credit, he did NOT add or remove image elements from the original source. (A definite no no in my book - not even an extra cloud, not even an extra shadow). He did go overboard with the colors and contrasts though. But again, if it had been black and white, I would think it would have been hailed as a great print. :)

Hmm. He can certainly be accused of poor taste and judgement (in over-cooking some perfectly good photos into ugliness) but I think it could be argued that it's not entirely unlike what we could do in the darkroom. The thing is that most photojournalists have the sense not to do such extreme tweaking to their pics, and most image buyers wouldn't want that sort of look if they were illustrating news stories... I don't know - it's ugly, but I dont' think it's unethical.

"we did the same sort of things with an enlarger."

Maybe not in color, but W. Eugene Smith came pretty close in black and white. Even his most subdued work like "country doctor" has over the top sky. Almost all the classic B+W reportage photography that really sticks in my mind is mostly limited by the dynamic range of halftone reproduction.

Come to think of it, Cibachrome of a underexposed Kodachrome or Velvia transparency with maybe a little bit of contrast masking would look a little like the top image.

I just did an experiment , and simply stretching the contrast with autotone, applying a S curve in curves, and a 24 pixel unsharp mask makes the exact transformation you see in the example. You could apply it as a batch to hundreds of files without manual intervention. No local dodging or burning.

That's nowhere near as much manipulation as the average B+W magnum photographer much less mr. ferrocyanide

I think that "normal color photography" during the era of commercial lab processing was biased towards not screwing up, which meant keeping well within the gamut of every stage of the reproduction process.

Without veering off into Walter Benjamin and "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" or mediated representation and Baudrillard, or even why no one wears red on television, what looks "real" and "authentic" is largely what people are used to looking at. What people are used to looking at is mostly what is easy and safe to reproduce by lab technicians who don't know what the artist's intent is.

BTW, a lot of labs in NYC in the 1980s could make prints or chromes like that all day long if that's what you wanted to pay for.

Next thing you know they will disallow polarizing filters.

I looked at the 2 images and I have to admit that I have often taken pictures that looked like the unretouched, 2nd, image when I opened them in PS or LR, but which I remembered as looking like the 1st image. I simply didn't expose properly to capture things as they looked to my eye. To be truer to the scene it would be necessary to make the kind of curves (or other) adjustment we see here.

With that said, the simple fact is, we don't know what the scene looked like when the photographer took the picture so we can't fairly judge whether this is a simple correction of exposure error or an egregious manipulation.

In terms of journalistic ethics I think it may also matter what point(s) in the accompanying article the image was meant to illustrate. There are vastly different implications of using it to illustrate, say, a story on air pollution from a story on good places to get a panoramic view. One might well be an improper distortion, the other a useful clarification.

This is simply one of those questions where the correct answer is "not enough information to answer correctly."

What's the problem?


I seem to recall hearing just this last year that the AP stringers are only allowed to submit jpeg files as recorded by the camera itself. Raw files and files created by post processed raw files are not permitted. The theory being that if the PJ shoots in RAW, then the absolute necessity that there be post processing destroys too much of the credibility of the images as reliable news material. Better a muddy jpeg from the camera that a post processed photo that raises the spectre of too much manipulation. Never mind that even camera produced jpegs are manipulated raw data. Dave Ralph

C'mon, Mike. "Accused of Excessive Photoshopping" is, well, a bit excessive. How about "Accused of RAW Conversion Abuse?" He certainly turned all the knobs up to 11, but a public flogging is a bit much. The judges should have bypassed his images and suggested that he enroll in "How to Use Your New Digital Camera" or maybe set his camera on Auto everything and stick with JPEG.

We've all seen images that come close to this, but where do you draw the line? What he did is nothing like cloning objects in or out.

I think that, minus the digital steroids, those are all very good shots, and I suspect the judges thought so as well. I will admit that they're great examples of what not to do, though.

If you translate the article, he says that next year he's going to submit only black and white images...

I don't think the RAW conversions they've shown are the right comparisons to make. Those RAW conversions are blander than just about any color film I have used.

I dislike the final images not because they do not look like the original captures, but because they do not look like photographs grounded in reality. Problem is, we do not have standards of what a photograph should look like in the brave new digital era. One standard for PJ would be to demand that an image look real. To me, the Photoshopped images here do not look like what the eye would see.

I personally think this quest for purity is ludicrous. You could demand your photographers to only use normal lenses, diffuse homogeneous light and eye-level shots and guess what, they'd still reflect the biased way they see the world; and that's a great thing.

Those of you fearing the loss of veracity and neutrality in journalism can be quite at ease. There will be as much Eyes-In-The-Sky-Seeing-It-All cameras for your factual needs as tools for expressing one's vision. My guess is that this impartial omnipresent cameras will be so boring that we'll still choose that skewed and twisted journalist whose images can't help but being partial.

I know a guy who is a camera operator (video) for the largest TV network in Brazil. He's color blind. Fortunately, people just think he has a different style for clothes. Is his work not in touch with reality? Should he shoot in B&W? Neither your raw converter's Auto, nor your camera's firmware are closer to "the truth". There's no such thing, get over it, the Matrix has you and so does Descartes :)

Should journalists be fired for using curves, local contrast, dodge? No.
Should they be fired for cloning missiles? Yes.
Should we ask Adobe for a Journalists' especial edition of Photoshop? Won't help.
So how do we tell the difference? Reputation.

I think reputation is going to be even more important to a journalist than it used to be. It's going to get harder and harder to get away with making stuff up when you're competing with billions of bloggers armed with pocketable publishing devices ready to instantly expose your lie to the entire planet.

People delude themselves if they think ACR's default rendering and/or use of tonal controls (only) preserves "accurate" colour. ACR just renders images to taste, and this is the only failing here.


I have to agree with many of the comments here that we seem to have a double standard in photojournalism, between what we expect and accept in B&W and what we think is "excessive" in color.

In the chemical darkroom era we photojournalists did robust manipulation in B&W. It was the norm across the industry and it was expected that a really good photojournalist could pull off a great print. (I won't even get into the paint table where we added whites of eyes.) If we did not do as much manipulation in color it was simply because it was beyond our capabilities in a simple newspaper setting.

Looking at the images under consideration here I find the correction made in the aerial image perfectly acceptable. The other images are a bit out there (well, verging on weird) but not fundamentally untrue. If I were judging this contest I'd be inclined to simply leave them in the contest and then not vote for them. (Contest winners often set the norm for what everybody shoots next year so just make sure the overblown stuff doesn't win.)

Finally, let me offer this. I was once judging a major contest when questions arose about the veracity of some of the photos entered by one of the most illustrious documentary photographers of our times. One of the judges urged that if there was even the "suggestion" that something was wrong (true or not), then the images should be excluded from the contest, for the sake of the integrity and reputation of the contest. (The issues were of subject manipulation and posing, not graphic manipulation.) This photographer was about to be ejected and with that would have come a black eye which would have been very difficult to overcome, a blot on an otherwise illustrious career.

Several of us objected. We urged investigation into the facts. The contest ground to a halt while we waited for phone calls and clarification. In the end it was made clear that the photographer had done nothing wrong, had not misrepresented anything. That photographer won the contest.

What would the photographic world have lost if we had followed that first righteous impulse? A career blighted or ruined?

My point is this. Ejecting someone from a contest is a little like going nuclear. The correct response would probably have been for the judges to get together and appoint someone to call up the photographer after the contest and say, "You're a good photographer but you didn't win because your images were over the top. Tone it down."

Any number of people have done similar things for me in my career. I thank each and every one of them. (And no, I'm not going to confess my particular sins.)


While way too juiced for my taste I don't know if it really is pushed all that far. Chuck K makes an interesting point regarding B&W images. The images presented are far more " true to life" than any B&W

Why all the fuss over a slightly heavy hand?

William has it right: "you can't actually look at a RAW file." Mike has not shown us a raw file, and indeed he can't. He has shown us an image (a PNG, not even a JPEG) processed from a raw file.

So, as some readers suggested, the issue is not whether it is appropriate to process a raw file to get an acceptable image, since this is always a requirement. The issue is how much. I'd be interested is seeing the text of the rule that is being applied in this case.

Perhaps the rule is this: Here is a file of Lightroom (or ACR) Develop Settings. You are allowed to apply these settings, but are not allowed to alter them in any way.

That is a clear rule, and, if it were the rule, perhaps it has been violated.

Of course, it is a stupid rule, because it doesn't match how photography is done, and it would not result in photographs that would be publishable.


And I don't get this darkroom comparison either. You have always been able to do a bunch "special effects" in traditional photography that would be considered highly unethical, so the asking if this could be done before digital or not makes little sense.

Right. This has absolutely nothing to do with "film vs. digital" or "Photoshop vs. darkroom." Nothing at all. That just isn't the issue that this case brings up.


Your picture looks a *lot* more like Earth to me than Mr. Christensen's top picture does. It's quite a bit more believable.


I think the end result looks great. Just not like any planet I've ever visited. Shouldn't his job title be Photo(shop)-Journalist?

Maybe this is the photojournalistic equal to FOX News.

Sebastiao Salgado's pictures in black and white are photojournalism, yet require a certain combination of darkroom techniques to get their signature look. So also Josef Koudelka and a host of Eastern European photographers.

I too hate the HDR look of the top picture, agree it is not 'truthfully representational' but to repeat, you could say the same about Salgado's photojournalistic prints when compared to Henri Cartier-Bresson's photojournalistic prints. i.e. HC-B was seriously allergic to contrasty prints and would reportedly chastise his printer to make him produce more mid-toned prints.

I guess NASA need not apply, either.

Seriously--and this is coming from someone who knows less about photoshop than he knows about toners (which isn't much)--the pair of photos above looks like a slightly exaggerated Tiffen filter advertisement. Like someone went back and got the same shot but remembered to bring a polarizer, haze filter, multicoated lens, lens hood, and Velvia. Either that, or this is someone who knows how to use a RAW workflow to limn every last detail in a straight capture--perhaps more than required, and with a predilection for saturation.

If anything, the "cooked" version reveals more reality than the "original", so where's the journalistic ethics in favoring the latter? If we're going to define "reality" as a simulation of what can be seen at any instant by the unaided (not even by Ray-Bans) eye, even if more information was recorded, are long exposures and high speed freeze frames also off limits? What about deep DOF? Shallow DOF? Fisheye lenses? Telephoto? Rectangular frames?

Scold the guy for tasteless oversaturation, by all means, but be consistent and rescind all those awards you've given in the past to photographers who used Velvia with polarizers or graduated filters, or any of the "unnatural" perceptual enhancements mentioned above. (Enough has been said already about old school B&W manipulations.) And no dessert for those whimsically crayola-happy NASA scientists.

Most people accept that good journalism delivers a great deal more than passive, mindlessly accurate stenography of events and statements. The same should hold true for photojournalism; even more so for photojournalism awards.

Let's all use a standardized, certified press-camera with image encrypting, some linear curves, defined 5 stop range and JPG output only.
Our readers will be excited.

BTW, where ist the mentioning of tv-news, using cuts, positive/negative background music and sound effects to add drama?

IMHO Klavs Bo Christensen does not add or remove information, he adds tension (not taste).
But it's the Jury decision. They are the authority. On the other hand, we're free to judge the credibility of the contest.

Frightening dispute !

The time has come to replace the photojournalists by surveillance cameras.

Big Brother is watching you.

The really sad part here is that in many newspapers these images would be a more truthful and honest representation of reality than the words in an article. Many journalists here in Scandinavia feel that they can take their own spin on a story and push their own agenda instead of reporting the objective facts. :-(

I think that excluding a photojournalist from judging duties because he uses photoshop is like saying to someone from film-vintage that they can't judge a B&W exhibition because they use Velvia film, polarisers and warm-up filters. Totally ludicrous!

I think that there are two issues here. One is the issue of a photojournalist working on a picture in Photoshop to make it closer to how he felt it - this is simply a reality of the digital world. Once upon a time photographers worked with filters, polarisers, warm-up filters, Cokin golden sunset filters etc etc. Then there was the choice of film. Anyone shooting Velvia KNEW they were getting an oversaturated in-your-face colour picture. So I find it disappointing when photographers working with different materials are accused of being "untruthful". Truth be told RAW images out of the camera are normally flat and need quite a bit of tweaking to get them close to what we saw. So "photoshopping" is inevitable and in most cases needed to get close to reality. Whether a photographer wants to go further and enhance reality.. if we are within the bounds of reason I see no problem with that. If we go beyond the bounds of reason, that is the photographers problem. Not mine. Not judges. They may not like the overly processed image, and may not vote on it if they don't like it.. but ultimately it is a decision of the image maker/creator as to how they want to present their picture.

The second point, more specific to photojournalists, is whether they are changing reality or not. Did the photographer add smoke plumes (like another photographer in Lebanon?). Did he composite two pictures to make one with a better composition? (Like one of the British soldier in Basra holding up his hand at refugees crouching?). Did the effects alter the reality of the image? I believe they enhanced the feeling of the image, but did not alter it. There are no material changes between the two. So I don't get the "broo-ha-ha".

What does emerge from this situation is that there need to be some clearer guidelines as to what is acceptable for photojournalists in news stories to do to their images. And this needs to be communicated so that we can all understand what can and can't be done. That applies only to news stories. Becuase everything else is in the mind of the creator.

Interesting topic!

I looked at the shots and have to agree that while he did not physically alter the images by adding or subtracting elements, I do feel that Christensen went overboard with the post processing. I think the tipping point came when he applied the unsharp mask, which gave the pictures the stylized look of a trendy magazine ad or photo-illustration, as is widely seen across the internet. Processed in that manner the look they acquired reminds me of something like the Annie Leibowitz ad that was recently discussed on T.O.P. (http://tinyurl.com/4gqph7).

The result of the broad unsharp mask is different than simply adjusting contrast, hue and saturation within reason, because it stylizes the image, as much as if he had applied an art filter (glows etc). At this point he crossed over in to practicing manipulation in a illustrative or artistic manner and that is not acceptable for a news photo. In this case 'just the facts' within a very narrow band applies.

I believe that adding the broad unsharp mask, while punching contrast and saturation to an excessive level, is also not the same as when people shoot Velvia. Velvia has good contrast and punchy colors, but unless you push things excessively in the exposure, it doens't look like an acid trip or give the photo the look of an illustrative rendering. The Velvia look is also the natural result of a film stock that is accepted by the industry, although on a personal note it would not be my first choice to cover a news story.

Underexposed Fuji Velvia with a polariser, printed onto Cibachrome, rephotographed on Velvia and printed onto Cibachrome again. close to the same result.

DO I like it - no - but I saw plenty of stuff like it in Camera club competitions 20 years ago.

I think these photos are much more manipulated and I don't recall much fuss over it:

Did we all forget that the image was manipulated BEFORE it even reached Photoshop? Aside from lens distortions, etc., the way film or a digital sensor records the dynamic range of a scene is different from our human eyes.

To me, the "unedited" version of the photo in question is an unrealistic representation that falls to the opposite side of the final, edited version. The DR of the scene is "squashed" down so much that it looks faint and hazy and requires adjustment of the white and black points to bring it back to "reality" (or whatever that's supposed to be).

This just pisses me off. I think the average person would see nothing wrong the final, edited photo. People's brains process things so much that there's no telling how exactly the photo is being comprehended.

It's only when a bunch of photographers call attention to it that suddenly it seems wrong and becomes just another reason, in the public's eye, why Photoshopping an image is bad.

It's probably unlikely that presenting these unrealistic photos would cause any harm to anyone, but I don't think that's a decision we want PJs making. The aerial shot is over the top - it's very unlikely that the photographer remembers it looking like that. The photo of the woman in the rubble, far worse in that respect. The third is overdone, too, but I also don't think the 'default' conversion shown in the article is a reasonable representation. Undoubtedly the photographer (or anyone else present) saw a colorful sky in the background. Probably not so much foreground contrast, though.

Obijohn's conversion seems like a perfectly reasonable representation of the scene (based on seeing the other two conversions in the linked article). It's certainly far more believable/natural to my eye than the PJ's.

Maybe it's not "photoshopping" but simply poor post-processing. I'm not sure Mike presented this info for a public flogging of the photographer; after all, if we disagreed with the Danish Press Photography Union, we could certainly choose to flog them instead :)

At least in denmark aesthetic is given sufficient importance to exclude certain pictures from competitions. A reassurring statement in a brave new world of phototshop disasters.

I don't know, I kind of like the way he lightened it up and pastelized the colors, the raw file was too dark and saturated :)

Mark Roberts,
Actually you're right. Those photographs are easily as much over the top, and aside from Yunfat, nobody really objected to that when we posted them here.

As with the Danish press thing, I just linked those, without comment.


When photos are published online they could make sure to include the metadata which could include the photo's processing history. I can already read some raw processing adjustments. Then the viewer would know more about what went into creating the photo than ever before in history.

While it's obvious that PS makes this stuff easier to do, and thus more prevalent, it's just as obvious that stuff like what we see here has been going on in photojournalism since day one to some extent. I think some of the anger is the rubes waking up to the fact that they've been rubes for quite a while. :)

We allow all sorts of gear that demonstrates a significant difference from anything like normal human vision. Is the rule that hardware manipulation is okay, but software manipulation is not okay?

We are right around the corner from very sophisticated and customizable in-camera processing. I expect to be able to load my own Lightroom presets or other software into new DSLRs someday soon. If the processing is done entirely in-camera is that okay?

I also wonder if wireless technology won't become more involved. What if they start making smaller, simpler camera bodies that don't do any processing? They send the raw data back to the home/office computer for processing on a much more sophisticated machine with much better software and controls.

The journalism organizations are going to have to come up with very specific rules as to what manipulation is or isn't allowed. They may even have to decide what cameras and lenses are allowed.

What if I were to manipulate my photo into a negative version? Or even weirder, what if my camera actually made negatives, and then I switched those to positives? Now that's some crazy manipulation. ;)

Although I can see that as a journalist, he shouldn't manipulate his pictures in such a way, I have to admit that his manipulated versions made me looked at them to see what's going on. I don't think that I would pay any attention to the wash out pictures (in the originals).

I am somewhat aware of Charles Phillips work. Gorgeous, wouldn't you agree?

Relatedly, I find it interesting that some folks can get upset with photographers who punch up their images (dare I say through carefully managed image controls?). Yet these same viewers will happily accept a painting by an artist who's image does similar things.

I really have to hand to these guys who risk the ire and fret of peers and viewers to creatively express their feelings and ideas in these ways. Charles Phillips is a great example.

[Mike said]
Chris, do you know the work of Charles Phillips at all? He was a complete madman--in a good way, I mean that as a compliment--who would pack an 8x10 on a mule to remote locations and then make gigantic prints (up to six feet high as I remember) using multiple masking techniques. I imagine his style has been coopted by digital but he did it all with traditional methods, including using fiber paper! He used to buy giant rolls of MCC from Ilford...had to build all his chemical baths and print washer from his own custom designs. Very interesting guy.

I didn't believe it but the cloud/landscape pic is just the use of autolevels, pow! you get that funky look.
The woman in Haiti is more work, really mashing the contrast, lightening here face. Funny the original reminded me or third world back country areas I have been. The shown image looked like a Mad Max movie, but maybe Haiti is like that now.
I'm wondering of the ages of the one who accept these image and those who are abhorred by them.


I recon that we should completely dismiss the photo of Senator Robert Kennedy's assassination (the one with the busboy) because during printing, it was extremely manipulated.

(It had to be because the negative was incorrectly exposed)

I agree with Rana in that a news photographer should only make the adjustments needed to reflect the original scene.

What disturbs me as a newspaper photographer is the number of hand-out pictures in the features sections of newspapers, such as movie stills or musican's publicity photos, which editors use everyday without even questioning if these pictures have been heavily tweaked.

Even more disturbing is the use of cheap microstock images used for illustrations and teasers on pages with news photos.

The average newspaper reader expects all the images he/she views to be a truthful refection of reality. When they find out this may not always be the case (the Danish photograper in question for example) their opinion of all news photograpy is diminished.

Personally I don't see anything wrong with the photoshopping this photographer has done. The original pictures are quite uninteresting on their own, and in order to get peoples' attention, you need to have pictures that make an IMPRESSION. When I saw the enhanced picture of the black woman in her village, it tugged at my heartstrings. I want to reach out and help her, but unfortunately she is pixels on my screen. The regular picture was quite mediocre. It was grey, undefined, and boring. He doesn't photoshop any more than photographers for the National Geographic do.

"This is what happens when you give a bunch of Socialists the right to censor somebody's work product."

You're joking, right?

My grandfather was a socialist; I grew up regularly protesting against censorship. In fact, I come from a long line of social rebels. I think it's genetic. My mother was too.

The guy went overboard with HDR, but he did not clone or add from another photograph. I like the version submitted by one of your readers - it would have passed muster.

BTW, Israel was founded by Eastern European socialists. Kibbutz can be translated as either commune, or collective.

I'm one of those Jewish New York liberals you read about.

I think it goes beyond mere photoshoppery and into the realm of this filter:


The rules of the competition includes this (roughly translated)

Pictures subimtted to the "Press Photo of the Year" must be reliable reproduction of what happened in front of the camera at the moment of exposure. You are allowed to post process the pictures electronically in accordance with good practice. That means cropping, dodging, burning, converting to black and white as well as normal exposure and color correction that preserves the original expression of the picture.
The judges and members of the the exhibition committee reserves the right to see the original, unprocessed picture files, raw tape, negatives and/or slides.
In case of any doubt the photographer can be withdrawn from the competition.
Original text:

"Fotos indsendt til Årets Pressefoto skal give en troværdig gengivelse af det, der skete foran kameraet i eksponeringsøjeblikket. Du må gerne efterbehandle billederne elektronisk i overensstemmelse med god praksis. Det vil sige beskære, efterkopiere, holde igen, konvertere til sort/hvid samt normale eksponerings- og farvekorrektion, som bevarer billedets oprindelige udtryk. Dommerne og udstillingsudvalget forbeholder sig ret til at se originale, ubehandlede billedfiler, råbånd, negativer og/eller dias. I tvivlstilfælde kan fotografen trækkes ud af konkurrencen", står der nu i konkurrencebetingelserne.

If you listen to the jurys discussion at


you will notice they think it is much more "photoshopped" and even masked that it really is and they show a lack knowledge of how color behaves.

The dominant voice is from Peter deJong .

The files can easily be corrected to the look of the final pictures in ACR only. And who says that ACR default is "the" right way to see files?. Is CaptureOne in linear mode then even more correct?
IN Dxo standard they will come out much closer to Klavs's final result.
And as someone mentioned an underexposed Kodachrome in Cibacgrome would be very close.

"Fotos indsendt til Årets Pressefoto skal give en troværdig gengivelse af det, der skete foran kameraet i eksponeringsøjeblikket. Du må gerne efterbehandle billederne elektronisk i overensstemmelse med god praksis. Det vil sige beskære, efterkopiere, holde igen, konvertere til sort/hvid samt normale eksponerings- og farvekorrektion, som bevarer billedets oprindelige udtryk. Dommerne og udstillingsudvalget forbeholder sig ret til at se originale, ubehandlede billedfiler, råbånd, negativer og/eller dias. I tvivlstilfælde kan fotografen trækkes ud af konkurrencen", står der nu i konkurrencebetingelserne.

Serves you all right for thinking a camera can duplicate reality. It never has, never will. While, I don't like the heavy handed processing style he has used, I hardly think it should be held against him. Anyone who has picked up National Geo in the last year or so will also notice their processing has slowly been creeping up to near Danish photog levels. I swear I've even seen some HDR in there (an article they did on Hawaii awhile back sticks out in my mind). The point is, was Velvia able to preserve what the photographer saw? What about Kodachrome, with it's sickly blue shadows. What this seems to be is a lingering resentment against digital photography, not "Photoshopping."

The day I quit entering photo contests was the day all of the finalist entries for a local contest looked like these pictures. The rules stated that pictures could not be "excessively manipulated through photoshop or other programs". I guess excessive is subjective. Or maybe it's that I'm turning into a curmudgeon before my thirtieth birthday.

The main questions in the danish debate has been:
1. Should the competitors in the yearly contest deliver their RAW files together with the images for control?

2. Will it be possible to set specific rules for altering the images in an image editor.
(The heading in the debate is: Photoshopping-how much?)

In this years contest it has been a matter of taste, more or less, from the danish judges, about who should be controlled, who should go free.
In my opinion other contestants, should have been controlled.

I see that the international debate concentrate on Klavs Bo Christensens images and his reputation as a PJ.

If you are out taking photos you generally (hopefully) have an idea of what the print will look like at the end (or on screen for a lot of people), ie. you have an "artistic interpretation" of the scene.

When you see a scene that has a difficult balance of exposures you may take one of three decisions 1.bracket and hope that one frame will clean up, 2. reach for the graduated filters, or 3, bracket widely and hope to fix it up using HDR.

If your out shooting and you want to record what you see as you see it now, then you generally go through the same three decisions.

They are all valid ways of taking the picture and getting what you want at the end. If you dont like HDR (personally I dont), fine, if you dont like all those warm graduated filters (again I dont) fine and so on and so on.

Will we come to the point where HDR images are the norm, and "artistic interpretation" of a scene not a hyper real scene is looked down on? - Yes i'm pretty sure there will be a shift to this- just as there is a shift to viewfinder-less cameras and holding them out in front of you.

This is a very interesting issue. As one who has seen the contact sheets of Nachtwey, Salgado, and quite a few others, I can tell you that extreme efforts in printing technique to achieve a highly stylized "look" are not the exception, but the norm.

I don't recall any jury ever asking to see work prints or negs from any of these legendary shooters.

My God--Have we all totally lost our minds. Consider what the journalist is trying to do--tell his story, bring an issue to light--AND HAVE somebody actually read or view it. If a journo publishes a story and nobody sees it did it really make any difference. Stop all the petty bickering about whether something is "overcooked" and start to find a way to make this stuff relevant to a generation that does not respond to traditional media. Sorry, guys, but we are not going back to film (let alone BW film) and we are not going to discount images that use zoom lenses either. The edges of the envelope MUST be constantly pushed. Photoshop, Photomatix and Topaz exist as does Lightroom and Aperture just as burning and dodging and SLR cameras. Cameras will soon be registering many more degrees of dynamic range--and what then? I say, get over yourselves and start becoming part of the conversation of the future of this industry.

I love this discussion! I'm not a fan of this hand of god color manipulation of the tones. Like so many photographers are doing today. Just look at noor & some of the magnum photographers. They are all sending their files to the 10b lab in Rome. This lab alone has really pushed this style to the forefront of picture stories today. The use of photomatix & HDR, is becoming more common today, (the process of merging three or more of the same raw files together, with each one processed for shadow, highlights & midtones). This crates unbelivable depth in the image. The human eye can't see like that.
We have always had to make choices on how we wanted our images to look. In color film days, you had to decide between Fuji color, which for me was way to cold, hence the use of an 81c filter. over Ektachromr or the Alex Webb Kodachrome Reality. To the the very muted pastel Agfa films. Even to the choice of whether or not to shoot b&w. So I find it difficult to complain about the guy who makes the red coke can look fusion red. Well at least he didn't make it grey.
I think this is great that this has been brought to everyones attention. For me its a total distraction to the photography... It has nothing to do with the subject and everything to do with the colors..... the rawness of the work is gone. The colors become visual distractions...

The viewer is being asked to accept a new style of reality. Something that in the past was open only to mainly b&w photographers. That for a century has become excepted. Now in the past two years we are being presented with this vibrant surreal reality. And it's hard to stomach. But it's not wrong. Just not my cup of tea.

But let these photographers be.... on this. It's their choice, their vision. Even if I can't stand it. I actually look and smile at their darkroom (photoshop) wizardy. Wow what wonderful sunglasses they must wear.

Some fine examples of this new style that has surged in the last 2 years..




I would say whether or not he is allowed to complete, he definitely should NOT win for creating poverty porn.

In Klavs Bo Christenson's defense, I would say that he is not trying to alter the content or spirit of the photograph, but instead is the victim of just plain bad photoshopping. The high contrast and vivid colours in particular make them look like they were digitally altered and as a consequence we are discussing the technique and not the content. In this instance, the aesthetic masks the content and that is where they fall down. You look at these pictures and think 'photoshop' before you think anything else.

As a writer about photography rather than a photographer, this is a fascinating debate, but I find the terms of the debate to be a problem. I have written today about this issue at:


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