In journalism, many writers consider the presentation of their photograph as a significant piece of their work. To present their photographs in the most professional manner possible, most writers turn to Photoshop. In the process of retouching their photo, some will manipulate the photo unethically. However, most editors do not do this, and those that do will get caught. Using Photoshop for professional means, like retouching photos, is completely ethical. As stated before, many journalists turn to Photoshop in order to present their photo in the most professional manner possible, and this is seen in the Reuters code of conduct:
Photoshop is a highly sophisticated image manipulation program. We use only a tiny part of its potential capability to format our pictures, crop and size them and balance the tone and color. For us it is a presentational tool. The rules are: no additions or deletions, no misleading the viewer by manipulation of the tonal and color balance to disguise elements of an image or to change the context. Materially altering a picture in Photoshop or any other image-editing software will lead to dismissal (Reuters, under Image-Editing Software).
As seen from this code, only a small portion of Photoshop is used, for its’ filters and ability to manipulate shadows and highlights, along with balancing the photo. Color and presentation have an important factor. The use of Photoshop in journalism is purely for aesthetics and for presentation. If Photoshop is abused, there are consequences, as Thomas Reuters states, “Our news photography must depict reality. Any attempt to alter that reality constitutes fabrication and can lead to disciplinary action, including dismissal” (under Set-Ups / Staging of Pictures) This goes to show that unethical use does lead to punishment.
During photo retouching, many photo editors follow an assortment of guidelines so they can stay true to the story they’re producing. According to the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), their code of ethics states to: Be accurate and comprehensive in the representation of subjects. Resist being manipulated by staged photo opportunities. Be complete and provide context when photographing or recording subjects. Avoid stereotyping individuals and groups. Recognize and work to avoid presenting one’s own biases in the work. Treat all subjects with respect and dignity.
Give special consideration to vulnerable subjects and compassion to victims of crime or tragedy. Intrude on private moments of grief only when the public has an overriding and justifiable need to see. While photographing subjects do not intentionally contribute to, alter, or seek to alter or influence events. Editing should maintain the integrity of the photographic images’ content and context. Do not manipulate images or add or alter sound in any way that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects. Do not pay sources or subjects or reward them materially for information or participation.
Do not accept gifts, favors, or compensation from those who might seek to influence coverage. Do not intentionally sabotage the efforts of other journalists. Following this code will allow their story to be accurate, remain politically correct and keep morality. If one was to be caught unethically manipulating a photo, for example, making an overweight woman fit into an ‘idealized’ body (curvy, skinny, bigger chest or posterior, etc), then the entire company and the journalist will have serious consequences thrown upon them.
This is why the code of ethics is implemented and so crucial in journalism, so the company does not receive harsh repercussions from one journalist. The Reuters handbook also brings up a good point, “Photographers and editors should strive to use as little post-processing as possible while adhering to our standards of image quality. ” Due to technological advances, there is a very small need for actual editing, and the editing helps maintain a true sense of reality in its’ own sense. Scott Alexander argues that: The birth of Photoshop may have marked the death of our photographic innocence, but innocence is overrated.
Thirty years ago it was easy to believe that photographs were true representations of reality. But we know now that was never the case. Living in a world where reality is a fluid concept may feel more uncertain, but if we can trust our photojournalists and continue to be able to verify their work, photojournalism may find itself unshackled from its previous constraints and able to explore new avenues of expression. (Last paragraph of his article) This excerpt shows that photo manipulation has been around, even when Photoshop wasn’t invented.
The invention and rise of Photoshop manipulation allows for us to question the contents of every photo. However, as more and more photos become verified through “digital traces,” then we will see the truth. Many people still stick to the belief that Photoshop is completely unethical and is only used to manipulate photos to create something false. However, if one constantly questions their actions when editing their photo, then the abuse of Photoshop will decline. For example, in “A Question of Ethics” by Bonnie Meltzer, they write a series of questions to ask blossoming journalists about the photograph they manipulate:
Where did I get this photo? Is it mine to use? When can I use a copyrighted photo? Why am I changing this photo? How will the readers interpret this photo? How would they have interpreted it without editing? What is the context of the photo? Is this photo supposed to be truth (journalism) or fantasy (art)? (under Student Awareness) With use of these questions, many people will reconsider the manipulation they were going to do. Seeing if it does not give a successful, purposeful or fulfilling answer to one or more of the questions above.
These questions should be constantly taught to new and old journalists, because it is important to have these questions, seeing as it might influence someone to continue to follow ethical standards, instead of straying from them due to personal bias. In conclusion, it is ethical for journalists to use Photoshop in images for their work. Using Photoshop allows their photograph to stand out and to be presented in the most excellent manner possible. The abuse of Photoshop, like manipulation of a body to make it appear less fat is unethical and leads to punishment, because there are codes to follow in which one must stay as accurate as possible.