I believe that most of us edit our images to a certain extent. But if you’re a photojournalist, the amount of editing you can apply is minimal. If you go overboard, your work may even be considered unethical. But can this be solved differently? Should photojournalists be allowed to edit images if they openly disclose it? Michael The Maven discussed this in his latest video, and it’s certainly an interesting topic.
Michael’s video is a follow-up to another of his videos he posted about a month ago, about photojournalists who were caught cheating. In that video, he listed four basic rules of photojournalism:
- Do not direct
- Do not heavily edit
- Do not mislead context
- Do not steal
A YouTube user max d. machy left a comment on that video which inspired Michael to film the latest one. The comment reads:
“Journalism should be allowed to make use of creative techniques. To illustrate issues. To stop people moving away from print and quality online media to ridiculous social media posts. That’s my view despite your excellent arguments.
A way out of the dilemma would be to disclose the treatment, ideally with symbols indicating whether there was an interaction, a staging or editing going on.
Not allowing the photographer to talk to the subject takes away an essential element of portrait shots. Or somehow it is trying to limit the story-telling abilities of the photographers. Which would only work for robots taking photos.”
Michael agrees with Max that it could be a good idea to disclose edits in documentary images with a set of universal symbols. This way, photojournalists could use edits such as cropping, removing a distracting element, or even AI in their photos. But they should still represent reality, and I believe that the edits shouldn’t change the context and the story, only add to the artistic expression of the photographer.
Now, I am not sure this is a good idea in photojournalism. Although photographers can disclose with symbols that they edited photos, we still can’t know to which extent they were edited. We can’t say whether the edits influenced the context and altered the story. But on the other hand, I believe that these symbols could be a good idea, only in different genres.
There are so many beauty and fashion images in magazines, on billboards, ads, and of course on social media. They make people create a distorted picture of reality, and they set totally unrealistic beauty standards. Disclosing edits in photos like this could make people more aware of the fact that no one has flawless skin, “perfect” body or anything like it. Although the fashion and beauty industry still requires perfectly retouched images, noting that they were retouched could affect the viewers (especially young girls). It could reduce the negative impact on their mental health.
What do you think? Is it a good idea to disclose image edits in photojournalism? If not, would you apply it in different genres? Or you’d ditch it altogether?