How Good Is Too Good for News Photographs?

Netherlands World Press Photo Contest

“Even top news photographers have their work digitally enhanced these days. Mounting competition in the market for news images is forcing photo-journalists to make their output as dramatic as possible. But where are the limits of cosmetic improvement?” (via Spiegel)

Nowadays, programs like Photoshop make it easier than ever to edit photos once they have been taken. Pro-Israeli bloggers and journalists, in particular, criticized how this photo of a funeral procession in Gaza was edited. This image by Paul Hansen was chosen as World Press Photo of the Year for 2013. It was clearly enhanced, but the jury did not believe it crossed the boundary of authenticity.

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Many fear that photo editing is blurring the boundaries between journalistic photography, on the one hand, and artistic and commercial image design, on the other. Another winner was American photographer Micah Albert. This original photo of a garbage collector in Kenya was edited to look like…

Micah Albert of the U.S., has won the first prize in the Contemporary Issues Single category of the World Press Photo Contest 2013with this picture of a woman pausing in the rain as she works as a trash picker at a 30-acre dump in Nairobi

…this. Computer editing programs perfect and expand the possibilities of what was once done in the darkroom to enhance the effectiveness of a photo during development and printing.

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The Hamburg exhibition will provide the general public the opportunity to decide whether modern photo editing is indeed crossing the boundaries of authenticity. This image is of the the construction site for the Belo Monte Dam in Brazil.

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The image was enhanced prior to publication in SPIEGEL earlier this year.

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Light conditions were not the best on Tahrir Square in Cairo during the celebration of autocrat Hosni Mubarak’s resignation in 2011.

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Such shortcomings, however, can easily be compensated for using Photoshop. “There is much more competition among photos today,” says Klaus Honnef, a professor of the theory of photography. “(Agencies) have to outdo each other.”

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Original version of protesters sitting under a plastic tarp in Tahrir Square in Cairo in 2011.

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Here is the version sent out to clients by 10b. Critics refer to the asthetic as the “Italian look,” which has become quite fashionable.