Why Do Photo Contest Winners Look Like Movie Posters?

Why Do Photo Contest Winners Look Like Movie Posters?

This is an incredible photo.

World Press Photo of the Year 2012. Photo by Paul Hansen.

The range of emotions expressed (anger, grief, despair), the position of the people and bodies, and proximity of the photographer to the subject make it an incredible moment in time. And because of these elements, this photo was deservedly named the World Press Photo of the Year.

It also looks like an illustration.

A number of faces look far too “bright” compared to what I think it should look like. It’s almost as if there was a huge fill flash set -1 1/2 stops under to give this perfect exposure. There is a high light source from camera right, but the front light is very diffuse compared to the contrast that one might expect.

Here’s another one:

Photo by Micha Albert

Micah Albert’s image won 1st place for Contemporary Issues – Singles. I am not a photojournalist, but I have traveled to a lot of places around the world, and I have never seen light this color given all the other environmental factors. To me, it looks like the white balance was deliberately moved to be “inaccurate” and some sort of warming filter was applied (“Earlybird” anyone?).

Photo by Wei Zheng

Wei Zheng took third place in Sport Action – Singles for this photo of a synchronized diver swimmer from the Olympics. The bokeh suggests a telephoto lens with a wide aperture, so the clarity of the water drops isn’t unusual. But the vignetting seems extremes, and the diver appears to be very dodged.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that there has been any manipulation that falls outside of the rules of the contest, but when images cease to look real and to be overly retouched, we have a veracity problem. And if we subscribe to the common ethos of photojournalism (i.e. that we are trying not to deceive the viewer), then we have an increasingly enigmatic issue. This movie poster look reminds me of this article about Hollywood’s obsession with teal and orange. We have somehow come to believe that the images look better with copious amounts of Photoshop vs what is straight out of the camera.

These images are all the more startling when you compare them to winners from past years. For example, Jean-Marc Bouju’s winning photograph from 2003 doesn’t rely on any overt Photoshopping. It is an amazing photo because the context gives you everything you need to know to understand the story. Barbed wire, hooded prisoner, grasping his child in Guantanamo Bay An Najaf, Iraq.

Photo by Jean-Marc Bouju

We’ve been living with mainstream use of digital cameras in photojournalism for about 10 years, and photographers have had the same amount of time to hone their Photoshop skills. The enormous popularity of Instagram filters has not helped the veracity issue because now everyone can make an image look different and “cooler” than the original capture. But photojournalism has always been held to a different standard than other forms of photography, and I don’t believe the industry should change that stance.

So what can we do? I argue that high profile contests like World Press Photo should require that contestants submit their original, unretouched photos along side their final entries. That way judges (and public) have the opportunity to view the original image to see if it has been adulterated to the point of being an illustration. Granted, that is an arbitrary line, but we’ve been drifting into Photoshop world for a decade, and we’ve floated too far.


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Allen Murabayashi is the co-founder of PhotoShelter.

There are 118 comments for this article
  1. Toni at 7:32 am

    I agree. I’m tired of looking at photographs that have been manipulated. The special effects really show your skills on the computer and not in the photograph. A little lighting is fine but I see color, light and filter manipulations. That is not telling the true story of the photo, plus the fact that I really don’t know if you actually took the shot or it was taken off a website or someone else and you just manipulated it.

  2. Cesc Valcarcel at 7:32 am

    I completely agree, I usually take part as a jury in amateur photo contests, and sometimes you have the sensation that something is going wrong with the use (abuse) of photoshop.

    At the en of one contest there was a problem because it was said that one of the winner pictures was a Autocad draw… I was not sure, but it seems.

    after an intense verbal fighting I made the same proposition that Allen did, provide the original files alongside with the retouched ones and close the problem. For me photography is photography and illustration, illustration.

  3. Martin Fernandez at 7:32 am

    Well said. Photojournalists should avoid major photoshoping – I honestly don’t go beyond the “Auto Enhance” setting any more ; I’m fine with some minor editing (color correction, cropping, etc.), but extreme manipulation to change the environment and overall fell of the image is, in my opining, wrong. And yes, I agree, the original file should be submitted as well…

  4. Nicolle Clemetson at 7:40 am

    THANK YOU. Someone needed to say it. I’m all for high-end retouching, but there comes a point when an image goes from being an actual “photograph” and turns into a “digital image” or “illustration”.

    I’m in the business of making photographs.

  5. Andy Lai at 7:46 am

    I whole heartedly agree. Over production of shots is far too easy these days with filters and apps that make it just a few clicks away. Too many people are falling into the trap of thinking that this is required for a good photo. I’m a fan of less is more.

  6. Brett at 7:56 am

    I really appreciate this post Allen. Though all strong captures with high interest level, I don’t think any of these meet photo-journalistic standards, and I find it quite distressing that these are considered acceptable, and how the standards continue to be blurred and compromised. If you were to post this on Photo.net you’d I think you’d have a lot of people beside themselves with outrage at your audacity.

  7. Steve Coleman at 8:02 am

    I say let the judges decide, that’s their job. You don’t have to agree with their choice. My father was a professional photographer, and I grew up with a darkroom in the house. I know that B&W photographers have always used dodging and burning so the final print will look more like the eye sees it. Remember, the eye automatically compensates for exposure in the real world. The eye automatically compensates for distance as well. Why is it considered OK to manipulate DoF but not exposure? Personally, I’m not a fan of HDR when it looks artificial, as it often does. That doesn’t mean it’s not a legitimate photograph. So basically it’s a matter of choice. My choice is to use Photoshop to make adjustments, but I try to stop short of making things look artificial. Or, I will deliberately tweak a photo for an effect, such as over-sharpening, decreased saturation, or even changing colors (remember sepia?). At that point, however, I’m no longer trying to represent reality, but rather my vision of reality. Doesn’t mean it’s not a photograph.

  8. Chris Blackhurst at 8:04 am

    Here, bloody, here!

    I completely agree with your argument, Guy. It is a question of honesty – this is a whole different ball game to other genres of photography. Photojournalism should always be about truth. We don’t want or need Hollywood stylised glamour – it wasn’t needed in the days of Capa or McCullin and their images relied on their content alone.

    This issue is further compounded by photojournalists outsourcing their images to be “finished” by third party post processing houses. Problem is with that is, what if two or more PJ’s (not pyjamas) use the same company? Then you have no signature to your image – nothing to make it individual.

    I have often argued that there is a world of difference between being a photographer and being a digital artist and the photos in this article prove that some can rely on their content alone (photographers), where as others would obscure into bland normality without the obvious post productive hijinks (digital artists).

    I would much rather be the former.

    I think the submission of the original RAW image is a fantastic idea & would bring an element of transparency to the whole issue.

    Better yet, shoot film and lend the negs 😉

  9. Tim Shobe at 8:21 am

    A well-written article by Allen that deserves further discussion.

    From my own experiences…having served as a judge for several photo contests…and having entered my own photographs in some others…even just recently winning one, I have my own thoughts and opinions that can fill several pages.

    But I think what matters the most (and Allen touched on this) is how the criteria for the entries is set up at the start of the contest. To know EXACTLY what the judges are looking for and what will or will not be accepted is crucial. And I agree that the more legitimate contests should be held to a much higher standard and not to allow so much digital post-processing. If a ‘photo’ is considered as a piece of art that raises emotions in us, then maybe all others should be considered as just ‘pictures’ or ‘images’…? Except, what defines a ‘photo’? Have we not been doing post-processing with ‘photos’ in the chemical darkroom for years?

    The first photo in this article claims that it was chosen because of the ‘elements’. I’m interested in seeing how the ‘elements’ looked before the obvious ‘enhancements’. The second and third photos deserves some recognition as well….in a contest that ‘allows’ such manipulation which is acceptable.

    By the way, I do know about manipulation and the affects of it, both good and bad…even if just for fun. I am the creator of the viral ‘kayaker in the mouth of a whale’ composite image…and I can’t help to think that it won somebody a photo-contest somewhere in the world! 🙂


    Tim Shobe

  10. Craig Hacker at 8:34 am

    I can recall the name of one photojournalist who was terminated from his job at a large metro daily for much less than this back in the early 2000’s. Interesting how our standard has changed over time — and for the worst, I’m afraid. .

  11. Anonymous at 8:53 am

    I don’t like contests in general, but I think these contests should both require the submission of the raw file, and print the un-retouched original next to the submitted version for any winners. Yes, we all know that raw captures are generally flat, and that the camera still has limitations in its ability to capture dynamic range, such that images straight from the camera often don’t mirror reality anyway, but we know what that looks like from experience. We can observe the original capture and the submitted version with this knowledge in mind. I think all the critique sites (Photo.net, 500px., etc.) should operate this way as well.

  12. Brett at 8:54 am

    I don’t like contests in general, but I think these contests should both require the submission of the raw file, and print the un-retouched original next to the submitted version for any winners. Yes, we all know that raw captures are generally flat, and that the camera still has limitations in its ability to capture dynamic range, such that images straight from the camera often don’t mirror reality anyway, but we know what that looks like from experience. We can observe the original capture and the submitted version with this knowledge in mind. I think all the critique sites (Photo.net, 500px., etc.) should operate this way as well.

  13. libertarian at 9:05 am

    Good that this is being discussed. Yes, these are all wonderful photographs. And for most purposes I have no problems with digital manipulation. People have always worked on their photographs in many ways. Even back in the days the choice of b/w over different types of color film influenced the look and the feel of things before even further changing things in the darkroom. I see no difference between that and throwing off your WB a bit.

    BUT – photojournalism it ain’t at that point. Yes, it’s fair game to work the sliders a bit to make things clear and visible. Not much else after that or it becomes something different.

    What I find worse, however, is the cliches that are still being applied in “photojournalism”. Things always seem to come out of a certain perspective and are more often than not a political statement in and by themselves. That’s not journalism that’s commentary or even art. Which is fine if that’s what people want to do. The winning photo above should not have a place in a respected newspaper or magazine. Not just because of the all too beautiful light but because of the missing context. Same with the “hooded prisoner with child in Guantanamo”. I don’t believe for one second that this is a credible picture. I can’t proof that it’s staged (though I suspect that) but the missing context and the cheap use of cliches are problematic enough to disqualify it as journalism. As a politically motivated statement or commentary through art? Be my guest. To me it looks more like 60s/70s/80s political aesthetics transferred into the digital age. To me this doesn’t hold water anymore. There is nothing poetic about a woman in the third world sitting in a landfill or a homeless person sitting on the street in a major US or European city (for all you “street photographers” out there – just sayin’). It’s been done. It’s not moving anything ahead – not the homeless person, not the rabid religious fanatics that are responsible for human suffering in areas that suffer already without them, not photography, not anything.

    And no, I have nothing new to offer either. I’m still reproducing styles myself. Shooting the homeless person in black and white and making it look “as expected” is as much a technical skill as putting my pretty wife in heels against a seamless white background and make her look even more stunning than she is in real life. But then again I’m not a world traveling photojournalist.

  14. Paul Foley at 9:13 am

    There are some great and relevant points being made in this discussion.

    I must admit when I first saw this picture when the awards were announced I was struck by the lighting. My innate naivety had me thinking how lucky for the photographer to have such beautiful light in such a tragic setting. And how skillful for capturing it so well and powerfully.

    Then a little cynicism entered my thought process and I too thought it looked too good. While the picture isn’t staged it appears the lighting effects may have been a little (in post).

    This worries me. To see such a powerful image look like a ‘movie poster’ questions it’s veracity and effectiveness in telling the horror and futility of the death of children in conflict zones. I am concerned that young people, visually ‘educated’ by over the produced imagery they see every day in video games, movies and HDR photo galleries, will not appreciate the reality behind what is becoming illustration inspired photojournalism.

  15. Andre at 9:25 am

    I agree with you on most points, this style of image manipulation has become quite popular. In the first image it should be pointed out that the photographer talked about the light bouncing off the walls to create the particular effect. That and minimal curves work in PS could produce a somewhat over done look. However I think that in many cases photographers are trying to create a style because so many editors are looking for photographers with new and coherent styles. So it’s definitely a creation of the industry and it’s demands for the new and exciting as appose to the stories that really need to be told. Some stories do both. I also think that if your process helps to tell a story then who cares. It’s about the point you make and what you’re saying not what the pictures look like so much. The lines between photojournalism and documentary/artistic photography are becoming increasingly blurred. Many film images had easily visible halos on them from dodging or burning. It can’t be said photography was ever “accurate.” It’s always been about symbolism and representation.

  16. Adam Whiteside at 9:27 am

    Sebastião Salgado and David Burnett with his 4×5 tilt swing images. these are all highly manipulated images. However photoshop was not used. It is the vision, not the tool.

  17. Allen Murabayashi Author at 9:28 am

    Dodging (specifically the “hand of god” technique) was developed (to the best of my knowledge) as a means to get better reproduction from newspaper printing presses, which have very low line screens and are black and white.

    So assuming this is the historical basis for the technique, it really has limited place in an era where post of the publishing is done online or through color printing, which has significantly improved our time. We shouldn’t accept this anachronism as “truth” or as a “necessity” for a picture to be effective, nay, an award winner.

  18. Keith Dannemiller at 9:45 am

    Get real. You actually think that the judges awarded the World Press Photo of the Year without viewing the original RAW file? Given the controversy surrounding past contests and manipulated files, this is already a necessary requirement when there is any question whatsoever about the veracity of the image. Why don’t you contact Santiago Lyon at AP and ask? Or contact the photographer directly instead of innuendo and supposition.

  19. Kerry Adams at 9:51 am

    I totally agree, and interestingly, find the last photo about 50 times more powerful, because it still feels ‘real’. The over processing of the other images takes it into the realm of the unreal…

  20. Rico Grimm at 10:08 am

    Interesting post. But I am not sure you are right because there is no such thing as an objective, ‘real’ view of things. If e.g. partly desaturating images is wrong, what about fully desaturating them? Black and white is a gross distortion of reality in itself, yet nobody would question its photojournalistic credibility.

    How our pictures look changes constantly. There is a mainstream way to take pictures at all times. And thousands processing their pictures in a special way distilles into the look of a certain age just as techical capabilities determined the looks of pictures in times of analog photography.

    We could recognize a picture of Vietnam War just by looking at the colors of it. And I am sure we will be able to recognize a picture of 2013 just by looking on it, 20 years from now.

  21. Antonio Olmos at 10:38 am

    So I guess we shouldn’t be allowed to use fill flash either, or shoot B&W anymore as it is not a true representation of anything we actually see but an interpretation. There has always been masters of interpretation, Sebastian Salgado being one, or anyone who uses kodachrome with it’s deep saturated colours. I think it’s a good idea that a raw image be available for for judges to see wether the photographer went too far, but photography is a subjective creative tool,… cropping, composition, our choice of lenses have as much effect as many photoshop tools. “Banning” any creative postprocess may make an image “truer” but they may make them more boring as well. It’s an uneasy balance that photojournalism has to navigate. If your photograph is not interesting or beautiful to look at , no one will look at it. And if no one looks at it, it has failed. Salgado’s Famine pics from Sahel may be very subjective but it is the ones we still look at today, despite thousands of images made from that crisis by other photographers. Salgado’s images may be the most subjective but they also may be the ones with the most lingering honesty., the ones with the most enduring truth.

  22. Brett Groehler at 10:45 am


    Could not agree more. As a photojournalist for 15 years and a university photographer for the last 13 I understand how to and not to manipulate photos. The photo by Paul Hansen clearly goes too far. It was a powerful image from the start and should not have had the heavy HDR done to it. I still believe a good photo speaks for itself and – especially in news and sports- does not have to be perfect!

  23. Allen Murabayashi Author at 11:02 am

    I don’t think this is the same conversation about using Flash or darkroom techniques that we’ve had in the past. I think a creative line has been crossed. If the entrants were required to submit RAWs (as they were after the 2010 winner was disqualified), then I think the judges should give some commentary and/or guidelines about what type of manipulation is acceptable (with visual examples).

    These images look hyperreal to me. And judging by the reaction, I’m not the only one. A line has been crossed and we have to figure out whether we want to pull it back, and if so, how we do that.

    As always, love the discussion.

  24. Ambrose at 11:04 am

    I personally shoot RAW for everything I do. I believe that the photographer is using every tool in his kit to the best of his advantage without altering the scene dishonestly. We now are able to produce images that are similar to the dynamic range our eyes see.

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  26. Allen Murabayashi Author at 11:57 am

    @antonio: thanks for this comparison. i think we have a difference of opinion. I find the “winning” image to look very hyper-real, and the original to look like real life. the original image is very strong, so i question why it is necessary to manipulate it to win.

  27. Kristjan Logason at 12:14 pm

    This article is very good and asks questions that are needed to be asked and answered. Is there a limit, should there be a limit and how is that limit to be set. Is the “truth” to be defined by the color choice of camera manufacturers, film producers or photojournalists with artistic eye? If photoshop is evil why is black and whit OK.?

    Most of all it calls for the definition of “truth” and discussion on what it is. The world is in 3D pictures in 2D can they ever be truthful.

    In a blogpost I recently wrote this ” … As soon as the photographer lifts the camera the truth has been modified to what the photographers sees in the scene and how he chooses to depict that through his choice of camera, lens and so forth. All work done afterwards is just one more step in cropping into the big picture….” ( http://www.logason.com/blog )

    in a blog post called the truth the holy truth and nothing but the truth so help me photography ( http://logason.com/content/truth-holy-truth-and-nothing-truth-so-help-me-photography ) I wrote this:

    “……Images can be truthful per se. But even so they can never be THE TRUTH. Images, just like words in a narration, are carefully chosen reproductions of a given moment. To reproduce that moment the photographer has manipulated a split second into something that can be both artistically pleasant and narrative. Just like a writer carefully chooses the best words to serve his purpose, so does photographer when he decides on what moments to pick. What camera to use. What lens fits the motive. What angel he/she takes the picture from. All this is just the process that occurs before the split second is grabbed and made immortal or forgotten. After the moment there is a lengthy process which includes lot of manipulation to make the image as strong as possible. Just like in a writers process.

    We are not at the end of the era of truth in photography. But it maybe is about time people came to the terms that photography is not The truth even though they can be truthful. The trouble with that on the other hand, is what shall we then believe in and how can we show the “truth” so people believe us and most importantly what will it do to a gigantic business of storytelling and media not to speak of what will it do to corrupt power blocks trying to sell us the “truth” depicted in a narrative photograph……..”

    For some time now big questions have been waiting for some attention and answers, probably never more than after the Gulf war.

    We dont control what words a writer uses, do we need to control the photographers in order for them to depict a more truthful story?

    Is visual storytelling so strong that we need to tone it down in order to be able to digest it?

    There are lot of questions to be asked, and hopefully some more interesting post like this one that wil ask and answere

  28. Marc-André Pauzé at 12:31 pm

    Funny how these issue come back years after years. Here’s what I wrote many months ago (first in french, then I tried to translate it. Sorry if there are mistakes):

    “Photojournalism is writing a real story with light. As the vocal storyteller use speaking words to let the audience build mental representation, the photoreporter can use Instagram as a quick way to sketch a vision, an emotion, an atmosphere or use a full fledge camera to capture his documentary work with all his storyteller skills.

    A photojournalist is a storyteller. He has chosen to record with the least possible deterioration his vision of reality and its tools for recording it allow one who look at the images to create a mental impression of that reality. Instagram (or the post-processing tools) is just another tool of recording. The viewer creates his mental vision to complete the process from the story «written» by the reporter.”

    What worry me more, is the repetition of images with the same angles, the same way of documenting the real world. Every years we are greeted in the WPP with a woman crying with her hand hiding part of her face. There are so many issues to document and with so many angles to do it. Why do the winning pictures show the same subject, the same way, with the same look, year after year (apart from their technical signature) ?

  29. Simon Smith at 12:32 pm

    Photography has over the years evolved, from the original black and whites to colour and more recently digital, but it hasn’t stopped there, we now have smart cameras such as iPad’s, iPhones along with tools such as instagram.

    The very same discussions took place when colour photos we’re introduced, you’d have the experienced photographers refusing to buy in to this new technology and shoot in colour, as it was felt to be a betrayal of real photography.

    Whether we like it or not, photography and the technology behind it refuses to stand still, and although the human race is typically objective to change, I think we have to accept this is progress, and in years to come you will need to have photoshop and photography skills to survive in this industry.

    Great article by the way.

  30. imajez at 12:45 pm

    This article, as does just about any article that bemoans digital enhancement, shows a basic ignorance of the history of photography. Most B+W news photos from days gone by had darkroom jiggery-pokery applied to them in exactly the same way.
    Photography has always recorded reality via the filter of the photographer’s vision and always will. The specific techniques of how things are done may change, but photographers usually try to make a shot look good.

    Warming filters, using the wrong film, using a film with certain characteristics, fill -in flash, dodging and burning in the darkroom is no different from anything shown above and the biggest manipulation of all, using B+W is NEVER objected to by those who dislike altered images.

    Though my biggest issue with the article is that all of these images could easily be straight from a camera as a jpeg or taken on film. With no PS involved.
    A lot of complaining about nothing going on in this article, I’m afraid Allen.

  31. imajez at 12:47 pm

    The Straight out of camera [SOOC] stance as espoused by some with regard to this article here or on Peta Pixel is bogus thinking.
    What does that mean really? RAW files look dreadful until developed or I can shoot JPEGs in B+W, neither look anything like reality, but are both SOOC.
    If shooting slide film, K25 looks nothing like Agfa1000RS and again are both SOOC.

    ALL photography is interpretive. All of it! And always has been. 🙂

  32. Anonymous at 12:51 pm

    I think @Kristjan said it better than me. I think the winning image is a very strong image. I think he made a wonderful photograph better with the post processing. I dont think he altered the or manipulated the content of the image at all. In fact I am left wondering why so many are bothered by the post processing and not the content of the image. I find it much more disturbing that children continue to die in needless conflict. The judges of the WPP are experienced photographers and editors. I think they are well placed to judge wether the post processing is a step too far.

  33. Antonio Olmos at 12:51 pm

    I think @Kristjan said it better than me. I think the winning image is a very strong image. I think he made a wonderful photograph better with the post processing. I dont think he altered the or manipulated the content of the image at all. In fact I am left wondering why so many are bothered by the post processing and not the content of the image. I find it much more disturbing that children continue to die in needless conflict. The judges of the WPP are experienced photographers and editors. I think they are well placed to judge wether the post processing is a step too far.

  34. Brett at 1:36 pm

    “Though my biggest issue with the article is that all of these images could easily be straight from a camera as a jpeg or taken on film. With no PS involved.”

    No way in a million years that’s true, IMHO at least.

    In any case it is very easy to capture images that portray reality, naturally, the way that you or I would see it, with our eyes, in terms of color and tonality and light. It’s also quite easy to do this straight out of the camera (or with very minimal adjustments to global exposure and contrast to match the scene as it existed), except when the dynamic range is too great. There are still many photographers, photojournalists, and news organizations that share unmanipulated reality through their work, and thank God for them.

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  36. Kimmy Brooks at 6:10 pm

    And out of all of the photos posted, the only one that spoke to me was the very last one.

    For me, personally, I find that very telling.

  37. Austin at 6:18 pm

    Glad someone said it. I thought pretty much all photojournalistic photographs were suppose to be mostly untouched/unedited. In my opinion its mostly the story that the image tells is what should be amazing, not the starry effects of lighting. Then again most pictures in magazines are edited quite a bit so to keep up with the game most people probably feel they need to over photoshop a bit.

  38. Tim S at 6:21 pm

    IMO, I was taught while using film, to get the shot right in the camera each and every time. This advice meant planning your shots before you went out to take photos. I have been taking photos since 1972. I admit switching from film to digital had its challenges. However, once I begin to view winning judged images, my heart sank. Our local big contest specifically states minute post processing may be used. With that in mind, photographers submit Photoshopped images hoping to get away without penalty. They get their photos rejected or other photographers are up in arms complaining. I would hope that we all strive to get it right in the camera the first time on framing, composition, and spot on exposure. So can we all please try to do SOOC each and every time?

  39. Caitlin at 6:32 pm

    I love photoshop. It’s clear in my photos that I do a whole hell of a lot of it. But I shoot fashion photography and it has a place there. I’m not a photojournalist. Photoshop has very little place in photojournalism. Doesn’t it defeat the purpose of journalism? The winning photo is so strong it didn’t need all that work that was done to it. I really think another photo should have won.

  40. Ken Walton at 6:34 pm

    Here’s where we’re at: As far as blatant manipulation is concerned – whether by a photojournalist, a field reporter or an entire broadcasting conglomerate – I wholeheartedly agree that editorial media should not be enhanced one bit. But the shitty reality is that a vast majority of reality kind of sucks, and is easy to overlook. And – a lot easier to overlook if one of the most emotional subjects in the shot you took of a scrambling crowd that doesn’t give a collective shit about you or your safety happens to be standing in a shadow while you had your ass right in the middle of the fray, just trying to show the world a reality they can’t see from where they’re at. By enhancing some shots in post, all any photojournalist is really doing is shedding light or bringing attention to part of the story that would normally go unseen. Photo. Journalism, Nobody has ever dogged a journalist for what he or she may have uncovered after they wrote the first draft of their article. Their real discoveries occur just like everyone else’s – after they’ve been able to look a little deeper. As long as they’re not compositing in fabricated elements, what’s the problem? Are there journalists out there that turn in and publish just their notes? Come on. At least in photojournalism, the underexposed subjects are right there in the damn frame and the following “news” doesn’t revolve around speculations of “who may be standing just outside it”. Personally, my hat is off to any field photographer able to make their image – and ultimately their story – better by using the tools we all have readily at our disposal.

  41. Will at 6:38 pm

    I think the line between acceptable and too-far is entirely too subjective for us to determine after the fact in a discussion board. stipulations must be clearly laid out by the contest rules. Left to their own devices, photographers are going to submit work that’s as good as it can be. If they think extensive post-processing is the key to that, then so be it. And you know, there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that ideal. As long as it’s within the rules, it’s OK.

    Another thing to consider is the photographer’s opinion of what makes a great photo. Some photographers feel that everything (lights, mood, poses scene etc.) just HAVE to be perfect before you hit that shutter button. Others feel that capturing the moment is the priority, and all that secondary fluff can be added after the fact. Again, the rules of the contest must stipulate what’s ok and what isn’t.

    And lastly, unless you’re a purist of sorts, is using all the tools at your disposal to get the very best end result really a crime? Personally, I would say no. I would go out on a limb and say, using the first picture as an example, that that picture was judged more heavily on the content than the quality. I’m quite sure, if these contests are judged by anyone even remotely familiar with post-processing, that they are aware of what’s done to a photo after it’s been downloaded. Again, it has to be stipulated in the rules. As long as it’s within the rules, it’s not “right” or “wrong”. It’s just a matter of the viewer’s interpretation.

  42. Wayne at 6:41 pm

    Former Newspaper Photographer, here, who shot with film when I was on the job. I’ll clue my age by saying that we shot pretty much all Tri-X all the time, in those days. Even then, there was similar discussion. The point has well been made, above, that news photos were USUALLY manipulated for impact, especially when it came around to Contest Time.

    I agree with Marc-André Pauzé, above; I always felt that the annual competition ‘winners’ all tended to have a sameness about them.. usually influenced by what other photographers were doing, were getting printed, and were winning contests with, not to mention what was being touted in photography anthologies and magazines of the day. Occasionally, I would submit an image that did not fit those molds, and would get to watch the judging. When one of mine would still be in the semi-final 8 or 10, I felt the judge who picked it up was grateful for something seen in an unusual way that seemed to work, but would be outvoted by the other judges who picked more of the ‘sameness’. My interpretation, I’m sure, but maybe not totally fiction.

    I do often tire of arguments about what is and what is not Photography, since photography itself is artificial.. there is no real “truth” in any news photograph. Hell, photography superseded drawing/engraving, so the roots of imagery in journalism are pure representation of experience and vision, not anything like actual reproduction of a whole and full truth. As many have said in other photographic domains, the photograph is not the thing.. it’s an image related to the thing, but not the thing itself.

    I used to say that I was fortunate to work for a paper that gave me room to photograph as I saw it, and print what I thought was the best picks, so that between the biases of mine, the writers, the editors, -and the viewers- some truth had a slim Chance of not getting cancelled out.

    I certainly agree that each contest had best make its criteria as clear as the organizers can, so that the photographer knows what he’s being judged on.

    I would also argue that what Photography IS today, is what it is.. To hold it to the standards of what Photography was is futile.

    That said, a news outlet has the same balancing act it always had.. to make a strong impact in the existing market viewers in a way that communicates integrity to those same viewers.. or it’s just another media trying to out-shout the others. Individual photographers have a similar balancing act, involving getting to keep their access to stories and to outlets for them. There will always be case-by-case judgment calls about what is “too far” to go and still have credibility.
    Again, I would say that broadly swiped “should”s are well-meaning, but ultimately futile.

  43. Lesmarie at 6:43 pm

    I am a VERY new photographer and these photos and manipulations are awesome but I feel that the photo comprtitions are becoming more about what you can do with the photo than the photo you take, I enter local competitons for fun and exposure and tend to feel that the winning photographers all have better software than I do – Their photos could have still beaten me hands down I am sure, but as they are so manipulated I feel I am up against better computer techs than photographers.

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  45. Devon Frohne at 6:51 pm

    Photographers have been using filters and editing their photos since the beginning of the camera. Wether you were exposing it differently or adding post emulation effects it has been around for a long time, to say that photoshop has ruined it, is false, its the people who take bad photographs and are bad at photoshop, that ruin it. In this case, hate the player don’t hate the game.

  46. Sharna W. at 6:52 pm

    No photograph is “real” as a flat, unmoving 2D object cannot possibly convey the truth of the 3D environment that is moving. This has been an issue since the CREATION of photography. Any photo history class teaches you the problems that sprang up around photography when it was founded.

    Frankly the real fraud is trying to pass off any photographic image as truth. Its YOUR truth if you took the photograph. YOU chose where to crop the photo (in camera or out) you chose how to frame it (in camera or out) you chose the subject, who to focus on and what moment to capture and show out of the hundreds you shot. That is ALREADY blurring the lines of the truth. And this applies to photo journalists to. You have your own agenda, no matter what it is, and its for a story. I mean you aren’t going to just shoot ANYTHING and turn it in. No you want something with a story behind it, a reason, a feeling.

    If the photographer takes all this into account & can accept the fact that he is trying to protray more than a blank canvas then editting for mood, tone, distraction, and feelings are still valid for a photo journalist or anyone else for that matter.

    The eye does not see as the lens sees, end of story. We don’t see all the tiny hairs on the back of a hand in real life, or notice the dirt under someones nails and a million other things that are visible in a photograph. A photo might be worth a thousand words, but it still isn’t reality.

  47. Scott Serio at 7:11 pm

    I think it is interesting that almost everyone jumped to the conclusion that the photographer did some sort of Photoshop magic on the image. If you read what he says, he was lucky to have an alley where light was getting bounced around and he made the best of it. In fact, if you look at the one link above, the image is much brighter. I would submit the photograph didn’t actually HDR the image, but actually brought all of the tonal values down from how it was shot and spot-dodged the important parts. What is wrong with that? Well all make basic tonal decisions every day in our images that are not meant to mislead and are not photo manipulation. They are a representation of how we saw the scene. It is a disservice to the work of this photo to just dismiss his work as HDR. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/swedish-photographer-wins-world-press-photo-award-article-1.1265356#ixzz2LHUsGYWJ

    You also might want to look at his entire portfolio from POYi. The guy makes amazing images. http://www.poyi.org/70/43/index.php

  48. THERESA PATERSON at 7:14 pm

    The real problem here is that the humanity is marginalized. It’s no longer a real situation with real people. How sad that the power of our art is being compromised. So very sad.

  49. Michael Canfield at 7:23 pm


    Build us a camera that images the way our eyes and brain do. Why? Because I don’t care how expensive, how high tech or even how much experience you have. There is no such instrument. Our eyes are assisted by the most amazing post processing hardware on the planet. It’s our brain. Humans beings who can see, do HDR automatically. We adjust for glare and contrast instantly. And see most everything in far far greater detail, greater color range with instantaneous post processioning.. As an armature landscape photographer I can tell you that “pictures do not do it justice” is NOT just a metaphor. It means your eight thousand dollar setup will not catch this scene as we see it.. Period. Argue away, it’s true.
    Knowing this, the argument about photo shop kinda bugs me. I see the point to some degree, yes photogs make photos look ways your camera could not possibly make a photo look. And there is such a thing as way too much HDR. If the photo does not look real, I guess it’s art. But to use software to make up for the camera’s limits…To use it to show what I see. That’s fair game in my book. It’s exactly what our brains are doing every day and every second we use our eyes. How many of you knew our eyes only see upside down? It’s our brain that inverts what we are seeing..

    The hardware of the future will be doing most of the post processing… I would hope most of us realize this.. I wonder what the old photogs said about Color film… It’s popular to complain about change…

  50. Marc at 7:39 pm

    Even if you take stills with film, you aesthetically choose your stock for it’s color or lack there of, you take the image into the darkroom, granted you have the resources, and then manipulate the image with contrast, exposure and dodging n burning. Sure many have over used photoshop, but it isn’t any difference from going back to film, if you are professional. I do agree with submitting raws as well, keeps people in check. But to be so critic isn’t necessary. Hell, if you were to do everything in camera, guess what… you would still be manipulating the image even though it compresses those settings and spits out a jpeg for you.


  51. Yesenia at 7:42 pm

    I know this is not going to win me any points… but I have to wonder the age (or maybe better put the number of years of experience) of those replying to this post. Is it, perhaps, a bit of the old school not wanting to make way for the new school? Would DaVinci appreciate Jackson Pollock?

    No, I don’t think a photo should be so manipulated that it is unrecognizable from the original… but the world of photography is expanding and growing like any other art form out there as the years go by. Photojournalism should grow with it (or at least be accepting of the change).

    I’m in agreement that as long as rules and guidelines are not broken… the photo is what it is… a great photo enhanced to make it an amazing one.

    And let’s be honest… I find it hard to believe that everyone posting against editing leaves their photos as is. I’d have to ask you to prove that before I believe it. So the argument could be turned back and the question asked… should ANY edits be allowed?

  52. Andrew Newman at 8:00 pm

    Speaking purely within the context of this article and the specific subject at hand; the writer of this article is a narrow minded, purist dip shit. Look at the examples that you use as “adulterated to the point of being an illustration”. An off camera flash? Dodging? A heavy vignette? Purposefully altering the white balance? C’mon, this is weak sauce to support your claims or concern. I could see if you were talking about photo compositing. I could see if you were talking about retouching out people who really were there. I could even stretch myself to, kind of, understand your viewpoint if you were talking about healing away certain distracting background or foreground elements. But the points that you actually do talk about are nothing more than tools that have been commonly used long before instagram, photoshop, or digital photography.

    At the same time you ignore that your purist mindset could just as easily be applied to the types of images that you do seem to prefer. The last photo that you use as your example WAS altered. It was cropped. It was exposed one way out of all possible ways. It was focused with a certain depth of field instead of another that would have been more true to life. And I assume it was the one best chosen photo from a series that were taken in the same moment. Couldn’t it be said that the good example only shows reality in a selective way? Couldn’t it be said that the cropping, the exposure, the focus, and the one photo chosen shows an altered view of reality? After all, a person who was really there at the time would have been able to see much more of the scene and would have been able to verify if this moment really did happen this way. How do we really know that the two weren’t running around and playing and this is just one moment where they stopped to catch their breath, and the tone of the moment was really rather playful? We can’t know this through the photograph. No one could. Photos by their very existence are distortions of reality. So it is a self failing ideal to demonize certain photos just because they don’t seem to be real enough for your own personal preference.

    Also, your suggestion to send in originals as a means to weed out photos that you’d call too heavily altered… oh, I’m sorry… you called them “adulterated”, is again narrow minded. Why should that be where the line is drawn? Why shouldn’t we go all out and require that photographers submit all photos taken in a clip; along with photos purposefully shot at wide angle so the surrounding scene can be verified? That way we can get a better idea if the final submission photo truly hasn’t misrepresented reality by excessive retouching, taking a given moment out of proper context, and hiding reality by selective cropping.

    It’s all a line. A wide, bold, gray, blurry line that can’t possibly be held to the standard of reality through a photograph. It all just depends on where your own personal line of craftsmanship and ridiculousness is drawn. But no one should really care that much about what tools or techniques other photographers use (I still can’t get over the idea that you have a beef with dodging). Just don’t use them yourself. If you think vignetting crosses the line, then you don’t do it. If you think choosing a particular white balance over another crosses the line, then you don’t do it. Make your own work the way that you feel is most honest for yourself and stop judging anyone else whose line is drawn farther from yours. In the end, your most honest photo is still a lie when compared to actual reality anyway.

  53. jayston at 8:06 pm

    It’s not even a question of artistic or journalistic integrity, well, it is for some of us…but a problem with the overstimulization of our culture. The desire and opportunity to capitalize on people’s ever escalating desires for shinier and prettier and having the tools at your disposal are seems like a good idea. The medium has evolved. I personally prefer genuine photography that represents life as we see it. If I were a painter, I’d be an impressionist, but would never have told Dali (had I ever gotten the chance ) “Hey! You can’t paint like that!”

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  55. James Sullivan at 8:26 pm

    It’s all a lie. It’s a presentation of something that happened at another place and time in the here and now. A presentation of a dynamic three dimensional world in two static dimensions. That I decided to point my camera in the direction I did and press the shutter button at the moment I did with the scene framed just a certain way are all subject to my interpretation and the story I want to show and how I want to show it. Selecting photos for publication is the next choice I make to tell my story. I spent a year in Afghanistan as a soldier and one of my duties was to write a monthly newsletter. To read my stories and view my accompanying photos made it look like our soldiers were never in harm’s way and mostly responsible for rebuilding the country. Everyone has a motive and a bias. Is yours to sell copies and ad space, win contest, or convince family members at home no to worry?

    Regarding the photos shown here, I think they look a bit cartoonish and I’m not fond of the style, but I don’t think it’s immoral or unethical or illegal. I’m not sure why the lower left corner is burned to oblivion in the funeral procession, but I don’t think there’s anything patently deceptive about it (compared to photo of a soldier at an airport with a cigarette in his hand or mouth that was airbrushed out several years ago).

  56. Hari at 8:47 pm

    This discussion has no one correct answer. When flash was invented, and photographs were shot with flash, didnt all those photos have a Weegee look? Another point- Doesn’t flash throw on the subject which did not exist in the first place? With the invention of color film, didnt all the photos look similar(Like William Eggleston)? The point is, with the changing technology, our aesthetics, sensibilities and standards change. We cant hang onto a past which does not exist anywhere except in our minds.

  57. James Eagles at 10:20 pm

    Stop Whining! It’s always been some type of photo-fixing. Even in the darkroom days. You could created custom masks and dodging and burning setups. Steve Meisel use to sandwich slides together. Big deal.

    There are so many other “real” problems in the photographic world and most contests are scams anyway because are marketing tools…not real contests. Example PDN charges $25 per entry and gets thousands of people to enter. You do the math and they end up with eight winners and a few honorable mentions?

  58. John Rogers at 11:02 pm

    Why is everyone so eager to ‘SLAG OFF’ good photographers work especiallly when their photographs win awards. The High light to the right of camera is obviously The Sun, and the from fill could be caused by a number of factors, Diffused fill flash, reflected light from glass in window etc. and overall colour casts can be created using various old style srew on filters,
    81a, 81b 82a 82b, etc. The pure fact is the photographer put him/herself in the position and captured an image. ‘The moment’ in this years winning image brilliantly and I am pretty sure he did not have the time to set up any type of lights or reflectors other than on camera or hand held. I’d like to know the story afterwards was he trampled on as this surging crowd pushed forward ? Probably not as a good pro would have worked out how to get the shot and get out of the way….same as how to use what tools and filters to get great result….. Brilliant moving and deserving winner. What all photographers and viewers should be asking themselves is He got the Shot and I didn’t !!!

  59. Franko at 11:35 pm

    I enjoyed the measured critique and thoughtful responses. Just popped in to say I recognise the light if not the location in the winning photo.

    I enjoy my street photography and have had a modest career as a photojournalist. One of my favourite places is Melbourne Australia and the summer cityscape gets interesting around 5pm, when people leave work to hurry home.

    Sunlight reflects off glass windows onto people, into shadows and onto other windows. It’s beautiful. Surprises happen.

    What if something important happens in Melbourne? What if it’s around 5pm? What if I know and understand the light in Bourke Street and another photographer hasn’t picked up on it?

    What if my relationship with the subjects is one of mutual respect built over many years, and they accede to my request to turn left into Union Lane then right again into Little Collins Street?

    What if my print for the judges is presented in a way to tell the story AND reveal the light?

    The image might look faked or manipulated to the untrained eye … but the untrained eye in all probability would not have registered the quality of the light when the event was unfolding anyway. And they would not be judges.

    Good photographers have always understood lighting and location. Many photographers live with and believe in their subjects. Photojournalists can and do incorporate these elements. And, let’s face it, it is a *photography* competition.

    I do not believe the Paul Hansen’s integrity is compromised in any way. A photo+journalist tells a story with photographs. To them I say “go your hardest” and God bless you all.


  60. Tim Gander at 11:44 pm

    Much of what we see I blame on the Clarity slider in Lightroom. It’s tempting to push it too far to the right, and it does create this strange lighting effect and makes things look more like illustrations than photographs. I think the idea of seeing the original against the finished work is an interesting one. It may be the manipulation has brought us to the point where we need that.

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  62. imajez at 12:18 am

    @ Brett

    ” @Imajez
    “Though my biggest issue with the article is that all of these images could easily be straight from a camera as a jpeg or taken on film. With no PS involved.”

    No way in a million years that’s true, IMHO at least.”

    If you know photography well, it’s really not that hard. 🙂

    Besides the main reason for the look of top image is the unusual light bouncing down the alley, which the photographer took good advantage of. You get that light with bright sunshine bouncing off glass or white walls in alleys where there is shade from sun filled by the bounced natural light. Skyscrapers also do this nicely. 🙂
    Besides the so called ‘manipulated’ version looks closer to a raw file image than the ‘un-manipulated’ image does in my experience of shooting and processing raw files.

  63. imajez at 12:23 am

    @ Yesenia
    “I know this is not going to win me any points… but I have to wonder the age (or maybe better put the number of years of experience) of those replying to this post. Is it, perhaps, a bit of the old school not wanting to make way for the new school? Would DaVinci appreciate Jackson Pollock?”

    I think age has little to do with this. I learnt on film and in traditional darkrooms, yet I’m defending digital practice – as it’s no different. People who never used ‘old skool’ techniques seem to be complaining the most.

  64. Paul at 1:09 am

    DISAGREE. 20 years ago, did we require photographers to submit negatives? What happened in the chemical-based darkroom is not too different from what happens in the digital darkroom. I’ve done both. What digital photography has done is expanded the base of both snapshot aficionados and darkroom novices. Nevertheless, should photographs look pure and innocent (subject aside)? Did Ansel Adams’ photos look too contrasty–more importantly: do his published photographs look EXACTLY like his negatives? What if they do not?! We ought be less concerned with authenticity or the purity or honesty of an image and be more concerned with the quality of the published photo. The market should drive what we see.

  65. Jeanne Roby at 1:54 am

    I am not a professional by any means, and I understand the need for minmal photoshopping, but my goal is to get the perfect shot from the camera. True talent lies in capturing a feeling, or essence-not in placing it there. Photoshop is a finishing process, like the cherry on the sundae. If the main essence of the picture has been changed by what you have manipulated, it is no longer the image you took, but a created vignette, and should be judged on creative manipulation, and not photographic talent.

  66. RC at 1:55 am

    Please change the “one” to “won” in your article.

    The photo by Paul Hansen looks perfectly fine. The light looks natural-it is bouncing off the walls. I am sure he touched it up but it hardly looks like an “illustration.”
    The second photos looks like it was shot on Shade or Cloudy WB….what are you complaining about?
    The 3rd shot looks great-even if it has manipulations-and complaining about vignetting to draw the eye to the subject? really? I hardly ever use it but it works for the shot…

    I think you article has a valid point-but the photos you used to make your point are not good examples since they are, for the most part, just fine and hardly HDR-ish, cartoon-ish etc.

  67. Marc-André Pauzé at 2:05 am

    We see here the replica in discussing “ad nauseum” on Technical bla-bla instead of the message they are suppose to tell. That’s why a geo-political reportage find less venue than a technical article on “How to do ….”.

    You want to make a living at documentary photography? Better learn to teach workshop to show the crowd “How to” and technical bla-bla.

    Stop discussing this technical issue and start discussing the message and the story they tell.

  68. Alyx Crawford at 2:50 am

    @Paul – there is a distinct difference between Ansel Adams portraits – deliberately posed and composited – and a candid photo-journalistic shot. Having said that, I can accept a certain amount of photo-shopping… despite taking multiple bracketing shots, the best of the lot can still have an area of lesser contrast or other problem that can be tweaked.

    In the first shot (above) one does wonder at the lighting — perhaps it IS natural, perhaps there were other artificial sources behind the photographer. It does have the look of a Hollywood poster, but it could be entirely natural.

    I like the idea of submitting both unretouched and final images.

  69. DC at 3:00 am

    Sounds like someone is a little “butt-hurt” over other people winning… where do we draw the line? Are we allowed to colour correct? Sharpen? Dodge & Burn? Clone? Who’s to say how much is too much. It’s a digital image.

  70. rebekah stephenson at 3:18 am

    Thank you for posting this. I have had this concern on my mind for a long time. I am a purest at heart and wish that they would not allow overly manipulated images to be entered. Why can’t photoshop junkies just enter an illustration competition?

  71. Nani at 3:20 am

    I totally agree. I entered a couple of contests only to find out the images were manipulated beyond recognition, and they won! I was so surprised because I thought photography was about our raw skill, not about how well we can use photoshop. I like my original images because I shot them that way on purpose.

  72. Jennifer Wheatley Wolf at 3:51 am

    When I set out to capture an image, no matter what the subject, I want the photograph to speak for itself. Sure, there are manipulations I can do with my camera that give me various effects, and I believe it is acceptable to enter these images into a contest. This is deliberate and requires skill (and good fortune). However, I feel, images I have to change in post are images I could have shot better with my camera and not contest worthy. Perhaps a Photoshop contest is in order for those who cannot resist bending the rules of a contest in their favor.

  73. Dave at 5:29 am

    If a photo is re-touched in ANY fashion, it is no longer a true photograph and should be disqualified from ANY form of award, regardless of the content.

    A true photgraph captures the moment in time…. not the computer malipulated moment in time.

  74. Amanda at 5:49 am

    I am beyond ecstatic that someone is mentioning the atrocity that is over edited photos. I agree with Rebekah that these are weak examples of over editing but examples still. I do not, and will not, touch a photo (except to watermark) after it has been shot. I have lost multiple contests to images that were obviously retouched in nearly every aspect and that has been extremely frustrating.

    To me the world is beautiful the way she is, I want my images to reflect that whether her skies are gloomy gray or bright blue or somewhere in between.

  75. John A. at 5:54 am

    Times change. Evolve or get left behind. I can’t say as I completely disagree but, I can say there are times when I see photos that have been (as you say) completely over edited that I actually really like. Its not my style, but if I like an image, I like it and don’t care how it was created.

    As long as the photographers aren’t breaking rules defined by the World Press or whoever happens to be sponsoring the event, then I see absolutely nothing wrong with editing their photos to improve the look however they see fit. I do think though, that there should be some defined, universal guidelines as to how much editing a photo can have as far as true journalism is concerned, but again, it people allow it, then I see no problems with photographers taking advantage of it.

  76. Beverly Christ at 6:13 am

    Well written. I agree. Sometimes I just wish the true picture was taken—–Let the talent of the photographer behind his or her lens be the picture judged, not a photo enhanced copy.

  77. Paul at 11:01 am


    You want Polaroid. Plain and simple.

    Even turning a shot into a slide, putting it in a carousel, and punishing relatives with your awesome shots is subject to the bulb, lens, screen, and any ambient light within the environment. That environment might “push” your image one way or the other. Unintentional effects versus intended effects (“Photoshopping”) is a similar debate to abortion (spontaneous versus induced). You never know whether what you’re looking at is touched up in any way–even if you produced it by hand in darkroom. How did you know when to turn off the bulb/exposure? How long did you soak it in chemical A and chemical B? Did you use any filters?

    You seem to be assuming far too much by saying that “if a photo is re-touched in ANY fashion, it is no longer a true photograph.” Cameras process the raw (analog) image and turn it into digits–I suppose you’d argue next for disqualifying digital cameras from serious photography or contests because of the internal processes that take place before we even see it (either in-camera or on my computer screen).

    Curious to hear your thoughts.


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  79. CrazyHendrix at 9:20 am

    Seriously, a photograph does not in any way reflect reality. There is nothing TRUE about the world in a photograph and the real world we live in. Nothing is subjective when you frame, crop and take a photograph. Just because the winners have the talent/luck or whatever, doesn’t mean you have to get all righteous and sour about it. If you can’t win a contest because the contest allows certain post-production on a photograph, don’t join the contest.

  80. Paul at 11:09 am

    @CrazyHendrix: “Seriously, a photograph does not in any way reflect reality.”

    BAM! I’d even go so far as to say that photographs represent reality as much as paintings do. They are an artist’s representation of their world.

    There is little truth in anything–as uncomfortable as that might make you.


  81. Rex at 11:15 am

    Although i’m not a big fan of photo manipulation, it seems the comments comes from people who are insecurely don’t have photoshop skills, no matter it’s retouch or not, there’s no perfect picture, you can always find faults no matter what, what matter is that it tells a story, we are not investigating a crime scene on a court, we are dealing with Art and everybody is entitled to their own skills and desire, if you think your photoshopping skills cannot beat them, then it’s nobody’s fault. Then you could always create a before and after category if you want to, if you don’t like those pics, then why bother even look at them, you have the right to turn off your computer.

  82. Ecco at 2:53 pm

    I don’t agree with your finishing statement to make the public and judges aware or original photographs compared to post processing. The co petition is about effectively telling a story next not confused and point fingers on people and focus on if its real or not. Its either effective or not. High dynamic range may alter your illusion but isn’t a bad thing.

  83. David at 3:36 am

    Thanks Jesse, CrazyHendrix and Paul!!! The public does not realize that we photographers “create” images and for the most part are illustrative. A photograph tells you nothing concrete it only functions and works if it takes on a life of its own no different than someone writing poetry. This is has been valid since the first photograph was used in print news (American Civil War) where photo technology did not allow a photographer take “action shots”. Every image was staged or “created” by the photographer: positioned the dead body, clothed the corpse in either Confederate or Yankee uniforms depending on intention and laid a rifle in frame. All following acceptable visual composition values that made the image interesting. As you can see in Jesse’s link little has changed other than the fact photographers today will put themselves in harms way (but will avoid danger if possible) to get closer for that special image beating out his/her competitors. Whenever someone sites Capa (as someone did in a previous post) obviously knows nothing about his life and work. Here is one for you – he would submit images from one battle claiming them to be another. And yes he was present at D-Day but his images tell you nothing “concrete” about the battle. They are illustrative and pictorial. They are images of prose. It is the viewer (the reader of the image) that can decide to give it validity or not. Lets get one thing clear, photography is illustrative but it does not alter the fact that there never was a civil war or a Palestinian conflict. The problem exists with the general public who has always believed images told the truth. But here is the catch – they don’t lie either because a JN photo of a boy in Rwanda who’s face was sliced by a machete actually did happen to that boy but it tells you nothing about the boy, how it happened, when it happened or anything else. The image illustrates only the atrocity of what happened and makes the viewer FEEL what pain the boy must have gone through. This is one of the most important aspects of photography to get the viewer to feel.

    On digital photography – photoshop is a digital darkroom and that is it. It has given photographers a new type of “film” and a new way to develop images. All the complaints and criticism regarding digital are exactly what non sapient photographers said about the 35mm camera when it came out. Oh and by the way – what one can do in photoshop we could do in the darkroom and that included removing a person from an image.

    The winning images were chosen by honored and respected photographers and I think that is good enough for anyone to accept. The question one should be asking is why a certain image won over another. Then you may be able to comprehend what photography truly is.

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  85. lara jo regan at 1:48 pm

    Though I agree Photoshop is being overused in general, a great photojournalist has the skill do make a multitude of technical and aesthetic decisions in a matter of seconds to create an image with epic, historical power – WITHOUT the aid of a crew trying to get it right for hours. I don’t think this year’s World Press Photo of the Year looks Photoshopped; I think the photographer just made some great technical lighting decisions to optimize the power of the shot in a split second. He obviously did not have time to pose anyone, nor would he – it’s just a great moment combined with superb lighting choice.

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  90. Franco at 10:58 am

    Seriously people? None of these images are edited to the point of being ridiculous! Granted there are some out there which are, and that crosses the line into the realm of digital illustration (extreme HDR etc). These however, are not. Do you think for one second that the music you listen to is not tweaked, refined, and mastered? Do you think the movies you watch are not color balanced, graded and sharpened? “I’m in the business of making photographs”, Nicolle Clemetson? Please. Do you think when you shoot wide open at 1.2 that you’re not “altering reality”? No one views the world the a 1.2 lens, so guess what, you lose. Or when you use all of your off camera flashes that you seem to love, it’s no different when someone brushes in light in lightroom or PS. Technology and the world of photography are changing. Try to keep up now…

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  94. Tom at 2:33 am

    IMHO the Hansen photo from Gaza clearly oversteps the mark for the simple reason that the photoshopper has INVENTED light that was not there. The light source (the sun) was clearly high right and behind the subjects as we view them…. yet dodging and burning has created an artificial sense of light onto the shadow side of the faces such that this becomes the dominant source and completely changes the complexion and feel of the image. Just look how the shadows on the wall are on the same side as the brightest sides of each face!!

    Had he just lightened the subjects and done the usual dodging and burning there would have been none of the painfully evident sense of artificiality. Its a great image (though heavily staged) but the photoshopping kills it. Our brains sense it before our eyes do.

  95. Martin Vargas at 4:21 pm

    The An Najaf, Iraq image (the last one) is so powerful and yet so simple.
    It brought tears to my eyes and made me imagine what would happen to the child? To its father? Why is the child there? To have him so close yet to be unable to kiss him is just too much. Powerful and simple.
    The first one, although striking and powerful, seems like a film frame from a movie. So one tends to brush it off – I certainly did.


  96. Mike F. at 1:23 am

    I don’t think Photoshop should be allowed in any photo contest. Cropping…yes, exposure chage..yes. True photography comes from the camera, not a studio!

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  99. Ryan at 7:55 pm

    How a scene actually looked to our eyes and how our camera sees it are two entirely different things. The photo taken in 2003 of the prisoner and child would probably not be what our eyes would have seen. It would be what the point and shoot camera that Bouju used was capable of seeing. At the heart of this winning photo is the subject and context and what sort of reaction that elicits in a viewer.

    With the dynamic range, color reproduction, and low light capabilities of today’s cameras not only can we be in the right place and time to capture the perfect moment of subject and context, but we can get a lot closer to what our eyes actually see. Someone’s vision of a photo is directly influenced by how they remember seeing it. If that means lifting the shadows or cropping a bit hear or there, then so be it. Usually these factors will only heighten the mood that is already present in what has been captured.

    It is akin to adding music to a movie. If the story and characters of a film are lacking substance, the music will not create substance on its own. If there is a great story and compelling characters, then music can make it sing.

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