Content And Context - Photographic Integrity
This image of Aidan Hagerty winning the CIF-SS Division 4 Pole Vault strays from the National Press Photographers Association (NPAA) Code Of Ethics

According to the NPAA Code of Ethics, journalistic photo “editing should maintain the integrity of the photographic images’ content and context.” Further, it states, “do not manipulate images or add or alter sound in any way that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects.”

The image above is a very liberal edit of the image below. Replacing the sky arguably falls outside of content and context and certainly fails the “do not manipulate” mandate. Before Saturday, I would have thought the image below was not out of bounds. However, in discussions with several photographers from Milesplit who were covering the CIF-SS Track and Field Finals, they indicated that newspapers allowed only “minimal adjustments” even for color correction in images.

Content And Context - Photographic Integrity

Based on that short discussion, I’m left thinking that even this image might fall outside a more narrowly defined standard. It’s been cropped to get rid of the distracting elements. It’s been color corrected to adjust white balance, shadows, highlights, vibrance, and saturation. However, no pixels have been altered from a visual standpoint. From a journalistic perspective, I want to believe this would be ok. Does cropping alter context? Is color correction “manipulating images.” Are the rules different if you’re shooting in JPEG as opposed to RAW?

If any of my photographer friends would like to weigh in here, I’d appreciate it. In the meantime, I’ve taken this opportunity to color outside the lines. Here are a couple more images that clearly would NOT pass the test. We’ll call it “creative license.” 🙂

18 May 2022 edit: I want to thank Young Kwak for our discussion on Twitter. Young is an old friend and former employee who is now an accomplished editorial and commercial photographer based in Spokane WA. His sports photos are often picked up by the Associated Press. He sent me an announcement from Reuters in 2015 that goes into some detail about why they don’t accept images shot in RAW. So, I will be heading out to Golden Valley High School later today to see how shooting in JPEG might impact my photo editing workflow. 🙂

Content And Context - Photographic Integrity
Content And Context - Photographic Integrity

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EXIF Data Below Applies Only To The Featured Photo In This Post
  • Aperture: ƒ/8
  • Camera: ILCE-1
  • Taken: 14 May, 2022
  • Exposure bias: -1EV
  • Focal length: 70mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/1250s
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