Sunday, February 16, 2014

MORE Deep Thoughts from Cari and Me!

Thank you for all your thoughtful comments on THIS recent post.

I'd like to comment on Cari's comment, which was: "This was a big huge enormous deal when I worked at a newspaper. There are very VERY strict rules about how much a photo can be altered using software. Pretty much it boiled down to, "If you can do it in a dark room, you can do it to a photo in the newspaper." And pretty much that means using the lasso tool and some dodge and burning. Anything outside that was considered "unethical" and actually while I worked there, a fella lost his job because he altered a photo too much and put the newspaper's reputation as a trusted unbiased source in jeopardy. As a photojournalist, you had to be clear about whether or not your image was documenting something or whether it was a piece of art. If it ran in the newspaper it had better not be "blessed" at all."

Cari is absolutely correct in stating that a photojournalist has a responsibility to accurately capture an event honestly and realistically.  But that being said, even if a photo is absolutely accurate, it can still mislead or influence or sway the viewer in one way or another.

An unethical photojournalist still has the ability to alter a viewer's perception of an event even if the photos she takes are accurate.  Say for example, I'm covering a protest and the scene is one with policemen and protestors confronting each other.  I may choose a photo angle prominently showing an angry policeman's face with a club raised, (influencing the viewer to sympathize with the protestors and have negative feelings about police brutality), or maybe I will choose to shoot one of the protestors throwing a bottle at a policeman, (negative feelings toward the protestors).  Or maybe I take a shot in one direction showing beautiful blue sky and cherry blossoms in the background (happy feelings about the protest), or maybe I choose to turn the other way and take shots with the background showing a dark alley littered with garbage (negative feelings about the protest).  If I didn't produce photos that showed a balanced view of the protest, I'd be unethical, even without any post editing.

But what if I did edit my photos.  What if I wanted to use software to crop in tight to better see the subject or action of the story.  What if my best image came out a bit soft and I wanted to use software to sharpen it and make it more presentable for print.  What if I shot in color and I wanted to use software to turn it into a black & white image?  In my opinion, all these types of computer software editing would be perfectly ethical. 

Here is another example.  Say I'm a commercial photographer and I'm hired to take photos of a tropical resort for an advertising campaign with the goal of attracting more vacationers.  Of course my boss wants the photos to look beautiful and inviting, with azure blue skies and the turquoise ocean in the background.  No problem, because the resort is beautiful, the sky is beautiful and the ocean is beautiful, and I can get all that in a photo.  But what if there is a huge, stinky, garbage dump on one side of the resort, and railroad tracks with trains that run throughout the night along the other side of the resort?  Would I be unethical if I left those elements out of my photo???

Well, for me, the answer is Yes, and No!  Yes, this would be unethical if I knew my photos were being used to accurately represent what the resort looked like from the eyes of a paying vacationer, because even if the resort itself was beautiful, I know that vacationers influenced by my photos would feel disappointed if downright cheated seeing the surrounding area.  But if I was taking the photo to show the beautiful architecture of the resort and the crystal clear ocean, and my goal was to show my blog viewers a glimpse of the beauty in a certain place, then it would not be unethical to crop out those elements.

As photographers, we must compose every shot we take, and unless we are using a fisheye lens, (which also distorts reality, as do any kind of camera filters, black & white images, etc.), we always have to pick and chose what we include in the frame, and what we exclude.

So it all boils down to integrity, meaning we should be governed by the purpose and intent of the photo and the message or story we are trying to tell the viewer.  If I'm using my camera as a tool to document reality, (photojournalist, scientist, etc.), I will have a strict and stringent set of guidelines.  If, however, I'm using my camera as a tool to expand my creativity and artistry, then pretty much anything goes! 



Blogful said...

It's Cari. ;)
and YES!! You are totally ready to teach about five of the college classes I took for my major. So many discussions like this. So, so so many. It's a big issue. Lots of topic branches to venture down and many opinions--some heated.

Montanagirl said...

Well now, that was a very interesting read. Gave me something to ponder on!

Rick said...

Agreed. Just saw an article very recently about an (apparently well-known) photojournalist being fired by Reuters for making a seemingly minor alteration to a photo (can't be trusted in a little casts doubts on being trusted with much).

Nice series on your grandchildren, and liked your post on composition (the difference between making a photo and taking a snapshot).

Laura~Pretty Pix said...

You said that beautifully, Karen.
I think of myself as an artist (a good one or a bad one makes no difference) and view the world in that light.
I worked for the Associated Press, way back when, and my photos had to be the real deal. A simple crop was okay (I had a darkroom) but anything more was unacceptable.
Two very different worlds of photography.
Loved your post!

diane b said...

An interesting post and I agree with you. The resort example was very interesting. I don't think resort owners would be ethical in choosing the best photo.

Sandra said...

a blogger friend is coming to st pete in August, she is looking at places to stay, i live 40 miles from st pete and lived there for years. she emailed me the address of where she found a great deal. i thought NOT that neighborhood. went to the resort site and it showed a gorgeous view of the beach with white sand and other things. what it did not show is the horrible neighbor hood it is in, the dangerous neighborhood and did not mention the beach is about 150 feet wide and man made since it is on the bay not the gulf. the web site shows only the good and i would not stay there at all.
all of this you said today makes perfect sense...

Bill said...

The bottom line is that post processing is a tool, no different than an artist choosing a brush or a spatula. How can anyone object to how you, or any other artist, reach the final product--if they like the result!

Here I Am Carrie said...

Karen I couldn't agree more. When one is taking photos to record history or present something to represent the reality of something it should be kept as original as possible. However anyone who takes photos for creativity to give an eye pleasing subject for blogs or just photos for creative purposes should have free artistic range. I love the artistry that is now so capable with digital.