Dr. Neal Krawetz of Hacker Factor Solutions specializes in non-classical computer forensics, online profiling and computer security. On Sunday he wrote a blog post titled “Unbelievable” that claims the World Press Photo Award winning image taken by Paul Hansen is significantly altered. Many people questioned the image’s veracity when the winner was announced (as is the case with most PJ contest winners), but most of the negative commentary focussed on the obvious enhancements made to the image and not any allegations of serious alteration.

Dr. Krawetz proof of alteration (read the full post here):

  1. Image size is not native so the picture was either cropped and/or scaled
  2. The XMP blog includes a save history that has several conversions on different dates. He claims this “is what you typically see when a picture is spliced from two sources.”
  3. The photo was edited two weeks before the contest deadline, not when it was taken back in November. The final edit occurred the day after the international jury concluded their meeting and announced the winner.
  4. ELA analysis (error level analysis) shows “middle people are much brighter than the other people. Those are either due to splices or touch-ups.”
  5. The lighting on the people’s faces does not match the position of the sun.

his conclustion:

Hansen’s picture is a composite. This year’s “World Press Photo Award” wasn’t given for a photograph. It was awarded to a digital composite that was significantly reworked. According to the contest site, the World Press Photo organizes the leading international contest in visual journalism. However, the modifications made by Hansen fail to adhere to the acceptable journalism standards used by ReutersAssociated PressGetty ImagesNational Press Photographer’s Association, and other media outlets.

I have to say that his evidence is not entirely damning. Taken with a grain of salt it merely points to all the enhancements people were carping about previously and not some new smoking gun. I have heard but cannot verify that the RAW image has not been seen by the jury and I do not know Dr. Krawetz beyond a cursory google search, so I’m sure we’ll find out more if news outlets decide to investigate his claims further or World Press does something (a site called extremetech.com is taking the splicing allegation and running with it). If anything this is a great opportunity for those contests and media outlets featuring photojournalism to check what protocols are in place for when questions arise. And how about some guidelines for what you think is acceptable, so there’s clear rules to follow. Given how far the old masters pushed reality in the darkroom there’s no reason to think the digital darkroom will be any different.

thx for the tip Ellis.

UPDATE 1: Paul Hansen speaking exclusively to news.com.au:

Hansen said the “photograph is certainly not a composite or a fake”.
“I have never had a photograph more thoroughly examined, by four experts and different photo-juries all over the world,” he said.

The story in extremetech.com said that Hansen “took a series of photos – and then later, realizing that his most dramatically situated photo was too dark and shadowy, decided to splice a bunch of images together and apply a liberal amount of dodging (brightening) to the shadowy regions”.

But Hansen said he had done nothing of the sort. Here’s what he told us:

“In the post-process toning and balancing of the uneven light in the alleyway, I developed the raw file with different density to use the natural light instead of dodging and burning. In effect to recreate what the eye sees and get a larger dynamic range.

“To put it simply, it’s the same file – developed over itself – the same thing you did with negatives when you scanned them.”

UPDATE 2: According to Huffington Post UK, World Press is investigating:

“However, in order to curtail further speculation – and with full cooperation by Paul Hansen – we have asked two independent experts to carry out a forensic investigation of the image file. The results will be announced as soon as they become available.”

UPDATE 3: World Press Photo has independent forensics experts review the image and they concluded that “we find no evidence of significant photo manipulation or compositing. Furthermore, the analysis purporting photo manipulation is deeply flawed” and “I can indeed see that there has been a fair amount of post-production, in the sense that some areas have been made lighter and others darker. But regarding the positions of each pixel, all of them are exactly in the same place in the JPEG (the prizewinning image) as they are in the RAW file. I would therefore rule out any question of a composite image.”

UPDATE 4: Dr. Neal Krawetz of Hacker Factor Solutions claims vindication after his post goes viral:

While writing this blog entry, the photographer made a statement. He explained how he made the picture. Specifically, he is quoted as saying:

“In the post-process toning and balancing of the uneven light in the alleyway, I developed the raw file with different density to use the natural light instead of dodging and burning. In effect to recreate what the eye sees and get a larger dynamic range.

“To put it simply, it’s the same file – developed over itself – the same thing you did with negatives when you scanned them.”

This is exactly what I have been saying. It is a composite. It is more than a simple color adjustment or burning. He made it using variations of the same picture. This even appeared in the metadata as multiple as multiple records from Adobe Photoshop Camera Raw 7.1. I did add that I could not rule out separate pictures. However, I definitely detected the layers and edits.

At minimum, Hansen appears to have combined multiple versions of the same photo with different intensity mappings in order to emphasize harsh brutality in 2012 and grief in 2013. But that’s just the minimum. I still cannot rule out splicing between similar images. (This doesn’t mean it happened, it just means that I cannot rule it out with the given data.)


Frankly, it doesn’t surprise me that World Press Photo would award a manually altered picture their highest honor. World Press Photo claims to feature the best in photo journalism and claims to strive for ethical integrity. But I’m just not seeing it. World Press Photo and I seem to have differing opinions regarding what is ethical and what is acceptable manipulation. And they can run their contest however they want.

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  1. What a load of horseshit! Sorry, to break your cherry but not a single one of Sebastião Salgado’s photos is pure. Nor were any of Gene Smith’s greatest images. Deal with it. But don’t act like this is any different than the photos you hold more holy. It;s just more of the same.

    • Thank you Brian…
      Perfect answer… Shoot the horse before it is beaten to death.

      I don’t get why on earth people get involved in discussions they don’t truly understand. That Krawetz guy (who the hell is he), should just go back to hacking or whatever his profession is.

      People throw around the word “manipulated” around without understanding its meaning. Without definition EVERYTHING is bloody manipulated.

      In fact one could shout: HOLD ON THIS WAS RECORDED WITH A SENSOR/FILM it isn’t the REAL thing.. A film also manipulates colors for Christians’ sake.

      Used appropriately, nothing in that image is manipulated, nothing is invented… it is simply processed similarly as a film would’ve been processed. And, yeah, RAW offers a few advantages.
      So? Technology improves … don’t stop progress…

  2. Those “proofs” are completely unconvincing as evidence of a composite. They are no evidence at all. The image dimensions are in fact native to the camera’s format, within a pixel’s width, which is what happens when a photo is downsized to web dimensions. Photographers make several conversions on different dates for various reasons; it’s not evidence of splicing an image. Conversion from raw two weeks before the contest deadline means exactly that, nothing more. Saving the file after the winner is announced likely means it was saved for the web for the contest web site, which is completely inconsequential. The middle people are brighter … so what? It looks like dodging and burning, or vignetting added in post, neither of which has anything to do with composites. The lighting on people’s faces doesn’t have to come from the sun; there are reflective surfaces in the world, so some light comes from directions other than the sun.

    • Amen!
      Who hasn’t resized or reprocessed an image a hundred different ways for a hundred different uses or submissions?
      Shoot this horse before it is beaten to death.

  3. Brian is right. Journalism is not pure.

  4. The National Gallery in DC currently has a great show on the history of this very topic.

  5. Paul Hansen has put out a statement that as I undertstand it basically confirms the image is HDR: http://mobile.news.com.au/technology/photographer-says-his-2013-world-press-photo-of-the-year-is-not-a-fake/story-e6frfro0-1226642304141

    “In the post-process toning and balancing of the uneven light in the alleyway, I developed the raw file with different density to use the natural light instead of dodging and burning. In effect to recreate what the eye sees and get a larger dynamic range.

    “To put it simply, it’s the same file – developed over itself – the same thing you did with negatives when you scanned them.”‘

  6. Dr. Neal Krawetz has way to much time on his hands. Never mind the pointless analysis, he was still able to write a blog post with 5 points that says absolutely nothing other than that the image may have been manipulated.

  7. Not really sure what the big deal is. Maybe he underexposed on purpose to get the sky like that and lit the foreground artificially? It looks as if he’s used a flash, maybe off camera a little or maybe on camera, offset and with a snoot? Looks like there is some bounce on the left wall, something reflective thats just beyond the crop. Also, he probably put the single RAW through some form of HDR software, and then dodged/burned it to hell afterwards. This doesn’t really look like a comp though.

  8. Yeah, the evidence COULD suggest that the image was a composite, but there are simply too many alternative explanations to reach that conclusion.

    I wonder if Krawetz is or has ever been a professional photographer or if he’s just a data-mining nerd.

    And I think the topic of HDR is very interesting. Most folks’ understand of HDR is multiple images of the same subject, at different exposures, then composited to create a single image with a wider dynamic range than is possible with a single frame. What’s debated is whether or not these composite images – of different moments in time – are a valid approach to photojournalism.

    But what Hanson did is render the SAME image – the same moment in time – several times to extract as much dynamic range as possible from a difficult lighting situation. I don’t think this application should be considered a composite, as Krawetz suggests. Personally, I think that approach is perfectly valid and should not be an ethical question.

    That said, I still don’t think this issue should be just blown off as a holier-than-though attitude, like some here suggest. It’s a matter of credibility with our audiences. That’s the bottom line.

    When you get right down to it, all works of journalism are an interpretation of facts and of what people witness. That doesn’t make it “impure.” Motives are what makes journalism relevant. At its core, journalism is about being a conduit between the subject and the audience.

    Is there a line that’s crossed when the work becomes more about the style and artistry of the creator than about the story? And if you cross that line, does the work cease to be journalism?

    Professional photographers know that raw images (not just RAW images, but JPEGS rendered by the camera, too) are rarely finished, ready-to-publish works. There is usually some amount of image optimization necessary, even if the object is to simply render an accurate representation of the scene the photographer him or herself witnessed.

    But when does optimization become enhancement? And when does enhancement become artistic license? And is artistic license appropriate for journalism – today, when credibility is under such heavy scrutiny. (And that’s the distinction I make when folks bring up Gene Smith and others who were/are heavy handed in the darkroom. Expectations are different today, and a lighter touch might be more appropriate because of that.)

    While I don’t think that processing the RAW file several times to extract the maximum dynamic range crosses a line, I’m not comfortable with the continued processing – playing with the color, saturation, local contrast, etc. – in order to achieve a more stylish, cinematic look.

    That crosses a line, for me. That’s artistic license and a level of interpretation that interferes with the connection between subject and audience. In my personal opinion.

    But that’s what needs to be discussed, because in the end, it’s the audience that will determine what’s credible and what’s not.

  9. Every time we point a camera and push the button at something we are just recording our interpretation of that scene, event, moment based on our beliefs, point of view and feelings. There is not objectivity. No human being can be completely neutral. All you hope is in your interpretation of the events you are fair. If Hansen expanded the dynamic range of the scene by layering differently processed files of the same image how, or why, is it different than the extensive dodging and burning we use to do in the darkroom? As long as the scene was recorded in fairness and not composited from many frames then the discussion is simply academic and should be laid to rest.

  10. From the moment I saw that image, it looked “fake” in the sense that the lighting was not justified (to use a term from the cinema industry). I’m not arguing about the slippery slope editing issue — that’s never going to end.

    For me, the image looks HDR — way too much for my aesthetic taste. I think it would have been better without it. Is not the drama of what is occurring in the image enough? His editing is an obstacle and takes away from the impact IMO.

  11. All this fuss over what is essentially a matter of the photographer’s decisions on how best to process and present a moment he captured. Why are so many people so eager to imply that the photographer did something unethical or wrong? I think there are a lot of jealous people out there. Over-the-top dodging and burning was all the rage in press photo contests in the ’70’s. This picture does not come close to that level of excessive manipulation. Hansen’s picture is a damn good photograph, deserving of recognition: http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/picture/2013/feb/15/paul-hansen-world-press-photo

  12. The idea of truth in photography is not dead yet. I think the fuss is not about retouching but compositing. Everyone draws a line in the sand where they think retouching a photo is no longer authentic. But I think here there is an expectation that the photo will not be a composite of two or more images. That would seem to change the rules of the prize and it would understandably anger many.

    Here is a link to a high res version of the photo. The link was in the comments of the forensics post. As someone who lights photos and edits them, and who has done a fair amount of compositing, the lighting in this photo seems odd – the raised hands in the crowd look particularly strange.


  13. Hopefully Kevin Conner from http://www.fourandsix.com will have something to say about the photo and the analysis. They are the gold standard in forensic image analysis. (If you’re connected on Facebook with Katrin Eismann you can find his preliminary remarks in her post on the subject.)

  14. The “evidence” for composite is pretty flimsy at the moment- the more important question is…

    Why isn’t it mandatory these days for the raw file to be produced before the awarding of any such prize? Save a lotta grief all around!

  15. It sounds like we’re debating in circles.

    It’s foolish to deny the role interpretation has in journalism. And it’s silly to keep bringing up the past because the very definition of what a photograph is seems to be changing in society. Most people in the ’70s weren’t questioning the ultimate authenticity of photographs, despite some peculiar (and questionable) stylistic applications.

    I still like the way NPPA Ethics Chair John Long frames the debate – it’s not about “Truth” – that’s an imprecise and subjective term. It’s about “fairness” and “accuracy,” and I think accuracy is what’s being debated here. Or ought to be debated.

    I don’t think anyone is questioning the authenticity of the moment that Hansen captured. And perhaps that’s really the bottom line. So I really don’t think the question is about composites as much as it is about the level of processing or “stylizing.” Can there be too much?

    So I ask, again, is there a line where “enhancement” becomes artistic license and compromises the accuracy of what’s being depicted?

    Just asking, because that’s the debate the public (our audience) needs to hear.

  16. Eduard de Kam, digital photography expert NIDF (Nederlands Instituut voor Digitale Fotografie), examined the photographs and concluded:

    “When I compare the RAW file with the prizewinning version I can indeed see that there has been a fair amount of post-production, in the sense that some areas have been made lighter and others darker. But regarding the positions of each pixel, all of them are exactly in the same place in the JPEG (the prizewinning image) as they are in the RAW file. I would therefore rule out any question of a composite image.”

  17. After the updates above this is just another World Press Photo fail. Here are their rules for retouching:

    The contest entry rules state that the content of the images must not be altered. Only retouching which conforms to currently accepted standards in the industry is allowed. The jury will consider what they deem acceptable in each category during the judging

    So now we have one image forensic expert who considers HDR (using the same image) to be alteration and two who do not consider it alteration.

    And we have a bunch of blog posts dragging the photographers name through the mud because World Press Photo fails to establish a bright line standard for what is acceptable and what is not. They will just eyeball it and leave us all guessing and having public debates about it.

    So, I say bravo to Paul for reprocessing the image to win the contest.

    • Spot on.

  18. I’d say it’s more of a clarification by WPP then a fail.
    Dr. Neal Krawetz has done the industry of competitions a favor by challenging the rules and the rules have survived his inquiry. Yes, bravo to Paul, but let’s not forget Dr. K’s line he has conveniently drawn for us to consider.
    Ah, clarity.
    Beautiful journalistic images of death are now validated prize winners, again.
    I wish Lightroom had a James Natchwey preset. . .

    • Dr. Krawetz should be embarrassed. Examination of the RAW file rules out any question of a composite. And yet he stubbornly persists in defaming the photographer with the “composite” claim. He seems to not understanding the meaning of the word “composite”, which is a combination elements from *different* photos. Photographers have alway darkened and lightened photos to meet their visualization of the scene; that doesn’t turn them into a “composite”. This concept is from Basic Photography 101.

  19. Seems the good doctor has also offered varying splices and composites of interpretation as to what he apparently meant, and currently believes.

  20. Despite the “forensic” evidence, I think we are dancing around the central issue.

    If Hansen was so concerned with the “public trust,” then he might have been a little less aggressive in the amount of image processing he applied to his contest submission. Had he applied a lighter hand, this simply would have never been an issue. We would ALL be saying “What a great picture!” and that would be that.

    The fact is, it’s a tremendously powerful image, and that’s why it won. The moment speaks for itself. Which makes the decision to “stylize” the image all the more curious.

    By trying to add another level of drama with all the post-processing, Hansen shifted the focus of the image to himself and not the subjects depicted in his photograph.

    And perhaps that’s the lesson here – as a photojournalist, it’s not about YOU, the photographer. It’s about your subjects and your audience. Yes, the best photojournalists are masters of their medium and craftsmanship is extremely important in conveying stories in a compelling way. But the most memorable and powerful photographs, in my opinion, are usually those when the master storyteller becomes transparent in the process, and the audience feels a direct connection to what’s being depicted, as if the viewer is right there in the photographer’s place.

    By choosing “style” to make his photo stand out (which really wasn’t necessary because, like I said, the moment speaks for itself), Hansen brought this on himself, in my opinion.

    Other photojournalists should take note, if they are concerned about the public trust and their reputations. This issue is not going to go away in an environment where the authenticity of EVERY photograph can be questioned. It’s not 1955, or 1975, or 1985. The very definition of what makes a photograph credible is changing. Why throw fuel on the fire?

    • I follow Brian Smith’s line here as well. Question for you, should Gene Smith not have burned and dodged his images to make him a more “transparent” story teller?

  21. W. Eugene Smith is one of my heroes. His photographs are were one of my chief inspirations in pursuing a career in photojournalism, even though he had died before I became interested in photography. He was exactly the kind of disaffected, unapologetic, genius-yet-flawed, real-human-being kind of artists that I am still drawn to, to this day.

    I studied his work. I read every article, interview, and book I could by him and about him.

    I tried to emulate him in the darkroom, even in high school, where I first learned to bleach out details from the shadows with Potassium ferricyanide. I pulled all-nighters trying to perfect black-and-white prints for my portfolio in college, and then I still went back and reprinted them if I was not happy after living with them after a few days.

    The difference between a true master like Gene Smith and Paul Hansen is that you never saw Smith’s hand in his work. Smith sometimes worked for weeks to perfect certain prints, but there were never controversies about the final product in the public. He maximized the visual drama with with a heavy hand in the darkroom, but you never noticed it in the final presentation. That hand was transparent, and you just don’t hear about fellow photographers or the public discussing his efforts to synthesize the drama. Those efforts only came to light after the fact, in interviews, and Smith was unapologetic. And while Smith, were he alive today, might remain unapologetic, folks like Hansen should rethink their position.

    One thing I did NOT emulate was Smith’s penchant for staging photos, at times. This issue has come to light recently:


    Even in Smith’s time, the practice of staging photos was controversial. Today, it’s simply a no-no. Period. For any serious photojournalist, that is – either shooting stills or moving images. (I still don’t buy ANY justifications for television photojournalists staging shoots. It’s just plain lazy.)

    Through the lens of time, perhaps Smith was more of a documentary film-maker whose medium happened to be still photography, rather than a photojournalist.

    Smith might be just as unapologetic today as he was then. But that still doesn’t change the fact that the perception of photographs, by their very definition, seems to be changing in society, today, in their ability to convey “Truth” or reality. “Photoshop” has become a verb in society. And I think that most people, especially the young, have come to expect a certain amount of manipulation with every photograph they see. And that’s significant. And it’s a very important reason to approach photojournalism with a light artistic hand, these days. Folks simply need to have some expectation that what they are seeing is an accurate and fair representation of what the photographer him or herself witnessed, first-hand.

    Times, they are a-changin’.

    BTW, my favorite quote from the Smith interview in Lens?

    Why are you a photographer?

    I discovered that saturated hypo was good for my poison ivy.

    Snarky genius!

  22. equating burning and dodging a print in the darkroom to compositing different tonally adjusted versions of the same raw image aka an HDR image is sliding far down an very slippery slope.

    IMHO extensive post processing, doing more than than the digital equivalent of dodging and burning. There’s nothing wrong with employing extensive HDR style post processing to an image. Just not to an image that is intended to be a work of photojournalism.

    • If its one shot, I think its fine. When I used to shoot press from ’86 to ’97 we often had some seriously thin negs. News print was/is so crappy a medium with what, three stops of range, so a pushed TriX neg looked fine printed. Now its on screen and the dynamic range of a monitor far exceeds newsprint, and the new cameras have a wide DR. If this were shot on a D800, and instead of developing and dodging and burning, he had simply lifted the shadows and applied a curve, would this be a controversy? I don’t think so.

      • If he had only ” simply lifted the shadows and applied a curve” there would be no controversy about this image. Applying extensive HDR method composited versions is a lot ore than just some curves adjustments.

        • I think its a distinction without a difference, because one of the new DSLRs woud have enabled him to get that image with curves and highlight recovery. Double processing and them merging different versions of the same image is due to the Canon’s DR limitations. A new Nikon or even negative film would have allowed the full DR of the image to be acheived without double processing.

          I am assuming many things, and I may be wrong, but the DR in the final image is within the range of a single frame from a new Nikon or Sony or Portra 400. In that sense I don’t think the final image is misleading in anyway.

          • Again, I’m not talking out of my hat here. I have practice and experience in post process HDR and multiple layers of image adjustement. I’m assuming nothing. He has admitted, in obtuse explanation, that the image is a result of composited versions of the origional RAW image.

            I don’t disagree with you re: the dynamic range capabilities of contemporary dSLRs. But that said, the apparent facts are that he did not just do curves and highlight recovery. So woulda, coulda, shoulda. We’re discussing issues with what he did, not what he could have done.

            Image compositing, even using the same raw is still image compositing and the evidence of the amount of post processing on this image indicate post processing far in excess of simply doing a few tonal adjustments. Far in excess of what a photojournalist, who claims to be capturing fact and truth should be doing.

            Either he is one very lucky photographer or he did a lot of post processing to arrive at an image that while dramatic, is a significant non-realistic enhancement of the actual reality of the original scene.

            Given that this isnt’ the first time Hansen has been embroiled in controversy, i say where there’s smoke there’s probably fire.


            • Thinking HDR=compositing in the same sense of combining different images is a bit silly really. It’s nothing more than a technique to make up for the inability of the camera to see the scene as well as our eyes do and fundamentally is no different from any other form of altering image such as dodging/burning, levels, curves etc to bee able to see into shadows or rescue blown highlights as it is nothing more than a more more modern method to do exactly the same thing.
              HDR done for this reason is actually more truthful than the normal limited dynamic range you see in non-HDR photography. And because non-HDR is how we are used to seeing images being rendered, that this is somehow seen as more truthful, when is the exact opposite is in fact the case.
              Overcooked/painterly style HDR is a different thing again.

              As for the other ‘controversy’, once again that seems to be stoked by ignorance, in this case of the simple fact that when something dramatic/newsworthy happens photographers will try and get the best shot, it certainly doesn’t mean they do not care about the subject or are heartless as the simplistic article implies.
              And it has nothing to do with image processing, so not exactly relevant .

              • @imagjez, you are missing the point.

                I’m not disputing how the technique was used to enhance (enhance, not correct) the dynamic range captured in the single raw image. I’m experienced in using HDR methods, and I specifically use HDR to create images with dramatic dynamic range. That said, I don’t claim that my images represent the or a “reality” of the original scene. I am not a photojournalist. Note, I abhor overcooked/painterly HDR image.

                That said, HDR used to increase dynamic range in a photograph for photojournalism purposes is an ethical breach for a credible photojournalist. And that’s not simply my opinion. Its a reasonable conclusion after reading the code of ethics from at least 2 credible international news organizations.

                Read the code of ethics for photographers from Reuters, AP, or from the New York Times and then tell me how the extensive post processing, including the use of HDR techniques, in Hansen’s Gaza Funeral photo doesn’t violate at least these 2 news organizations ethical codes and guidelines for photography. Everyone of these sets of standards and guidelines uses the word “minimal” when discussing use of photoshop. There is nothing “minimal” about the post processing in Hansen’s image.


                AP – see the “images” section

                New York Times:

                • I understand what you are saying, but where was the image first published? Why would AP/NYT/Reuters rules and their use of the term “minimal” have to do with the contest?

                  I also believe that the image itself is very powerful, HDR or not. The grief and anguish is palpable.

                  • if it was published for photojournalistic use, what difference does it make. It apparently was published in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter on November 21, 2012

                    The reasons that AP/NYT/Reuters practices and rules of ethics have some consideration here is because the this is not a photo contest of social commentators. It is a photo contest of photojournalists.

                    It is a powerful image. That doesn’t make it a visually honest, or true image. It is a result of extensive post processing that exceeds ethical rules and practices of photojournalism, at least in standards and practices of 3 major news organizations.

                    Ironically the chairperson of the competition’s judges, who is also the director of photography at AP, defends the image despite the fact that it violates his own News Organization’s guidelines and practices for images for submission.

                    the post processing here is akin to the use of Autotune for music. Does it make for dramatic imagery. Yes. Almost cinematic in its look.

                    Is it bluntly and honestly true to the original “recording.” As a practiced HDR photographer, i say probably not.

                    Does it exceed, or rather far exceed, the amount of post processing considered acceptable in the published standards of ethics and guidelines for images used by at least 3 major news services (Reuters, AP and NYT). Yes.

                    • I’ve shot press for AP, UPI (remember them?), and AFP in the 80’s, and I can assure you that more extensive masks were drawn and cut, and double/triple exposures were made, to get a better image. I seriously see no difference between that and what we were doing 25 years ago.

                      I think this argument completely overshadows the power of this image. I can’t pretend to understand your outrage, but I do respect your opinion and I’m not taking a piss. I just think that the post work wasn’t unethical.

                      I would also say that the wire services’ guidelines are there mainly to calm critics. and to prevent serious manipulation which changes the meaning of the image.

              • I would disagree with this statement too: “normal limited dynamic range you see in non-HDR photography”

                A correctly exposed RAW image (and we’re not going to spend time here on the details of exposing for digital capture vs. film) from a modern full frame dSLR can contain a dynamic range of as much as 12-14 EV. In an image correctly exposed and captured, there is no need for HDR style post processing to “rescue” the dynamic range for the purposes of an image to be used for photojournalism purposes. Digital forms of dodging and burning (pick your method) and some moderate tone curve adjustments should be more than enough to get the job done.

                Notice the standards and guidelines for digital post processing for each of these news organizations uses the word “minor” or “minimally.” there is nothing “minor” or “minimally” about the post processing in the Gaza Funeral photograph, even by the admission of the photographer himself.

                When working under prime conditions, some further minor Photo-shopping (performed within the above rules) is acceptable.

                This includes basic colour correction, subtle lightening/darkening of zones, sharpening, removal of dust and other minor adjustments that fall within the above rules.

                Minor adjustments in Photoshop are acceptable. These include cropping, dodging and burning, conversion into
                grayscale, and normal toning and color adjustments that should be limited to those minimally necessary for clear and accurate reproduction

                New York Times:
                Adjustments of color or gray scale should be limited to those minimally necessary for clear and accurate reproduction, analogous to the “burning” and “dodging” that formerly took place in darkroom processing of images.

                  • The thing that struck me about the two shots of the unfortunate Fabiene Cherisma in the very, very dumb article which all but says Hansen altered the scene is that the shot that ‘proves’ Hansen cheated, looks like it was taken afterwards, not before.

                    There are several problem with the article.
                    Firstly it singles out one person as being the most likely perpetrator, despite there being a shot of 8 photographers capturing that scene – which was obviously taken by a 9th. And in the comments the author states outright that Hansen stages photos, a very serious allegation.
                    Secondly, if I was to alter a scene to make it look more dramatic, I wouldn’t cover up the trail of blood leading up to the victims head, as that is more powerful. Though the photo with the blood trail showing is poorly framed when compared to Hansen’s shot and nowhere near as dramatic as a result.
                    Thirdly, did it even occur to the writer that someone may have checked the girl to see if she was alive or even to see if she had anything worth stealing between the shots being taken?
                    Finally, the trickle of blood looks further down in the shot supposedly taken first and the body position in Rawlins shot also looks more like she was rolled from the position seen in Hansen’s shot than the other way around.

                    Now say I was bereft of ethics and I had to choose between the body positions to get a prize winning shot I would have chosen the one with the visible blood trail, I certainly wouldn’t have covered it up.

                • “That said, HDR used to increase dynamic range in a photograph for photojournalism purposes is an ethical breach for a credible photojournalist. And that’s not simply my opinion. Its a reasonable conclusion after reading the code of ethics from at least 2 credible international news organizations.”

                  Then they are as mistaken and as out of date as you are, not to mention there are technical mistakes and inconsistencies in their guidelines.
                  We see in a much, much wider dynamic range than the best sensor or film there is around 20-24EV. Plus as we look around a scene our eyes are constantly adapting without us even noticing, effectively doing HDR on the fly. Not sure why you think blown highlights and blocked up shadows have more veritè.
                  HDR is simply a method of getting closer to how we see the world and sadly because of the popular and very stylised HDR that has emerged over recent years, HDR is now somehow seen as a very bad thing. Which is as dopey as thinking all photographers are bad because some take poor photographs.

                  I can look at the dark tabby cat on the shaded black chair in front of the window in my office and it all looks correctly exposed to me yet my camera has no hope in capturing the scene in a way that looks anything like reality, unless I use some form of HDR. As for your justification that with modern cameras having 12-14 stops of DR, well that’s not 12 stops of correctly exposed photo is it?, It is in fact the difference between too dark to see anything and too bright to see anything. So as the shaded area in my office is f3.2 and the bright areas through the window are f18, so what would be the ‘correct’ single exposure for scene seeing as there is 7 stops difference for ‘correctly’ exposing those two areas of the image?
                  And what makes the anti-HDR stance so daft is that dodging and burning or say using fill in flash are also HDR techniques, but as they date from before the term became popularised, they’re acceptable.
                  Now if I have a picture where the sky behind my subject is completely blown, according to your and your 20th century news agencies, I can dodge and burn the picture, but I can’t use HDR to do exactly the same thing. Now as you’ll probably get a more better and far more realistic shot with HDR, particularly if edges of subject are things like hair, why object to it? And to call it unethical is simply bonkers.

                  Now having defended the use of HDR [which is not something I do myself], I should mention that I prefer the look of film capture mainly because of it’s limitations in dynamic range. But because this look preceded HDR, it became the acceptable look. Despite it being in fact less truthful than photos be produced by modern HDR techniques – which in fact are nothing more than an variation of old school darkroom methods anyway.

                  When reading the AP rules, I also noticed that things you can do in camera, such as using a shallow depth of field to blur background is fine but blurring background in post is not allowed, they generally seem somewhat contradictory to me especially with greyscale being allowed, but ‘Changes in saturation levels that substantially alter the original scene are not acceptable’ B+W is a huge alteration don’t you think, can’t change the negative saturation amounts any more than that can you?
                  The rules need a serious rethink.

  23. Just in case you’re not clear what constitutes ethical use and unethical use of photoshop in a photojournalistic image, here is Reuter’s standards. Note that Hansen’s photograph seriously violates the standards that Reuters sets for its photographers:




    Photoshop is a highly sophisticated image manipulation programme. We use only a tiny part of its potential capability to format our pictures, crop and size them and balance the tone and colour.

    Materially altering a picture in Photoshop or any other image editing software will lead to dismissal.

    No additions or deletions to the subject matter of the original image. (thus changing the original content and journalistic integrity of an image)

    No excessive lightening, darkening or blurring of the image. (thus misleading the viewer by disguising certain elements of an image)

    No excessive colour manipulation. (thus dramatically changing the original lighting conditions of an image)

    • So all B+W pictures are forbidden then?
      And if they are not, then those rules are a load of nonsense.

      • are you trying to miss the point? or is it just zooming past you?

        The standard didn’t say B&W conversion was disallowed.

        I think we’re done discussing, since you’ve basically just dismissed the standards of 3 credible news organizations as nonsense. Its clear you’re not going to find anything to be authoritative or convincing if it contradicts your point that extensive post processing of a news image or image for photojournalism is just fine.

        • I think you are the one missing the point I was making.
          I know B+W is not disallowed and that was the important bit. Removing all the colour to produce an image that is NOTHING like how we see the world we see is somehow OK, yet tweaking saturation in a colour image is seen as the devil’s work according to some people.
          Another thing that makes this fuss about saturation completely utterly ridiculous is if that if I was to shoot on say Fuji Velvia and Agfa 1000RS slide film, I would have an over or under saturated image depending on the film stock and yet that would be perfectly acceptable as it’s ‘straight out of camera’ – one of the most ignorant and misused terms in photography.

          The big issue here is that now what one used to do in camera [choosing film stock] is what people are objecting to, as effectively what you can do now is choose your film stock after the fact.
          And what all the people who witter on about purity in photojournalism seem to forget is they are journalists not forensic photographers. Their job is to tell a story not record information for the coroner’s report. If one is going to object to photojournalists not being pure and have them all taking photograph in the same style with the same sensors, then you’re really going to have an issue with every print journalist or TV reporter too. As they report things in their own words.

          • To clarify – By telling a story, I do not mean a work of fiction but the story of what happened in front of them as truthfully as possible.

          • One way to win a battle or discourse involves picking the “playing field” and defining the game rules.

            You are supporting your position by applying your own definition and description to post process work done to that image. In this case defining the post processing methods as simply “tweaking saturation in a color image.” If all that had been done to the image in post processing was a bit of “tweaking saturation” there would be no controversy and we wouldn’t be engaged in this discourse.

            Likewise, in your choosing the playing pitch, concerns about post processing are now redefined as a luddite adherence to only “straight of camera” image purity. I know I didn’t state or assert that was a requirement. If you’re putting words in my mouth, please don’t redefine my position for me.

            My concern, and the concern of others, is and continues to be to the extent and scope of post process work in this image and disagreement that all the post processing rendered the image to be authentic to the original reality without visual embellishment or enhancement.

            A professional photographer, who’s work and ethics I greatly respect, recently blogged that fabricated images or the perception of fabricated images results in doubt about the veracity of the images of photographers far beyond just the one photographer in question.


            • For someone who is so concerned about truth and facts that when I point out the realities of truth in photography i.e. HDR is more representative of reality than limited DR photography you simply ignore that and quote someone else who quotes yet another badly written piece full of supposition and guesswork that you already linked to. Which I took apart in another reply.

              To my mind anyone who think HDR is unethical is ignorant about how we actually see the world and how unrepresentative and inaccurate traditional photography is. I notice you completely ignored my question on how you would truthfully capture a scene with the correct exposure of the two main areas being 8 stops apart.

              When I mentioned straight out of camera I was addressing what is acceptable in post processing and the ignorant hypocrisy around the whole thing as it’s mostly based on what you could do with slide film and possibly a bit of darkroom love with B+W work. Yet if you do the same things by using a modern technique to achieve exactly the same outcome then suddenly you are cheating.

              As for
              “You are supporting your position by applying your own definition and description to post process work done to that image. In this case defining the post processing methods as simply “tweaking saturation in a color image.” If all that had been done to the image in post processing was a bit of “tweaking saturation” there would be no controversy and we wouldn’t be engaged in this discourse.”

              I’m not choosing a playing field or redefining the game rules, I’m just showing you how the rules you used to ‘prove’ your point of view are frankly a bit rubbish and full of contractions. And as they are mostly based on the film/straight out of camera workflow, so that’s basically what you are advocating. Also I was not even referencing Hansen’s photo at that point but talking about B+W photography. Your reading comprehension skills seem to be a bit lacking, try reading what I actually said, not what you think I said. In fact in my posts I have been speaking generally about photojournalism and not specifically about Hansen’s processing of the image. And when I did mention Hansen, it was nothing to do with processing.

              Also has it escaped your attention that the idiot Dr who wrote the contentious article on Hansen that this page on A Photo Editor is about has been shown to be talking nonsense and Hansen’s original image file has been looked at by WPP and winning shot deemed fine.

              You’ve also repeatedly ignored what I said about B+W. I think if you, Reuters, AP etc are going to witter on about not allowing changes of saturation in images then it’s is completely barmy to allow B+W.
              So would you support the banning of B+W in news photography? If not then all that you written about re HDR, tweaking of images and quoting of rules is utter hypocritical rubbish.

              • in parting, its clear that the rules must be different or what’s acceptable and not acceptable now is different now than 7 years ago, when several photographers in the US and internationally were terminated for their photoshopped image enhancments or adjustments even though that post processing was far less significant than the amount of post processing that went into Hansen’s award winning image.


                • The only absurd thing is your constant evasion of anything that contradicts your blinkered and out of date world view and repeated refusal to deal with any of the points I’ve raised.
                  Here’s a suggestion – try arguing your own case rather than linking to yet another badly written/poorly researched/technically flawed article and stop thinking you can sidestep the points raised by showing an example of some very bad cloning as if that has anything to do with this image [it doesn’t] as you are really grasping at straws with that last one.

  24. Honestly, why can’t we have enhanced images of death? Why shouldn’t the idea of killing children be put in to anything but the most beautiful of light?
    Out in the open in our every day lives?
    Enhance a way, maybe one more person who can’t stop looking at the image will get it at some point that there are children being randomly killed.

  25. […] of the annual World Press Photo photojournalism competition. Some great contributions on there, and some controversies too. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading… This entry was posted in Interest & […]

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