Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Excessive Photojournalism Photoshopping?

Really NY Times? Check out the slideshow on this story for some Shadow/Highlight tool action gone beserk. Doesn't really seem appropriate for photojournalism but maybe that's changing?

Reminds me of the Klavs Bo Christensen scandal.
I agree with this post titled "Ten news photos that took retouching too far" that "ideally, retouching of a news photograph should be limited to basic exposure and color correction, cropping, resizing, or conversion to grayscale."

NOT the case here...


Anonymous said...

Spare me. Have you ever heard of something called style? If blogs had existed when Ansel Adams was dodging and burning like a madman in his dark room would he be labeled a heretic or a visionary? I think that we need more transparency in the process that allows photographers to define their style as much as we need the professional atmosphere to be more accepting of their manipulations. Let those styles that are most popular simmer to the top of the pile while those that are not liked by the masses to fall to the wayside - but at the end of the day - quit trying to define right from wrong and let the genre speak for itself.

J. Wesley Brown said...

Anonymous - But without blogs, who would you lecture?

I'm not trying to define right from wrong (although I actually do think that much S/H is in bad taste, but that's only saying something about my own photographic taste) but rather saying the photo goes against the journalistic community's own best practice standards and against the NY Times own photo policy, which states:

"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."

I'm saying they broke their own rules and you'll also note I said in the post, "Doesn't really seem appropriate for photojournalism but maybe that's changing?"

I think that implies I'm "letting the genre speak for itself" as you command.

hugh crawford said...

So I looked at "Worrying Signs for Post-Withdrawal Falluja"

This looks pretty much like the way I was shooting black and white in the 1970s. Expose for the shadows, use a compensating developer with a lot of adjacency effect, or maybe an A B developer.

It also looks a lot like old large format press photography in the 1920s - 1940s with very open shadows.

It doesn't look like machine processed color film converted to greyscale, or 35mm tri-x with blown highlights and no shadow detail , but why should it?

Would these photos be more real or more truthful with unreadable shadows and blown out highlights?

"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."

If a photo is of people indoors in deep shadow interacting with people outdoors in bright sunlight is it somehow more truthful to only show one or the other when a human on the scene could see both clearly?

In the fifth photo for instance, I would say that "clear and accurate reproduction" would be where you can clearly read all the detail , not just a little of it.

J. Wesley Brown said...

@Hugh -

Hmm, interesting. You're saying you can get this type of effect from darkroom processing? I'd be fascinated to see that in person.

I agree with you regarding the different exposure times for different parts of the print for the window example. It is definitely an accurate representation of reality.

However, the images I'm mostly referencing are the one on the story itself and then photos 2 and 6 in the slideshow. All three seem to me to have used the shadow/highlight tool or similar in PS to overly stylize the photos. All three do not need their shadows enhanced - this was a conscious choice by the photographer to make them more visually "interesting." Also, I'd be very surprised if he did not shoot these digitally.

Anonymous said...

This particular shot ran in the Times in b/w as part of a slide show of the photographer's work, but also ran in color on Page One; this would seem to make it digital.
The Times is not going to worry about any of this unless they think they're going to get their fingers dirty. They save their concern over digital
games for the work of other publications.

J. Wesley Brown said...

Ha - yeah, of course it's digital. Who's shooting for newspapers on film these days? Man, I'd love to see the color version of that shot.

J. Wesley Brown said...

UPDATE: Patrick Witty, the international picture editor of The Times, said he stands rigorously behind the work of Moises Samans, the photographer whose slide show was discussed in Mr. Brown's post, and the legitimacy of the toning employed by Mr. Samans. — Lens

From the Lens blog - I'm happy they checked it out at least. However, the photo on the page and number 6 in the slideshow look practically like charcoal drawings to me, they're so processed. It doesn't take much imagination to imagine the difference between the original photo converted to greyscale and these artistic renderings. Just look at the robe of the man sitting (being forced to sit) and at the wall of the truck.