Reuters limits digital-photo doctoring

Reuters, stung by the discovery of a significantly manipulated photo of the bombing of Beirut last summer, has drawn the line between photo editing and photo doctoring.

Reuters Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger announced the move earlier this month. "We called together our senior photographers to strengthen our existing exacting guidelines on ethical issues in photography and wrote a new code of conduct for photographers," he said.

To deal with the situation, Reuters also severed its relationship with the freelance photographer who supplied two digitally altered photos, dismissed the editor supervising Middle East photo operations, and concluded after an investigation that "there was absolutely no intention on Reuters part to mislead the public."

Among the strictures of the Reuters technical guidelines, using Photoshop's cloning, healing and brush tools is forbidden, except to remove artifacts from dust on camera image sensors. Don't mess with color saturation or using the "auto levels" tool. Minimize use of color balance tools. The document even specifies precisely how much sharpening may be applied with the software's Unsharp Mask tool.

Doctoring photos predates digital photography by decades, but computer editing has taken the technology to a new level. Reuters established the policies in an effort to preserve readers' trust.

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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