Posted in Photography

How much photo editing is acceptable for news stories?

This week’s Digital Newsroom course lecture focuses on photo manipulation in news. Photography is a key visual in news stories and must uphold the same ethical standards as written stories, or broadcast reports.

This means they must be:

  • Factual
  • Objective
  • Relative to the story
  • Not manipulated

There is a difference between photo editing and photo manipulation. Manipulation is simply altering the truth of the photo. Photo editing tools are easily accessible, whether you are in the field of journalism or not. With almost everything on the web including some kind of filter, or edit, it is so easy to try and create the perfect photo. This is not OK when it comes to news photos.

If perfection is what you seek, then it would be wise to come up with creative angles and shots while you are actively taking photos. Once the shot is taken, consider it the final product.

In news, you do not want to enhance, or manipulate the truth to the image. Would you do this while writing a story? For example, would you alter a quote in hopes to get the best reaction? No. Well, the same goes for images. News photos are the visual story, they are depicting truth.

I recently met with an officer at the Pittsburg Police Department to discuss the upcoming surveillance cameras that were to be added to the freeway to deter crime. I was able to capture some good shots of their camera room, as well as the gun buy back program, which had been going on at the PD that Saturday morning.

Below is a photo of an officer meeting with a resident who was selling an old rifle. Again, because news photos require very little editing, I spent little time with this particular photo.

I use PicMonkey, which is a great free photo editing tool. I began with a small crop, which closed in on the two individuals and cut out some unneeded dead space. Next, I used a filter called Burst, which simply makes the colors pop. The image doesn’t have too much eye-catching color, so this helps brighten up the greenery in the background.

And that’s it.

A nice clean image, that depicts what happened that day at Pittsburg’s Anonymous Gun Buy Back Program.


Among all of the photos I take, news is my favorite. You have to really strategize during the photo taking process and think about creative ways to make the photos look compelling, while telling the story and without depending on photo editing tools. This is when skill comes into play. Sometimes, simply being at the right place at the right time will create the most compelling images to accommodate your story.

The process is unpredictable and that is what makes the art of photo journalism so captivating.

How do you feel about photo editing when it comes to news?