There was an interesting and important article in last month's Digital Journalist. It was written by Ken Irby of Poynter Institute and was entitled "A Photojournalistic Confession." If you haven't read it, yet, I urge you to click on the hyperlink and read it now.

I've known Kenny Irby for a number of years. He was a fine photographer and a fine photo editor in his short time at Newsday. So, I was anxious to read to what he was confessing.

Gadzooks! The man confessed to having burned and dodged some of his news photos.

I daresay that he wasn't the first, nor will he be the last to do such a thing. Especially with the advent of Photoshop. Ah, yes, gentle friends, I have certainly been guilty of that, myself. Irby went on to expound on the ethics of such manipulation. How much is acceptable and how much is too much.

There have been grandiose debates on the web concerning these ethics and the increasing number of abuses that keep cropping up. I e-mailed Ken my thoughts on this matter along with a couple of my photos to illustrate my point, and I would like to share this with you now. Here are excerpts from the e-mail.



by Dick Kraus
Newsday Staff Photographer, Retired

The ethics of Photoshop is what I really mean to discuss here. Of course I have used dodging and burning and "The Hand of God" in varying degrees to make my photos more printable, more interesting, more dramatic. It was always my contention that as long as I didn't change the editorial content of the photo, that I had the right to enhance the photo to depict the mood that I saw in the scene. Burning down a highlite or holding back shadows in the eye sockets was permissible. Even making a print a bit darker to evince the mood that was a part of a scene is ok.

And now, in Photoshop, it is so much easier and these darkroom techniques can be done much better and with so much more accuracy. But, where do you draw the line? How much is enough and how much is unnacceptable?

Much has been written in professional circles about the uses and abuses that are coming to light. Not only lately with Photoshop, but with famous photos by famous photographers who not only set up some of these photos but used hot water and ferrocynide to enhance their prints. Is it any wonder that the reading public has less and less trust in the media? It's hard enough to believe what you read in the press and now it's difficult to accept what you see, as well.

In 1963, Newsday assigned me to cover the Funeral of assassinated president John F. Kennedy. At the gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery, I made one of the most important photos of my career when I photographed the widow, Jacqueline Kennedy holding the flag that had just draped her husband's casket. At that time, the longest lens that I had was a borrowed Leitz 180mm. The photo showed Mrs. Kennedy and a number of people who were at the graveside. When I printed the shot, I saw a woman, beset by tragedy, who was for the moment, all alone. I cropped as many of the other people out of the photo as I could. Those who, by necessity, remained in the photo, were burned down so that they were barely recognizable. It captured the mood, exactly as I saw it on that sad day. It made for a very dramatic and telling photo of the widow standing at her husband's grave, holding the flag that had just been presented to her.

Except!!! Except for the Army officer standing right behind her at the left side of the photo. Try as I might to burn his face down so it wasn't so distracting, I couldn't get him dark enough without affecting Mrs. Kennedy's face as well. I did the best that I could, but his face was so light that it drew the viewer's eye away from Jackie Kennedy's face. That's the photo that ran in the paper, the next day. That's the photo that I entered in several photo contests. And that's the photo that I archived on my computer hard drive when we got into the digital age.

However, I opened that file, recently, to make a Power Point slide show for something that I am working on and I took one more shot at burning down that offending light area in Photoshop. I had reasonably more success this time due to the fact that I could block out Mrs. Kennedy's head so that the burning wouldn't affect her. But, that light area was so washed out that I started to get artifacting long before the area got dark enough. What to do? Enter the Clone Tool. I was able to pick up a deep, dark tone and just clone it into the area where the bright spot had been.

Perfect. Now it is exactly the way I want it. BUT, I would never offer this version to run in a publication. Why? Because it is made artifically. It is no longer reality. If I could have darkened the offending area by burning it down, the figure would still have been in the photo, albeit too dark to really recognize. But by cloning it, I moved matter around in a manner that altered reality.

Semantics? Maybe. But in spite of my belief that photography is an amalgam of art and science, I believe even more strongly that photography in journalism needs to adhere to a higher standard.

I am enclosing a couple of pictures of my own to illustrate these points.

Dick Kraus
Newsday Staff Photographer, Retired.



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