Aurora Photos Now Has A Journalistic Search Filter

- - The Future

I received a press release yesterday from Aurora Photos announcing a new search feature that allows picture buyers to license images that have not been altered or manipulated in any way. Certainly there are many organizations that need this type of imagery and it’s gotten pretty easy to manipulate images on the desktop, but you can’t ignore the manipulation that takes place in the camera, so here’s what’s so cool about this new feature from Aurora. They’ve defined what they consider to be journalistic and what is not. This is a huge step in the right direction and something that’s been lacking from photography contests and editorial submission guidelines. If you want to claim that you publish journalistic images you have to define for your contributors and the public what you mean by this.

You can see the search function (here) and this is their definition:

What is JOURNALISTIC:
1. Candid photographs that truthfully represent what was taking place at the time the image was made.
2. Posed portraits of people in their environments, as is often done for magazine assignments. No digital manipulation has been made to the image, and the subject is not a model and has not been paid or rewarded materially for their participation in the making of the photograph.
3. Images with acceptable digital adjustments. This includes: small adjustments to brightness, contrast, and saturation that do not alter the reality of what the photographer saw when he/she made the photograph. Minor sharpening of an image is allowed.
4. Images with acceptable retouching. This includes: cleaning dust or scratches from film scans or dust from lenses or digital sensors. It is not acceptable to remove things such as moles, birthmarks, or blemishes from a subject’s face.
5. Creating panoramic or similar formats by stitching together at their edges two or more images in such a way that the resulting image truthfully represents the view at the moment the images were made.
6. Black and White images that are not tinted or toned in any way and adhere to all the other rules for a “journalistic” image.

What is NOT JOURNALISTIC:
1. Digitally adding or removing anything from the image that is not dust or scratches. This includes: Blemishes, pimples, dirt, power lines, lens flare, logos, trademarks, people, etc.
2. Combining two or more images to achieve a third new single image.
3. Manipulation of the image’s brightness, contrast, saturation or color that changes the reality of what would have been seen by the photographer or others present when the image was taken.
4. Images where the subjects are models or have been paid or rewarded materially for their participation in the making of the photograph.
5. Images that appear to be candid, but where the subject or any element in the image was conceived, posed or positioned by the photographer.
6. Images where the subjects are wearing clothing or using equipment or props provided by the photographer.

There Are 19 Comments On This Article.

  1. So, Trent Parke doesn’t make journalistic photos with his Minutes to Midnight? What about Bruce Gilden? I’m pretty sure he sees the world with motion blur and, even if he doesn’t, his photos have at least a measure of truth.. at least as far as photos go. And, now that these rules have been put forward, maybe Alex Webb’s photos look a bit too saturated.

    What I’m trying to say is that I appreciate someone creating some boundaries for journalism and contests, I’m just not sure this is it.

  2. Shocking I say. Shocking!

    Defining ethics in photojournalism, a good healthy
    reminder in this age of convergence and blurred
    lines/limits

  3. I am so glad to see this. At first read, I find myself nodding in agreement with all the criteria listed above. As a dinosaur shooting medium format B&W film in this day and age, it’s good to see that there is still an appreciation and need for images that strictly represent the scene as it was, without the artificial clean-up of everything and everyone in it.

  4. Interesting. After more than a century of film and photo people still aren’t smart enough to differentiate between what’s on the screen and what’s in real life and the “evil genius” from the latest blockbuster can be hated in the streets as well. Thus people are able to think and phrase something like “photographs that truthfully represent what was taking place at the time the image was made”. No wonder the World Leaders are who they are, their subjects love to serve.

  5. This is a copy of a “DIGITAL PHOTO MANIPULATION
    POLICY STATEMENT” that mirrors what newspapers have been following since the early 1990s when digital first hit newsrooms…maybe not always to the letter?

    As journalists, we believe that credibility is our greatest asset. In documentary photojournalism, it is wrong to alter the content of a photograph in any way (electronically or in the darkroom) that deceives the public. We believe the guidelines for fair and accurate reporting should be the criteria for judging what may be done electronically to a photograph.

    National Press Photographers Association “Code of Ethics”

    1. Photographs provide information to our readers, just as the written word.

    2. Photographs should never be considered as page decoration or an element to fill space.

    3. There will be no digital manipulation of daily news photos under any circumstances, ever. Any digital enhancement, such as color correction, will be only for the purpose of achieving, in reproduction, an image as close to the original as possible. Digital manipulation will only be allowed for feature presentations and for some news-feature photo illustrations, such as a focus piece for a Perspective cover. The result must be approved by a senior editor and must be clearly labeled as a “digital photo illustration.”

    4. Photographs should never mislead the reader. The context of images
    must remain obvious to the reader. Photo illustrations have the potential to be misleading. The use of photo illustrations should be done with care and only in consultation with the photo and design editors and senior editors. It is important to label such illustrations as “photo Illustrations” to not mislead the reader.

    5. Any image that is simply cut out isn’t sufficiently manipulated to earn the “photo illustration” label. We respect our readers enough to know that they can see that we dropped out the background. But if we change the photo in any other way, such as adding a new background, fading elements of the background or building a collage of multiple images, then this WILL be considered a photo illustration. And it must be approved by a senior editor.

    6. An image that is dropped out or mortised will be used as is. No cloning or rubber stamping elements to change its shape or character. Other than dropping out the background, the image must not be “improved” or changed in any way. If you feel there is a sound reason to change an image, it must be approved by the director of photography or the AME/presentation and it must be labeled as a photo illustration. In the absence of the director of photography or the AME/presentation, such efforts must be approved by the deputy managing editor or the editor.

    7. Never “fix” a photo by doing such things as cutting out a foreground element that obscures the image, re-sharpening a portion of an image or blurring an apparent flaw. If you’re concerned about something that appears to be a flaw in a photo, take your concerns to a photo editor.

    8. When the idea to alter an image arises, take the time to do a reality check!
    a. Is this really a good idea?
    b. Will readers be confused?
    c. Do others get the point?
    d. And ALWAYS: Kick the idea up to the next editing level for review. Design editors: If it’s anything outside the norm, please pass along to the photo director AME for design for approval. We edit as a team – when we veer outside our design boundaries, make sure the whole team buys in. In the absence of the director of photography or the AME/presentation, such efforts must be approved by the deputy managing editor or the editor.

    9. In all other cases, the overriding rule will be that the reader should never be misled. Any sports photo, feature photo or portrait should never be manipulated in such a way so as to be undetectable to the reader. Removal of items from a photo, the addition of items, or repositioning of items, done in a way that would lead the reader to believe that the photo depicts reality, is strictly forbidden. Any other manipulation should be approved by the director of photography or the AME/presentation, and should always be labeled as a `digital photo illustration.’ In the absence of the director of photography or the AME/presentation, such efforts must be approved by the deputy managing editor or the editor.

  6. Gary, thanks for posting the NPPA definition. It was one of the first things we looked at when developing our own definition. Because of the nature of our business in stock photography, and not strictly newspaper or magazine journalism, there were situations, such as the use of models in the creation of a stock photograph, that could be made to appear candid and journalistic, but clearly would fall outside what we felt our clients would expect in a journalistic image. Coming up with the definition was a long process with many revisions. In the end, the goal was to have basic guidelines for photographers that would cover the majority of situations that we could come up with on both sides of the issue, and to have a clear definition for clients, so when license a ‘journalistic’ image from us, they would know what it was, and what it was not.
    Karl Schatz, Director, Aurora Photos

  7. In order for this code of ethics to be valid, one would have to take a photographer at his word that he has not violated any of the rules.

    And what about this rule for NON JOURNALISTIC: 5. Images that appear to be candid, but where the subject or any element in the image was conceived, posed or positioned by the photographer.

    Yesterday, I asked a cashier in a restaurant I was photographing to stand at her register for a photo.

    Would this disqualify me?

    • @Andy,
      It’s a very good question and I believe that a photographer’s “intent” is the guiding factor.

      Why did you ask?
      Was she going off shift?
      Was it an attempt to make a better image?
      Was it just easier?
      Was your image an accurate representation of the subject?
      Did your image provide an accurate context of the subject in their work environment?

      As a “photographer” at the end of the day all you have is your integrity.
      As a “photo editor” at the end of the day all you have is your integrity.

  8. Gary,

    Thank you for the reply. She was on shift, but I asked her to stand next to the register, because she had stepped away.

    Andy

  9. 4. Images where the subjects are models or have been paid or rewarded materially for their participation in the making of the photograph.

    I could be wrong here but it’s my understanding that in some jurisdictions a model release is not binding unless some nominal exchange takes place.

    Many if not most rights-licensed photos are used commercially, which requires a model release.

    Not sure how that would play out.

    Like #9, I also woner how nos. 5 and 6 could possibly be enforced. I like the effort though; I usually fall back on the Reuters guidelines to determine a “fake” photo from a “real” one: http://handbook.reuters.com/index.php/A_Brief_Guide_to_Standards,_Photoshop_and_Captions

  10. Yes we have the ability to pick ethical guidelines to pieces if we choose. Not everyone is schooled in photojournalism and the responsibilities that come with editorial work. Aurora is wise to make photographers aware of THEIR journalistic policy.

    If someone needs guidance on the nuance of the policy, I think that Aurora would provide such. With the likes of Jose Azel, James Balog, Peter Essick, Melissa Farlow and Paula Lerner, just to cherry-pick some names, should be enough credence. Old school? Sure and why not!

  11. I teach news photography (worldwide by distance learning) and your website is a great contribution. I’ve told my students to come here as part of their photography course studies. Thank you.
    PS I’m writing a newsletter report on the ethics of news photography which I’m happy to share (free) with anyone who asks.
    Brian Morris