Photo Contest Verification Process

The World Press Photo contest has three verification processes to ensure compliance with its code of ethics and entry rules.

1. Entry checks

Entry rule 9 states the contest is for single frame, single exposure pictures. This means multiple exposures, polyptychs (diptychs, triptychs, etc.), stitched panoramas (either produced in-camera or with image editing software), and pictures with text added within the frame, are not eligible. These entries that are not eligible are removed from the contest.

2. Manipulation review

Entry rule 10 states “the content of a picture can not be altered by adding, rearranging, reversing, distorting or removing people and/or objects from within the frame.”

There are two exceptions to this: (i) cropping that removes extraneous details is permitted; (ii) sensor dust or scratches on scans of negatives can be removed.

The process for ensuring compliance with this rule takes place in the second-to-last round of judging. Entrants whose pictures remain in the contest and are eligible for the final round are contacted and required to provide the file as recorded by the camera. These files could be:

  • RAW file(s)
  • Full format JPEG file(s). These must be as delivered by the camera, and provided in a series showing at least three frames before and after the contest entry
  • For smartphones, the image captured with the built-in, stock camera app, emailed from the phone
  • Scans of film negative(s), provided as a contact sheet to show a series of at least three frames before and after the contest entry

Failure to provide these files will lead to the elimination of the entry, making it ineligible for the final round and a possible award.

Two independent digital analysts compare original files with contest entries to determine whether the content of any picture (either a single picture or frame in a story) has been altered. The guidance on manipulation describes and shows what alterations to the content of a picture are not allowed. The workflow of the manipulation review is provided here.

3. Fact-checking

Entry rule 8 states “all pictures must have accurate captions,” and the guidance on captions details what information must be provided in captions.

The process for ensuring compliance with this rule take place after the jury decides on the prize winners. An independent fact-checking team will review all captions to verify the completeness and accuracy of the information given. They will also examine the metadata in the picture files. If required information is missing or incorrect, photographers will be contacted and asked to provide the correct information in the five days between the jury’s decision and the public announcement of the winners.

The fact-checking process will be where clause 2 of the code of ethics (that entrants “must not intentionally contribute to, or alter, the scene they picture by re-enacting or staging events”) is handled. Captions must explain the circumstances in which a photograph was taken. If the photographer influenced the scene in any way, or gave directions to a subject to pose in any way for a portrait, this must be disclosed in the caption.

If at any time after an award is announced an entry is found to have broken one or more entry rules, or contravened the code of ethics, it will be disqualified. The process for determining the status of an award is detailed in the Judging Procedures Handbook, Section I.