Integrity of the Image report

What is current practice, and what are the accepted standards internationally, when it comes to the manipulation of still images in photojournalism?

In 2014, the World Press Photo Academy commissioned Dr. David Campbell to conduct research on “The Integrity of the Image”, and to assess contemporary industry standards worldwide. The report of his findings is now available.

Over the past decade, people have periodically expressed concerns about the credibility of news and documentary images, raising issues in particular about the manipulation and post-processing of digitally produced photographs. In 2009, World Press Photo revised its rules to make clear that photographs in its annual contest could not be altered, except in accordance with accepted industry standards. The contest juries have each year determined what those standards are.

To support the wider understanding about the standards regarding what alterations media organizations around the world permit, World Press Photo hosted two discussion sessions at its Awards Days in Amsterdam, in April 2014, and Dr. David Campbell was commissioned to conduct the current research.

Dr. Campbell says of his findings:
“Based on the input of 45 respondents from 15 countries, the research gives us a first global snapshot of how the issues of processing and manipulation are viewed around the media world. It was surprising to me that there was such a clear consensus on the two main issues, namely that material changes to images were prohibited, and that processing should be ‘minor’ rather than ‘extreme’. Of course, that still leaves much to interpretation, but these are two elements that can be built on to help secure the integrity of the image.”

World Press Photo acting managing director Maarten Koets comments:
“The purpose of the research was to record, as comprehensively as possible, along what lines members of the photojournalism community are thinking about the issue of manipulation, and how they deal with it. The research was conducted to encourage industry debate on the integrity of the image, and to inform World Press Photo of issues relating to manipulation that are relevant to our annual contest.”