What counts as manipulation

2022 Contest verification process: what counts as manipulation 

The following information is only applicable for the Singles, Stories and Long-Term Projects categories. The Open Format category welcomes a range and/or mixture of storytelling mediums, hence the following rules are not applicable (for more information about the Open Format category, see here).  

Entry rules on manipulation

Photographs entered into the Singles, Stories and Long-Term Projects categories must comply with our rules on manipulation.

Only single frame photographs will be accepted. The following are not accepted:
  • Multiple exposures, polyptychs (diptychs, triptychs, and so forth).
  • Stitched panoramas, either produced in-camera or with image editing software.

The content of a photograph must not be altered by adding, rearranging, reversing, distorting or removing people and/or objects from within the frame. There are two exceptions:
(i) Cropping that removes extraneous details is permitted;
(ii) Removing sensor dust or scratches on scans of negatives is permitted.

Adjustments of color or conversion to grayscale that do not alter content are permitted, with two exceptions:
(i) Changes in color may not result in significant changes in hue, to such an extent
that the processed colors diverge from the original colors.
(ii) Changes in density, contrast, color and/or saturation levels that significantly alter content by obscuring or eliminating information in the photograph are not permitted. The jury determines which changes are significant, following the video guidance below on what counts as manipulation.

See below for details on what is, or is not, acceptable.


What do we consider to be manipulation?

Many things can count as manipulation in photography, but for the World Press Photo Contest, the code of ethics and entry rules focus on two important issues.


1. The first thing that counts as manipulation is intending to mislead by staging events.
The code of ethics says photographers must not intend to mislead by recreating or staging events. In certain cases, deliberate reenactments can be acceptable if they serve a clear purpose for the story and/or issue being documented, and the photographer must be transparent about their motivation and process. Any direct influence over the scene, such as reenactments or posed portraits, must be included in the captions.

  • Staging means arranging something in order to mislead the audience.
  • Setting-up or recreating a scene means directing the individuals and/or groups being photographed to do things, or asking them to repeat things they were doing prior to the photographer’s arrival.

Staging and recreating events are different from deliberate reenactments and posing for portraits. Portraits are a special genre of photography. They are made through a relationship between the subject and the photographer in which the subject poses for the photographer. However, for the contest, portraits must not present subjects doing things they would not ordinarily do. Portraits must not mislead viewers by faking a scene, meaning they cannot present scenes that appear as something other than they are.

For any portrait, whether entered as a single or as part of a story, directions given to a subject must be disclosed in the caption. Portraits are subject to the same rules on manipulation stated in the entry rules. This means, for example, the face and body of the subject(s) cannot be altered through the addition or removal of physical marks.


2. The second thing that counts as manipulation is adding or removing content from the photograph.
It is important to note that processing by itself is not manipulation, therefore adjustments of color or conversion to grayscale that do not alter content are permitted.

This video shows visual examples of processing that are permitted. If you cannot view it in the video below, please view on YouTube.
There are two types of color adjustment that count as manipulation:

  • Changes in color may not result in significant changes in hue, to such an extent that the processed colors diverge from the original colors.
  • Changes in density, contrast, color and/or saturation levels that significantly alter content by obscuring or eliminating elements in the photograph are not permitted. The jury determines which changes are significant, following the video guidance (below) on what counts as manipulation.

This video shows visual examples of color adjustment that are not permitted. These examples are not photographs that were entered. They show what was done to photographs that led them to be excluded from the previous two contests. As such, unacceptable color adjustments include, but are not limited to, these examples. If you cannot view the video below, please view on YouTube.
Altering the content of a photograph by “adding, rearranging, reversing, distorting or removing people and/or objects from within the frame” is manipulation and makes an entry ineligible for an award.

The examples given here come from alterations in previous contests. They do not specify every imaginable form of manipulation. Alterations that count as manipulation include, but are not limited to, the following.

It is not acceptable to remove things such as:

  • physical marks on body
  • small objects in the photograph
  • reflected light spots
  • shadows
  • extraneous items on photograph’s border that could not be removed by crop
This video shows visual examples of removal of content that is not permitted. These examples are not photographs that were entered. They show what was done to photographs that led them to be excluded from previous contests. As such, unacceptable removal of content includes, but is not limited to, these examples. If you cannot view the video below, please view on YouTube.
It is not acceptable to add things. This includes, but is not limited, to:

  • cloning in highlights, enhancing body, or costume size
  • painting in object details
  • photo montage
  • replicating material on the border of a photograph to make a neat crop possible.
This video shows visual examples of the addition of content that is not permitted. These examples are not photographs that were entered. They show what was done to photographs that led them to be excluded from previous contests. As such, unacceptable addition of content includes, but is not limited to, these examples. If you cannot view the video below, please view on YouTube.
3. The consequences of detecting manipulation in an entry.
Entrants whose work has been identified during the verification process as having content altered by adding, rearranging, reversing, distorting or removing people and/or objects from within the frame, will be excluded and, if applicable, all other entries from that entrant will be excluded from the contest and the entrant will be informed after the winners have been announced.

Entrants whose work has been identified during the verification process as having content altered through changes in color (resulting in significant changes in hue, to such an extent that the processed colors diverge from the original colors), or changes in density, contrast, color and/or saturation levels that significantly alter content (by obscuring or eliminating information in the picture), will be contacted for an explanation before the jury makes a final decision on whether to exclude the entry. Once contacted, entrants have 24 hours to respond. The entrant will be informed of the final decision after the winners have been announced. If the jury decides to exclude a photograph that is part of a story, the remaining photographs in the story that are free from manipulation can be transferred to the Singles category.
Are you looking for more specific information? Visit one of the following pages to find out more about: