November 23rd, 2015

Reuters Rules Out RAW, Experts Respond

reuters

Reuters will no longer permit its photographers and freelancers to submit RAW images for publication.

As first reported by Michael Zhang, Reuters instituted the ban on RAW images in the name of both speed and ethics. Photographers will be required to submit original JPEGs instead.

“As photojournalists working for the world’s largest international multimedia news provider, Reuters Pictures photographers work in line with our Photographer’s Handbook and the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles,” a Reuters spokesperson told us via email. 

“As eyewitness accounts of events covered by dedicated and responsible journalists, Reuters Pictures must reflect reality,” the spokesperson stated. “While we aim for photography of the highest aesthetic quality, our goal is not to artistically interpret the news. Speed is also very important to us. We have therefore asked our photographers to skip labour and time consuming processes to get our pictures to our clients faster.”

While RAW images provide far more latitude for post-process manipulation, those edits are also harder to disguise. Edits to JPEG images, however, are easier to mask and most pro cameras have JPEG profiles which can boost contrast and saturation without ever needing post process manipulation–which was one of the reasons World Press Photo changed its submission rules in 2015 to require only RAW image submissions for most categories. “The techniques used to reveal JPEG forgeries are not very reliable,” Jessica Fridrich, a professor at the T.J. Watson School of Applied Science and Engineering at the University of Binghamton, told us in the spring for our story on catching image manipulators.

Reuters has in the past used software developed by image forensics experts Hany Farid and Kevin Conner (elements of which are available at izitrue) to verify the authenticity and integrity of JPEG images. Connor told us he wasn’t sure if the software was currently being used by Reuters. When asked how Reuters would ensure the integrity of JPEG images, the spokesperson declined further comment.

“It sounds like a knee-jerk reaction attempting to create a solution to a problem that isn’t really a solution,” said Sean Elliot, chair of the Ethics Committee of the National Press Photographers Association. “If the problem is photographers who don’t understand basic ethical standards of not altering images, then eliminating the use of RAW files will not actually solve the problem….The ease of post-processing with RAW files as compared to JPEGs is certainly real, but I don’t see this as addressing the deeper issues any better than applying a code of ethics.”

The move by Reuters, while abrupt, is not surprising. The manipulation of photojournalistic images has been a hot topic since World Press Photo disqualified 22 percent of images submitted to its 2015 contest–more than double the number of images that were disqualified in 2014. In a recent panel discussion hosted by Adobe during PhotoPlus Expo, New York Times photojournalist Lynsey Addario said she was shocked by how fellow photographers shooting the same scene would turn in heavily processed images that took liberties with the reality she saw before her eyes.

February 24th, 2014

White House Shuts Out Photographers Again. So Now What?

No photographers allowed: White House released this photo of President Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama on February 21.

The White House released this photo of President Obama and the Dalai Lama on Feb. 21, after barring press photographers from the meeting.

Now that it is evident that the White House is deaf to complaints from photographers and their employers about being shut out of some of President Obama’s official meetings, the question is, What can the media do about it?

On Friday, the White House  closed a meeting between the President and the Dalai Lama, and then angered photographers, their employers, and photo trade groups by by releasing an official photo on Twitter by White House photographer Pete Souza.

Reuters and the Associated Press (AP) refused to distribute the official photo, according to a report by the National Press Photographers Association.

The White House News Photographers Association (WHNPA) issued a statement urging other news organizations not to publish the photo, describing it as “a visual press release of a news worthy event.”

WHNPA also said in their statement, “We are disappointed the White House has reverted to their old strategy of announcing a closed press event and then later releasing their own photo.”

Last November, more than three dozen news organizations signed a joint letter protesting limits on photographers’ access to some of Obama’s official meetings.

A few weeks later, The New York Times published an op-ed piece by AP director of photography Santiago Lyon, who called the White House handout photos “propaganda.”

Around the same time, journalists confronted White House press secretary Jay Carney at a White House press briefing about the issue. Carney told the journalists in so many words that The White House no longer needs photographers like it once did, because it can distribute its own pictures directly to the public on the internet.

“You don’t have to buy that newspaper or subscribe to that wire service to see that photograph,” Carney said at the time.

Nevertheless, he pledged “to work with the press and with the photographers to try to address some of their concerns.” About a week later, on December 17, he met with representatives of the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), the WHNPA, and other media organizations.

Afterwards, NPPA general counsel Mickey Osterreicher said in a report published by NPPA, “We remain cautiously optimistic that the White House will follow through on its earlier commitment to transparency.”

That was then. On Friday, after photographers were shut out of Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama, White House News Photographers Association president Ron Sachs said in another NPPA report, “I think the White House grand strategy is to talk us to death and do nothing.”

Osterreicher tells PDN, “We (media groups) should be having a meeting soon” to discuss what to do next.

Undoubtedly they’ll be looking for new angles of diplomacy or attack (or both) to regain the access that White House press corps photographers once enjoyed. In the meantime, we ask PDN readers: What would you advise media organizations and photographers covering the White House to do now?

Related:

Media Protests White House Limits on Photographers
White House Press Secretary to Photographers: We Respect You, But We Don’t Need You
AP Photo Chief Appeals to Public About White House Access. Will It Help?

January 23rd, 2014

HuffPost Ignoring PhotoJ Credits For Images of Kiev Clashes

Yesterday Huffington Post UK published “29 Incredible Pictures Of Kiev Transformed Into A Warzone,” but didn’t bother to caption or credit the images to the photojournalists who are risking personal harm to create them.

(Oddly, another gallery published by the Huffington Post empire using some of the same images did include proper credits and captions.)

Several news outlets are carrying wire images of clashes in Kiev between protestors and police. Among the photographers whose images are featuring prominently on the websites and front pages of major news media are Sergei Grits and Efrem Lukatsky, who are covering the protests for AP; Valentyn Ogirenko, Vasily Fedosenko and Gleb Garanich for Reuters; and Sergei Supinsky, Anatolii Boiko, Anatoliy Stepanov and Vasily Maximov for AFP/Getty.

Show some respect, HuffPost UK, while you count your clicks.

December 27th, 2013

What Did Reuters Pay a Teenager to Cover the Syrian Conflict?

Molhem Barakat, the 18-year-old Reuters stringer who was killed in Syria on December 20, had told another photographer that Reuters paid him $100 a day for uploading a set of 10 pictures, according to a report on Global Voices.

Barakat also told the photographer, Prague-based photojournalist Stanislav Krupar, that Reuters paid him a bonus of $50 to $100 if his photos were published by The New York Times or the newspaper’s Lens Blog.

Reuters avoided answering questions from a BBC reporter about whether or not Reuters checked to see if Barakat was a minor before paying him for his work in a war zone, or if the agency provided him with a flak jacket, helmet or any hostile environment training.

The Global Voices article also offers information Barakat gave to another reporter about why he had to remain in Aleppo. Barakat was the twenty-third journalist killed this year in Syria, according to Committee to Protect Journalists.

Related Articles
Freelance Photographer Killed in Syria

Freelance Photog’s Tale of Abduction by Syrian Rebels Serves as Warning

September 4th, 2013

John McCain’s iPhone Poker: A Brief History of Long-Lens Gotchas

©The Washington Post. Photo © Melina Mara/Washington Post

©The Washington Post. Photo © Melina Mara/Washington Post

Yesterday photographer Melina Mara of The Washington Post got a photo of Senator John McCain playing poker on his iPhone during the Senate hearing on military action in Syria. Mara’s photo is the most widely seen photo of yesterday’s meeting of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

This isn’t the first time a sharp-eyed photographer has managed to zoom in and figure out what was on a politician’s mind during a long meeting.

© Rick Wilking/Reuters

© Rick Wilking/Reuters

There was the famous close-up of the note that President George Bush slipped to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice during a 2005 UN summit, asking if he could get a bathroom break.

Reuters photographer Rick Wilking photographed the note, and the wire service enlarged the image to make sure the writing was legible before distributing the image.

In 2011, Mario Tama of Getty Images got a shot of the text of the speech Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered to the UN General Assembly, including the revisions he had scribbled on the page– possibly while he was listening to the previous speaker, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Tama told PDNPulse he shot over Netanyahu’s shoulder from a booth above the Assembly using a 400mm lens, and then zoomed into the image in Photoshop to read the words.

The takeaway for photographers: Bring a long lens with you, and remember to look down.

The takeaway for politicians: Look behind you.

Unless, that is, the politician doesn’t care who sees what you’re doing. After he was caught playing online poker during the hearing on Syria, Senator McCain made a sarcastic joke about the photo on Twitter.

August 26th, 2013

Reuters Phasing Out Use of Freelance Sports Photographers in North America

Reuters is phasing out its use of contract freelance sports photographers in North America and will instead rely on USA Today Sports Images, a wire service, for sideline coverage of major professional sports and some college games. “I can confirm that we are expanding our ongoing relationship with USA Today Sports and will be adding a subset of their North American Sports photography to our file,” a Reuters spokesperson told PDN.

NPPA first reported this change at Reuters on Friday. The NPPA report quotes an unnamed source at Sports Illustrated and a freelance photographer in Toronto, Jon Blacker. Blacker told NPPA that he spoke with Peter Jones, the North American Sports Photo Editor at Thomson Reuters on Friday morning, as he was making calls to inform their freelance sports photographers of the change. “He said it was purely a business decision, and that their business plan calls for using the money that Reuters saves on covering sports to re-invest in photo covering more news,” Blacker said.

USATSI is owned by Gannett, which purchased the company in August 2011.

(via NPPA)

March 26th, 2013

Short Poverty Film Wins Top Multimedia Prize at BOP Competition

Photographer and director Alan Spearman of the Memphis Commercial Appeal has won the Best Use of Multimedia prize at the NPPA Best of Photojournalism contest, judges announced yesterday.

Spearman won the prize for his short film called As I Am, a rich, poetic film about the hard edges of poverty, from the viewpoint of an insider struggling to pull himself out. Spearman entered the film in the NPPA contest under the title, “Memphis Poverty: What Obama Didn’t See.”

The subject of the film, Christopher Dean, had a moment in the YouTube spotlight in 2011 for his charming introduction of Barack Obama at a high school graduation, where Obama spoke.  Community leaders in Memphis rallied around Dean afterwards to help him pay for college. During the summer of 2012, Dean was an intern at the Memphis Commercial Appeal, where he worked with Spearman on the “As I Am” film.

“Memphis Poverty masterfully tells an important American story in a non-traditional way, bypassing the literal translation of poverty to strike the soul,” Best of Photojournalism jurors said in an announcement posted on the NPPA web site. “The artful blend of documentary moments, poetry, music, cinematic shooting and editing craftsmanship moves our art of storytelling forward in a dramatic way.”

The jury, which included Nancy Andrews, Zach Wise, and Jonathan Quilter, gave special recognition to “Dying for Relief,” a multimedia story about the overuse and abuse of prescription drugs, produced by Liz O. Baylen of the Los Angeles Times.

Spearman also won the first place prize in the Feature Multimedia category for the “As I Am” project. First place winners in other BOP multimedia categories included Albert Lee of the Los Angeles Times, who won both the Multimedia Package category and Visual Column/Recurring Series category for his photo and video blog called Framework; MediaStorm in the Documentary Multimedia story category for “A Shadow Remains” (an extension of Philip Toledano’s “Days with My Father” project); Chris Zuppa of the Tampa Bay Times in the New Multimedia/48 Hours category for  “RNC 2012, Inside and Out;” Misha Domozhilov for “Motoball Monsters” in the Sports Multimedia Story category;  and Reuters for “The Wider Image” in the Tablet/Mobile Delivery Project category.

Related:
Picture Story: A Guided Tour of Poverty in Memphis (PDN subscription required)

March 23rd, 2012

Police Intimidation Watch: Beating a Photojournalist on a Lisbon Street

©REUTERS/Hugo Correia

In another horrific incident demonstrating police brutality toward photojournalists, even in Western democracies, a Portuguese policeman attacked AFP photographer Patricia Melo as she covered a general strike in Lisbon yesterday. Workers there were on strike to protest austerity measures imposed on Portugal as a condition of the $100 billion bailout provided to the country by other European nations. Reuters photographer Hugo Correia shot this image, which mirrors this other Reuters image from last October, showing an Athens policeman punching a photographer at an anti-austerity protest in that city.

December 29th, 2011

Official News Agency of a Totalitarian Regime Doctored a News Photo. Imagine That.

© Korea Central News Agency

The photo of the funeral of Kim Jung-Il distributed by the Korean Central News Agency, the official news agency of North Korea, was stunning: Limousines driving in formation behind a giant portrait of the Supreme Leader, rows of mourners lining their route, snow whitening the ground, a giant North Korean flag billowing majestically at the top of the frame. It was picture perfect. Too perfect, apparently.

Today The New York Times Lens Blog compares the image from the official news agency with one taken at almost the same moment by a photographer with Kyodo News of Japan, and distributed by AP. Working with digital forensics expert Hany Farid of Dartmouth, they show that the image from Korean Central was Photoshopped. The Lens blog goes into lots of detail, showing (with several close ups) that some men standing on the sidelines with a camera were erased, replaced with cloned snow. (Read more about their analytical methods and see the photos here.)

Lens reports that the doctored photo had been distributed by European Pressphoto Agency, Reuters and Agence-France Presse (AFP) before the retouching was discovered by The New York Times (which had also, briefly, run the image on its Web site). Once Lens reported

Undoctored photo, © Kyodo News

that the photo was doctored, the three agencies issued kill notices, Lens reports. “This photo was altered from the source and not by AFP,” the agency noted.

Gee, if you can’t trust an official news photo from the government of a secretive nation with a history of repressing journalism, who can you trust?

Maybe the agencies can be excused for not anticipating that such a stage-managed spectacle would be doctored. The retouching doesn’t seem politically motivated, as in all those airbrushed photos from Stalinist Russia. Why would a North Korean photo editor go to the trouble of Photoshopping out a few anonymous figures?

The Lens blog offers one explanation: “totalitarian esthetics.”

“With the men straggling around the sidelines, a certain martial perfection is lost. Without the men, the tight black bands of the crowd on either side look railroad straight.” When it comes to stage-managed spectacle, symmetry is all.

August 25th, 2011

Photojournalists Assaulted in Kashmir by Indian Forces

Zuma Press photographer Narcisco Contreras of Mexico and freelance photographer Showkat Shafi of India were beaten by police and government forces, then arrested while covering a violent street protest in Srinigar, Kashmir on August 19, the Committee to Protect Journalists reports.

Shafi, who has shot for Al Jazeera online and Reuters, reported that he and Contreras were covering a clash between youth protesting Indian rule in the disputed region of Kashmir when police and soldiers charged the crowd, beating protesters and the photographers.  “We were covering the protests, standing on the side of the demonstrators, when the police charged the protesters … we were verbally abused and beaten with bamboo sticks and batons,” he told Al Jazeera.

Contreras said he tried to take shelter in a tailor’s shop. “The soldiers descended there and started beating everyone, including me.”

The photographers were then taken to a police station, along with protesters; according to the photographers and eyewitnesses, they were held for hours. The two have reported that they were beaten while in police custody. Contreras told Al Jazeera, “I repeatedly told them I’m a foreign journalist, but they continued beating me as if I was some criminal,” he said.  A police officer told Al Jazeera that the two photographers were released after they showed their press credentials, and denied that they were beaten.

Responding to reports that the photographers had been beaten, Farooq Khan, president of the Kashmir Press Photographers Association, told Al Jazeera, “Let’s remember that incidents like these have become a routine here.”