How do you balance the demands of aesthetics and documentary truth? DW Akadamie has published a feature examining the challenges faced by photojournalists and picture editors in creating attractive and atmospheric images, without compromising their authenticity. 

Before adjustment...

[Photo: Yuri Kozyrev/NOOR for TIME Magazine] 

After adjustment...

[Photo: Yuri Kozyrev/NOOR for TIME Magazine]

Image manipulation of documentary photographs is nothing new, but it is certainly much easier now than ever before.

As the article posted by DW Akadamie points out, 'adjusting the fundamental elements of a digital photograph, its DNA if you like, such as exposure/brightness, colour/saturation, whites/blacks, contrast/shadows and much, much more, are as easy as moving a virtual 'slider' with a mouse'. 

Most people seem to agree that photojournalists should be held to higher standards than casual photographers when it comes to things like digitally adding or removing elements of an image, but what about exposure? Color balance? Shadow adjustment?

This raises a tricky ethical question for people whose job it is to collect and process documentary images. How much adjustment can be performed before a photograph stops being representative of objective reality in front of the camera?

Before adjustment...

[Photo: Yuri Kozyrev/NOOR for TIME Magazine]

After adjustment...

[Photo: Yuri Kozyrev/NOOR for TIME Magazine]

In an attempt to answer this question, DW Akademie interviewed Claudio Palmisano, one of the founders of 10b Photography Laboratory - a Rome-based 'digital darkroom' that works with several professional photojournalists. Palmisano's philosophy is relatively simple. He states: 

'We believe that talking of “manipulation” is correct only when actual pixels are “moved”, therefore when the minimum unit of a digital image is at least either replaced or cloned.'
 
Palmisano goes on to explain - 'we work together with the photographer to bring the image, and the whole story, as close as possible to the photographer’s vision. A dialogue between the photographer’s own vision and our visual culture is fundamental to achieving the desired result. I don’t think of our work in terms of ‘retouching’, but rather as ‘enhancing’ the inherent potential of the shot by containing its limits and strengthening its qualities'.
 
Asked whether he asks photojournalists to set their camera in any particular way to achieve a certain effect, Palmisano's solution is simple: 'I always recommend shooting RAW, so any further suggestion becomes superfluous.' 

Does manipulation of documentary images bother you? If so, how much is too much? Let us know in the comments.