Original photo top, altered photo bottom. (AP Photo/Narciso Contreras)

The Associated Press news organization has cut ties with freelance photographer Narciso Contreras after he admitted to digitally altering a photo taken last September in Syria.  

The photo in question shows a Syrian opposition fighter taking cover during an exchange of fire. In the original photo (see above), a fellow journalist's video camera can be seen in the lower left corner. Contreras cloned out the camera before sending back to AP editors. 

The AP reviewed all 494 photos Contreras filed and no other instances of manipulation were found. Contreras was one of five journalists who shared in a Pulitzer for their work in Syria. 

He told the AP: 

'I took the wrong decision when I removed the camera ... I feel ashamed about that. You can go through my archives and you can find that this is a single case that happened probably at one very stressed moment, at one very difficult situation, but yeah, it happened to me, so I have to assume the consequences.'

This incident highlights some of the challenges photojournalists face in a highly-competitive and fast-moving field. Using image editing tools is a heated topic and it's not the first time a photographer may have used too much Photoshop in a news photo. Learn more about the debate: 

AP's own 'News Values and Principles' guidelines say: 

'No element should be digitally added to or subtracted from any photograph. The faces or identities of individuals must not be obscured by Photoshop or any other editing tool. Only retouching or the use of the cloning tool to eliminate dust on camera sensors and scratches on scanned negatives or scanned prints are acceptable ...

Minor adjustments in Photoshop are acceptable. These include cropping, dodging and burning, conversion into grayscale, and normal toning and color adjustments that should be limited to those minimally necessary for clear and accurate reproduction...'

What do you think? Is it OK to alter journalistic photographs?