So recently there has been a revelation in the photography world that has everyone grabbing their digital pitchforks and starting up virtual lynch mobs. The winner of the World Press Photo of the Year Paul Hansen, A Swedish Photojournalist, has been accused of photoshopping his winning entry. His photo of a funeral procession for 2 dead Palestinian children drew flak after a forensic image analyst determined that the image is a composite of multiple images with tonality in the faces of the subjects adjusted to be warmer and brighter than usual. In short, Hansen HDR-ed his photo.
Let’s bring this back a little bit. I think the term “Photoshopped” has come to be associated with a rather negative connotation these days. Most people will think that to Photoshop a photo means to drastically alter the image to the point of complete mushy smooth skin, reduce dress size by 4, add 30 people to an image or even alter the reality of an image. While this may be true in what you CAN do in photoshop, it’s not something that often happens. Most of the time you just bring up the brightness and contrast to make the subjects pop a little bit more from the background, especially if you shoot in RAW. For example, when I shoot a portrait, it is a given that I will be doing touchups to colour and tonality of the image, perhaps do some cropping to a better, more flattering crop. Did I photoshop it? Yes. Did I alter it and manipulate reality? No.
Hansen has spoken out against the accusations and had this to say, “In the post-process toning and balancing of the uneven light in the alleyway, I developed the raw file with different density to use the natural light instead of dodging and burning. In effect to recreate what the eye sees and get a larger dynamic range.
“To put it simply, it’s the same file – developed over itself – the same thing you did with negatives when you scanned them.”
So what if he HDR-ed the photo? The edited dynamic range of the image doesn’t do anything to change how the emotion the feeling evokes from the viewer. A lighter or darker picture won’t take away from the framing and emotion captured by Hansen and the sheer timing that was displayed by this photo. For the record, I don’t think he did anything wrong with the process he took on the photo. What do you think? Should press photographers not be allowed even the slightest image adjustments?