Art vs. Journalism

As a photographer I hold myself to photojournalistic standards in editing. I think it’s important that when you see a photographer’s work you can trust that the image is true, that it’s not manipulated in anyway. Certain adjustments are allowable, such as sharpening and contrast.

I found these rules in Reuters Handbook of Journalism:


Photoshop is a highly sophisticated image manipulation programme. We use only a tiny part of its potential capability to format our pictures, crop and size them and balance the tone and colour.

Materially altering a picture in Photoshop or any other image editing software will lead to dismissal


  • No additions or deletions to the subject matter of the original image. (thus changing the original content and journalistic integrity of an image)
  • No excessive lightening, darkening or blurring of the image. (thus misleading the viewer by disguising certain elements of an image)
  • No excessive colour manipulation. (thus dramatically changing the original lighting conditions of an image)

So there it is, good rules to live by. If you’re a photojournalist.

But what about Art? What if you’re photographing for the sake of art and not journalism?

This week I gave it a try. Creative manipulation, not of content or subject matter of the original image, but certainly excessive lightening, darkening and blurring of the image. Yes, even color manipulation.

I’ve done it before, but only using the iPhone. The following photos were made with a digital SLR, the Nikon D700, and then editing using Snapseed software on my phone. Somewhat a reverse process.

I did it for the sake of art, and experimentation. I think as long as you know they’ve been manipulated then my photographic integrity remains intact.

What about you? Do you shoot for art, or do you hold yourself to a more photojournalistic standard?

In the meantime, enjoy these images, and in the interest of full disclosure, they’re manipulated.

Elephant Trainer, Pai, Thailand

Boats at Harbor, Essouria, Morocco

Sadhu, Ganges River, India

Flamingo, Atacama Desert, Chile

Bactrian Camels, Ladakh's Nubra Valley

Truck on a country road, Laos

Portrait of a young girl, Varanasi, India

Portrait of a monk, Hti Tain Monastery, Myanmar

Dog Along the Ganges, Varanasi, India

Bayan, Angkor Wat, Cambodia


18 thoughts on “Art vs. Journalism

  1. Terrific interpretations. I would use a “manipulated” photograph for editorial use if it helps support the subject matter at hand. Thus, editorial and art photography can cross function in their respective disciplines.

  2. In my mind, it entirely depends on what the story is. Straight-up journalistic photographs tell me what a situation was like. Processed images (like the ones you’ve posted) tell me what it felt like to be there. Journalistic images can do that too, but in a much different way. They both serve their own purposes, and ultimately, the image should serve the story.

  3. Yeah …I just found the joys of Pixlr the other day …I have to say, I love the older look, but some of the vignetting pushes the photos into “unrealistic” mode. As for as editorial vs art …the shots above are art, but using for editorial, too much pp for my taste …it’s all opinion. (and great work as always).


  4. when we take a photo we are already ‘fabricating’ a situation by framing it a certain way or leaving part of the scene out of the image. photoshop is an extension of that process. if you want to show that your on-the-spot skills are of a very high standard then i can understand why you would abhor manipulated images but for the most part it is about what you want to say about the place you find yourself in. i agree with erin, these images make me feel something of the sense of the place. your pictures of varanasi reminded me of being there. not of what it looked like (hotel-ridden and littered with foreigners) but of the feeling of being somewhere significant to humanity. very glad that you shared these.

  5. I think both are art if well done, but I definitely support manipulation for, shall we say, allegorical pictures? When you are expressing the mood of an image, or trying to enhance it, like when movies go monochromatic, or over saturated, or vintage under saturation like in “Oh brother”. Definitely not for Nat Geo shoots, but for expression its great. Great stuff as always.

  6. Definitely agree with the above comment, as a journalism student and avid photography fan I love playing with images (using my iphone especially) but purely to make them look more interesting and unique. I did really like the excerpt from Reuters Handbook for Journalism though, great piece of info!

  7. Pingback: Being Manipulative in Santa Fe | nomadruss in words and photos

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