The Right Eye statement on digital manipulation of images

21 Apr

Based on my posting entitled ‘You do not lie with words nor should you lie with photographs’, I am now going to make sure that all images that I post from now on will contain the wordings ‘This image(s) has been digitally enhanced’ or ‘This image(s) has been digitally manipulated’. What’s the difference you might ask. Well, I am still trying to refine it but basically when I say that an image has been digitally enhanced, I mean that I have used image processing software like Photoshop to adjust for certain things such as colour balance and brightness. When I say that an image has been digitally manipulated, I mean that the image has gone through extensive digital enhancements such as cloning and adding of blur in all or parts of the image. I will publish my own guidelines soon but for the time being I will adopt DigitalCustoms Model Ethics Guidelines (Release Version 2.0 – March 1, 2003) which can be found here.

As stated in the guidelines, I am allowed to reproduce the guidelines here in my site.

(Release Version 2.0 – March 1, 2003)

True-to-Life And Utility-Enhancing Procedures

The following digital image editing procedures are permitted to compensate for limitations and defects inherent in the digital photographic process, provided that the impact is to make the photograph more true-to-life (i.e. accurate):
Color balancing/correction

1.0.2 Burning
1.0.3 Correction of lens distortion
1.0.4 Despeckling
1.0.5 Dodging
1.0.6 File optimization
1.0.7 Focus adjustments
1.0.8 Glare elimination
1.0.9 Overall lightening or darkening
1.0.10 Red eye elimination

2.0 News/Editorial Images (Permissible Procedures)
The following digital image editing procedures generally are permitted for news/editorial purposes, unless the nature of the publication requires images to be precisely representative of what was photographed.
2.0.1 Cropping, darkening or focus-softening to reduce/eliminate superfluous material in a manner that preserves the context of the event.
2.0.2 Enhancing an image, or part of an image, when it serves an investigative purpose. The use of enhancement techniques should be disclosed.
2.0.3 Legally-required (or advisable) concealment of a subject’s identity, done in an obvious way (e.g. pixilation).
2.0.4 Adding realistic proportionate “motion” to moving objects. (Some commentators have taken exception to this guideline and argued that motion should not be “added” when it was not part of the image out of the camera. This point, in essence, is that the photographer and not the digital editor should determine whether to create an image with motion. The same issue arises with respect to the application of “fisheye effects” and other effects in image post-production. These important issues must be resolved between a photographer and his/her publication. A digital editor should respect whatever policy is communicated.)

3.0 News/Editorial Images (Impermissible Procedures)
The following digital image editing procedures generally are not permitted for news/editorial purposes:
3.0.1 Adding, removing or moving objects in such a way that the context of the event is altered.
3.0.2 Age progression or regression (e.g. adding gray to hair).
3.0.3 Changing a subject’s facial expression, gestures, clothing, body parts or personal accessories.
3.0.4 Retouching that enhances or reduces the apparent quality or desirability of an item, or the aesthetics of a place.
3.0.5 Using “motion” to create a misleading impression that the subject is moving at a different speed than he/she/it was moving during the events.
3.0.6 Using effects or color changes in such a manner that it is unclear whether the effects or color changes were applied through digital editing or were part of the original event that was being covered.
3.0.7 Using any other digital editing procedure in a way that creates a misleading impression of the events, participants or context.
3.0.8 In nature photographs, special care should be taken to represent animal and plant life in its actual environment, habitat and context (e.g. do not lighten a background to make it appear that a nocturnal animal is diurnal or place an animal in fabricated geographical settings).
3.0.9 It is impermissible to manipulate a nature photo so as to create a false appearance that animals were associating with other animals (including humans), to group animals together in a manner that did not naturally occur or to increase the number of animals in a group.
3.0.10 The enhancement of nature images for the purpose of investigation or viewability is permissible, provided the manipulation is incidental, obvious or specifically disclosed to the viewer.
3.0.11 It is impermissible to represent a fabricated phenomenon as natural (e.g. adding a shooting star or rainbow).
3.0.12 These procedures are impermissible whether accomplished through digital editing or physical editing (“mortising”) of images.

4.0 Promotional Images For News Publications (Permissible Procedures)
The following digital image editing procedures are permitted to achieve promotional objectives (e.g. on publication covers and introductory areas of an article) in a manner that is not misleading as to the events, participants or context:
4.0.1 Modifications of image composition are disfavored and should be disclosed. The cropping of an image to exclude damage constitutes a modification.
4.0.2 Cropping, rotation or image enhancement beyond the repair of after-acquired damage or deterioration (including contrast change) are substantive modifications of an image that should be applied to archival images only when necessary to achieve a proper archival purpose (e.g. analysis of a particular architectural feature) and in a manner that is consistent with the principles herein.
4.0.3 Cropping of the secondary support, frame or vignettes in the original should be avoided when possible. Secondary supports, frames and vignettes should be considered an integral part of a photographic artifact and may carry valuable historical information, such as watermarks, signatures, stamps and studio names. A digital image of a secondary support, frame or vignette may be restored in a manner that is consistent with the photo restoration.
4.0.4 Reference To Journalism Ethics: It is impermissible to modify a historical image in a manner that would violate ethics pertaining to manipulation of journalistic images. Reference is made to the “DigitalCustom Model Rules To Preserve The Integrity of Images For Journalistic Purposes” (Release Version #2.0, March 1, 2003)(available at
4.0.5 Skin and hair beautification.
4.0.6 Title (or other text) overlays.
4.0.7 The use of other digital editing procedures in a way that is not misleading as to the events, participants or context.

5.0 Promotional Images For News Publications (Impermissible Procedures)
Same as 3.0.

6.0 Preservation of Source Materials and Ancillary Principles
The original unedited file captured by the photographer (or scanned), and all files integrated into a composite picture, should be preserved as evidence of the extent of editing.
6.0.1 The publication should designate one or more editors to decide ethical issues related to digital image editing procedures.
6.0.2 Artists and technicians who perform digital image editing services that are subject to ethical guidelines should be provided with the guidelines, and be instructed promptly to disclose to the publication any known variance from the guidelines.
6.0.3 Absent information to the contrary, a digital editor may assume that editing instructions received from a designated contact person at a publication are consistent with the publication’s policies.
6.0.4 These guidelines do not address the issue of who has discretion over journalistic image editing for a particular publication (e.g. the photographer, publisher, editor, reporter). The publication should make clear its policies in this regard.
6.0.5 These guidelines are addressed only to journalistic images and are not intended to limit the procedures that might be applied to commercial images, artistic images or images for personal purposes.


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One response to “The Right Eye statement on digital manipulation of images

  1. Sai BPO Services(UK) Ltd

    April 22, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    Nice post!!
    “You do not lie with words nor should you lie with photographs” is very nice


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