Is Reality In Photojournalism Extinct?

Posted on 12/27/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

The concept of a realistic still photograph that provides an accurate representation of a news event may be an impossible dream. Many people blame Photoshop for making it so easy to “clean up” and “adjust” photographs. Photographers lose their jobs if they “overuse” Photoshop. But that is only a small part of the problem.

Italian photographer Ruben Salvadori has produced a short video that demonstrates some of the techniques being used to obtain conflict photos in East Jerusalem. Everyone in the “news business” should look at this video.

The first thing to consider when trying to be fair and objective is that many news events are scripted – planned and organized by public relations departments. Even when they are not, the people who want to sell a point-of-view make themselves available to the journalists and the photographers gravitate to where these people are. Photographers tend to move in herds – sometimes they go naturally to spots where they are likely to get the most dramatic image; in other cases they are forced to take up certain positions by the organizers.

Editors are looking for something that is dramatic, artistic or unusual. That’s what they will pay for. Seldom has the editor experienced the actual event so, at best, they have a partial understanding of the reality experienced by the photographer. Photographers are never asked, “Is this image an accurate illustration of everything you saw?” And even if they were asked, is it possible to boil down the essence of any activity into a single 1/125 of a second.

It is unclear what readers expect in the way of accuracy, but they do make judgments based on what they are shown. It is worth considering how often what they are shown misrepresents true reality.

Copyright © 2011 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


  • Clemens Kalischer Posted Dec 28, 2011
    what is nnew or helpful about this?

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