UPDATED: Is World Press Photo Photoshopped?

UPDATED: Is World Press Photo Photoshopped?

Photojournalists prepping images for competitions often walk a fine line between the enhancement of a photograph and outright alteration. Swedish photojournalist Paul Hansen, winner of the 2012 World Press Photo Award, has denied that his winning image of two dead Palestinian children in a funeral procession, is a forgery. A forensic image analyst named Neal Krawetz came forward on Monday with an allegation that the image is a composite, an egregious manipulation that may invalidate the award. Yesterday, World Press Photo issued a statement verifying the authenticity of the image.

On Monday, the web site Extremetech illustrated the analysis that Krawetz used in challenging the veracity of the image. The basis for the claim stems from the XMP data for the JPG which indicates that three images were combined on January 4, two weeks prior to the WP deadline. The second challenge to the image concerns the tonality in the faces of the subjects as they appear unnaturally warm and bright given the angle of the sun and the lack of light in the alley where the image was captured.


Netherlands World Press Photo Contest

Hansen has denied any wrongdoing and addressed the allegations to news.com.au. "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."

According to Extremetech, Hansen has yet to provide the actual RAW file for the image in his defense. World Press Photo has yet to comment on the award and respond to the allegations. The image appears on the opening page of the World Press Photo web site and in the image gallery.

The ability to manipulate a photograph has always been a part of photography. Digital technologies, however, have fundamentally altered the landscape with tools far more advanced than the simple burning and dodging practices of the wet darkroom. As the National Press Photographer's Association's digital code of ethics makes clear, "accurate representation is the benchmark of the profession."

UPDATE: Yesterday, World Press Photo came out with a public statement online that defended Paul Hansen's image, confirming that post-production done to the file was consistent with Hansen's statement to news.com.au and within the bounds of propriety for the competition. Citing an analysis of the RAW and JPG files by Dr. Hany Farid, Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College and co-founder and CTO of Fourandsix Technologies, Kevin Connor, CEO of Fourandsix Technologies and Eduard de Kam, digital photography expert NIDF (Nederlands Instituut voor Digitale Fotografie), World Press debunked the XMP analysis, Error Level analysis and Shadow analysis claims used in Neal Krawetz's assessment of wrongdoing.

The experts concluded: “We have reviewed the RAW image, as supplied by World Press Photo, and the resulting published JPEG image. It is clear that the published photo was retouched with respect to both global and local color and tone. Beyond this, however, we find no evidence of significant photo manipulation or compositing."

Do you think the image oversteps the boundaries of basic image processing?

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I'm pretty sure more altered images have been used in the press before now. I'd like to see the original unedited version before passing judgement though.
The press have altered images for years, in order to have an image suit their balance of a story/article.

RUSS T.'s picture

with digital editing, most things are possible. And without a way to prove things one way or another, we're at the mercy of the creator's word.

There are ways to gather evidence such as looking at the raw negative. Anything added to the image that was not there in the negative (or conversely) is definitely off limits in photojournalism.

However, and this is the bigger question, at what point do developing techniques start to change the veracity of the image.

Tonal corrections are exposure adjustments. It not the same as altering a image.

It's like Armstrong. Everyone is doping, and everyone knows it. Does it make it right? No. It's just a matter of who gets caught, and what can be proven afterwards.


Mark Kauzlarich's picture

Wow, thats actually super offensive. I can guarantee you that in photojournalism its a small minority "doping" by photoshopping, and as one of the many that doesn't photoshop, I'm insulted. I do realize, though, that as someone who from the looks of their website doesn't touch journalism work or probably doesn't understand it, I understand you probably just have no concept of the community.

I think the article on ExtremeTech is nothing more than a sensational headline. They call the photo a fake, then they admit it was merely enhanced for lighting. Journalism or not, I don't think dodge and burn discredit the integrity of a photo.

Mark Kauzlarich's picture

So "doping" is dodging and burning? I like how I'm being voted down while you're getting voted up for being vague in the first place.

You're correct in your second statement. Your first statement was vague enough that I still think its far off-base.

Yes the picture above looks really unnatural, look at the light in the girl's cheeks... but wait... hold on... am I the only one seeing that the picture posted here in fstoppers is different from the one on the http://www.worldpressphoto.org/ home page? DId fstoppers even altered the image further to hotter the discussion :P ... to me it looks more saturated, crispier and even the sky looks HDRish ... the original picture does not look "that" unnatural to me. :)

There are two versions out there, one for magazine printing (which is more saturated, but given how thin paper magazine printers tend to wash out the colors it evens out) and one for digital viewing (the one on worldpressphoto is like that).


those people love to do sh*t like that...parade their dead in the streets as if it gives them justification to kill more people through revenge.....i have absolutely no hope there will ever be peace in that region of this planet

I assume you mean photographers when you say "those people". Otherwise you are ignoring that this is a photography site and clearly not an appropriate place to air your political/racial/cultural grievances.

Then again, there is a possibility you are too self involved to realize it (you did use the phrase "those people"), so let me say it clearly :

THIS IS A PHOTOGRAPHY AND CREATIVE FORUM. Save your brain rot for some place else.

There will be no peace anywhere with prejudice and a lack of empathy running amok.

Ugly and inappropriate - maybe you don't see that your hate is part of the problem.

I really hate "Photoshopped" as a term. It doesn't mean anything.

What if I just "Lightroomed" it?

I prefer to "Aperture" my photos. Now that's a catchphrase!

When a large community recognizes a term as such, it can mean something, that's usually how words become recognized.

I agree with Mike. What does it actually mean? Retouched? Air-Brushed? Skin smoothed? Tonal/color adjustments? Elements removed? Elements added? Digital composite?

It is too imprecise. It really doesn't mean anything particular, so it has no real meaning.

I prefer "retouched". Mostly because I never know whether or not I should capitalize "Photoshopped" as a verb. :-/

David Arthur's picture

Woud I have done that much editing to the photo? No. But do I care that he did? Also no. He didn't change the focus of the image, he didn't add things that weren't there or take away things that were, he just altered the exposure in a very complicated way. He could have used other ways to brighten up those faces without doing what sounds like HDR and it would still have the same impact. That is what matters to me. What i happening i the image really happened and he was there to capture it.

And to be fair, stand in front of a upset crowd seems pretty frightening to me.

It's a chop.
I can tell by the pixels and from having seen many chops in my time.


I am not a photojournalist so as a member of the intended audience I ask myself do I feel lied to? The answer is no, I don't.

It's called HDR. It's a useful tool per the photographer's description--increases the dynamic range to something more akin to what the eye sees. It's not cheating. Some people hate it or haven't bothered to learn HDR techniques, but it's a valid and useful way to get great looking photos. Seems like some people are jealous, too lazy to learn HDR, grasping at straws of "traditional" approaches, etc. I call B.S. If you shoot in RAW and manipulate the RAW file, it's essentially no different that HDR in terms of processing and manipulating the data the sensor captured. HDR is just doing that to a greater degree, and stacking/layering different RAW files to get the desired effect.

Exactly. This isn't a game, so how is it cheating? LYING would probably be a more proper term, but in this case, was it a lie? Was any subject or object in the image implanted or removed? No. The lighting was changed. EXPOSURE. That's it. I'm so tired of people calling foul because they themselves are at a level of sensitivity that makes this whole thing ridiculous.

As I see - lighting may come bounced from white window blinds (there is another WHITE blind in background). NOTHING magical. It could also be simple flash bounced off wall (no white wall required in this case).

So allegations are ridiculous. Those "forensic" specialist probably never took a single photograph..

I also guess that there is artificial light (a light bulb) on one of those buildings just off camera left and maybe others behind the photographer. That would cause the (albeit very enhanced) warm glow on the faces.

Pretty straight forward. Just show the world the original raw file.

I personally have an issue with any type of altering in photo journalism. The issue is not necessarily the types of altering that is done to the picture but what the results are. While that does not seem to be the case with this picture (the funeral apparently did happen), there are several famous instances of photos being manipulated to change the subject, mood, and even intent of the picture. Simple cropping can do just that. Photojournalists are supposed to report the news via their cameras and not alter the news or create their own version of the news. highlighting the pain on someone's face is not altering the news but the same techniques can be used to add other elements (blood, rocket fire holes in the building, etc) which would change the news