Digital editing tools and platforms on contemporary practice of photojournalism. Short review on effects

Essay, 2021

6 Pages, Grade: A




Literature Review

Effects of digital editing tools and platforms on contemporary practice of Photojournalism




Photojournalism is a form of journalism. It is an aspect of journalism that involves collecting, editing, and presenting of news material for publication or broadcast with the use of images in telling a news story (Brake, Demoor & Beetham, 2009).Photojournalism is not the same as photography. Where photography is the art of using the camera to take photograph, photojournalism is using photograph to tell a news story. A photojournalist is a person taking a picture with more than just the eye for the photo (Gene, 2015). A photojournalist has the duty of taking an accurate portray of an event or scene and at the same time ensure a fascinating composition of the story. Additionally, a photojournalist is speedy and fearless and inclined to push boundaries in order to get the proper shot. The responsibility of a photojournalist is to create pictures that make contribution to the news media, and assist in bridging gaps between communities (Gene, 2015). Photojournalists are properly knowledgeable and educated about activities occurring right outside their door. They are trained to grant information in an innovative structure that is not only informative, but also entertaining. Like a writer, a photojournalist is a reporter, who is constantly have to make the decision of taking picture and carries with him photographic equipment, and are regularly exposed to obstacles such as physical danger, physical access and attacks. The act of accompanying newspaper stories with pictures was made feasible through printing and pictures innovations which came into being between the year 1880 and 1897. While newsworthy events had been photographed as early as the 1850s, newspaper publishers could only use engravings till the 1880s (Kobre, 2008).

The use of picture to tell news stories were part of the photography innovation of the mid-19th century. However, at that time, only illustrations appeared in newspapers such as the illustration representation of Lord Horatio funeral in The Times in 1806. Subsequently, a real picture found its way into the newspaper. As technology advances and becomes more sophisticated, digital editing tools and platforms became integrated for development and advancement of photography. Digital editing tools and platforms are photo editing software is used to manipulate or enhance digital images. They are a class of software program levels from primary computer applications, which are capable to practicing easy effects, to industry-standard applications used by professional photographers for greater superior needs (Sjovaag, 2011). In contemporary practice, many functionalities of these applications mimic the guide photograph modifying strategies used in a darkroom. Examples of these editing tools are Photoshop, CorelDRAW, Canva, Adobe Lightroom, Google Snapseed, Skylum Luminar, Capture One, GIMP and ON1 Photo RAW etc (Hantz, & Diefenback, 2019). This move made it possible for pictures to be easily taken, edited and published. At the same time, these tools and platforms have also encouraged manipulation of pictures which are often less detectable even when these manipulations are done by someone who has no prior background in photography. Hence, the effect of digital editing tools and platforms on contemporary practice of photojournalism.

Literature Review

Malizu (2010) has argued that photo editing is not new and in fact, the process has been for many decades he explained that there are three methods for editing photo and they are camera, traditional and digital tool and platforms. He however pointed out that digital tools and platforms have a striking effect compared to other methods of editing photos. When photographs are taken with a digital camera and input directly into a computer. The computer has the capacity to reflect and make changes to transparencies and can make explicit often subtle alterations to colour balance or contrast and may involve overlaying a head onto a different body or changing a sign's text. Image editing software can be used to apply effects and warp an image until the desired result is achieved.

The direct effect of this is obvious as the image may have little or no resemblance to the original photo. The release of Adobe Photoshop 1.0 in 1990 and with the subsequent upgrade and improvement on newer versions, the software has been widely used in photo editing and publishing industry. As Kobre (2004) put it, Adobe Photoshop in many ways, has become the airbrush of the new millennium. With the software, all the elements that make up for a photograph can be cut, pasted, lightened, darkened, blurred, sharpened, colourized, cloned, painted, duplicated, rotated, inverted, and a whole list of other things. Photo editing on computers is only limited to how much time users want to spend working at the computer to achieve their intended effects (Malizu, 2010).

As good as this may sound, there has been opposing views that digital editing tools and platforms create an altered photo and Bersak (2006) put it, altered photos undercut readers' trust even more than textual inaccuracies, because news photos convey a concrete believability that words do not. Because of this, many newspapers, magazines and other media organizations have policies, written or verbal, that deal with altering photographs.

Effects of digital editing tools and platforms on contemporary practice of Photojournalism

The digital age has made photo editing an inseparable part of photography. Modern computers can swiftly crop images and cleaning them up, adjust white balance, adjust exposure and contrast, adjust color vibrancy and saturation, sharpen images and all other things that were done in the traditional darkroom in the first place. The basic procedure however, have nothing to do with photo manipulation, a general impression that usually accomplish photo editing. However, ethical dilemma is common place as to the challenges of maintaining the credibility of practice of photojournalism.

More than ever before, it is expedient to consider ethics in reference to photojournalism, because “what seems like it might not be it”. There have been deliberate attempts and usage of digital editing tools and platforms to malign, sway and control the people by another people. Though this is not the new, practice such as this have been used before the introduction of digital editing tools and platforms. The transposition of President Abraham Lincoln’s head in 1860s into the body of another American political called John Calhoun was said to be the first publicly used of photo manipulation to have been recorded in history. So typically, photo has been adapted to deceive, persuade, or as an act of artistic expression. The major difference between the earlier times and now is that these kinds of retouches of a photo required painstaking and careful alteration by hand. Another important example of photo editing was when Stalin the former leader of the defunct Soviet Union wanted someone removed from a picture and the photo was retouched to achieve this objective. The process of retouching photo then was always cumbersome as it sometimes may require the use a razor to scratch off the part of the image including carefully by the use an airbrush to paint over that area and try as best as possible to reproduce the background.

Presently, such preciseness and meticulousness seem not to be required as digital editing tools and platforms have all these covered and what is required now is to pick up these tools and perform all the editing to one’s taste even for amateurs who with no background in photo-editing. So, the reality of photojournalism has been changed by digital editing tools and platforms. In defense of the practice of photojournalism Williams et al. (2011) have argued that photojournalists now should aim to identify themselves as professionals of visual journalism, separate from other professionals in the newsroom and also from amateurs, who are not trained and are therefore not justified in making journalistic decisions. Maenpaa (2014) corroborated this assertion when she argued that the ethical questions in photojournalism is not as result of the availability of digital editing tools and platforms, but the bias of people who really do not understand what photo editing and in fact, their subjective view should not be allowed to cause disruption. Bearing in mind that photojournalists are professionals who understand the important responsibilities they bear.

Schwartz (2012) reiterated the ethical guideline for a photojournalist when he urged that news photographs are the results of many journalist decisions made by professionals, who have engaged themselves with mediating images that do not lie. Therefore, news photographs are even with the advancement of digital editing tools and platforms should be seen as neutral records. Therefore, tensions should be put off professional who have the responsibility of performing their duties in fairness in guaranteeing the credibility of news images. Fetveit (2019) was of the opinion that the credibility of visual representation in this digital age has given in for digitally enhanced images. Therefore, emphasis should be moved away from the technologies used for editing them but on individual and institutions responsible for this digital enhanced image since technologies such as these were created to make working with photos easy and less complicated.

Debate continues as to whether digital editing tools and platform, particularly its use in photo manipulation for those in magazines and newspapers, contribute to lack of credibility, integrity and believability of news media contents. The primary fact less remembered is that when a picture is taken, one does not have an objective recording of reality rather what is made is a subjective interpretation of reality.


Undeniably, the present era of ethical awareness as a result of the emergence of digital editing tools and platform that offer whole new realms of opportunity for the manipulation, reproduction and transmission of images and has inevitably complicated many of the ethical issues involved. Ethics such as what to shoot, how to frame and how to edit are constant considerations what should be bear in mind that ethical conflicts are bound to occur in as much as the world changes and not stagnant. In fact, it is a sign of a more progressive and advanced world where the old ways of doing things are being relegated to the background and new ways are being questioned for accountability to ensure fairness.


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Digital editing tools and platforms on contemporary practice of photojournalism. Short review on effects
University of Ibadan
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digital, short, Journalism, Digital editing tools
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Tomiwa Ogunrinde (Author), 2021, Digital editing tools and platforms on contemporary practice of photojournalism. Short review on effects, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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