News agency Reuters has issued new rules to its freelance photographers banning the use of photos captured in the RAW format.
The new rules mean that photographers will only be able to file photos in the JPEG format, supposedly in order to save time and prevent freelancers from editing their images too heavily.
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Reuters bans RAW files in interest of journalistic integrity
“As eyewitness accounts of events covered by dedicated and responsible journalists, Reuters Pictures must reflect reality. While we aim for photography of the highest aesthetic quality, our goal is not to artistically interpret the news,” the company said.
RAW is equivalent to sending in unprocessed film rather than a printed photograph, and the files are larger and therefore take longer to process and send. On that count the move seems to make a great deal of sense.
However while RAW images can be manipulated to a greater extent than JPEG, it seems unlikely that this will solve the problem. For example anyone who has heavily edited a RAW file can simply convert it to JPEG before sending.
Debate over photo manipulation rumbles on
The idea that news photographers are violating journalistic ethics using processing and editing programs has become an increasingly hot topic over the past few years. At the 2015 World Press Photo awards, 20% of entries were disqualified after submissions were compared to the original RAW files.
“A large number were rejected for removing or adding information to the image, for example, like toning that rendered some parts so black that entire objects disappeared from the frame,” said New York Times director of photography and World Press Photo jury chairperson Michele McNally. “The jury — which was flexible about toning, given industry standards — could not accept processing that blatantly added or removed elements of the picture.”
However attempting to enforce a ban on RAW photos feels a bit like throwing the baby out with the bath water. The files can look significantly better than JPEGs, and it is arguably down to the photographers and Reuters to control how much editing is done.
The move will make it more difficult for photographers to capture good shots, especially in fast-moving dangerous situations.