A Brief Guide to Standards, Photoshop and Captions
Everything we do as Reuters journalists has to be independent, free from bias and executed with the utmost integrity. These are our core values and stem from the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
- Always hold accuracy sacrosanct.
- Always correct an error openly.
- Always strive for balance and freedom from bias.
- Always reveal a conflict of interest to a manager.
- Always respect privileged information.
- Always protect their sources from the authorities.
- Always guard against putting their opinion in a news story or editorializing.
- Never fabricate or plagiarize.
- Never alter a still or moving image beyond the requirements of normal image enhancement.
- Never pay for a story and never accept a bribe.
Accuracy means that our images and stories must reflect reality. Reuters is transparent about errors. We correct them promptly and clearly, whether in a story, a caption, a graphic or a script.
Independence is the essence of our reputation as a “stateless” global news organisation and fundamental to the trust that allows us to report impartially from all sides of a conflict or dispute. Our independence stems not only from the structure of Reuters but also from our duty as journalists to avoid conflicts of interest or situations that could give rise to a perception of a conflict.
Freedom from Bias
Reuters would not be Reuters without freedom from bias. This neutrality is a hallmark of our news brand and allows us to work on all sides of an issue, conflict or dispute without any agenda other than accurate, fair reporting.
Integrity requires us to adhere to the highest ethical standards of our profession and to the values enshrined in The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles. As a member of the Reuters team, you are expected to accept certain responsibilities, adhere to acceptable professional standards in matters of personal conduct and exhibit a high degree of personal integrity at all times.
Below is the statement on Adobe Photoshop taken from the Reuters code of conduct:
"Photoshop is a highly sophisticated image manipulation program. We use only a tiny part of its potential capability to format our pictures, crop and size them and balance the tone and color. For us it is a presentational tool.
The rules are: no additions or deletions, no misleading the viewer by manipulation of the tonal and color balance to disguise elements of an image or to change the context."
Materially altering a picture in Photoshop or any other image-editing software will lead to dismissal.
Modern professional cameras produce images straight from the camera of such high quality that the need for adjustments in image-editing software is much less than in the past. Photographers and editors should strive to use as little post-processing as possible while adhering to our standards of image quality. All photographers should understand the limitations of their laptop screens and their working environments.
To avoid any ambiguity, only the processes stated below may be used by the groups mentioned. If a photographer would like more than the below adjustments to their pictures, they should make a request to the Global Pictures Desk or the Berlin, Toronto, Paris, or London Regional Picture Desks.
- Downsize photos on their longest side to 3500 pixels, when necessary.
- Do minor brightness and contrast adjustments in Levels, using only the extreme left and right sliders without clipping or removing detail from highlight and shadow areas.
- Crop, providing the crop does not remove information with journalistic value. Use the crop tool to straighten a slightly slanted horizon, but not add a tilt to an otherwise level photo or flip a picture upside down or left to right.
- Minor use of Levels and Curves to fix the color balance of a photo to its natural state.
Editors in the Berlin Desk, London Desk, Paris Desk, Toronto Desk and Global Pictures Desk and direct injectors working in controlled conditions on calibrated, high quality screens
- Use all of the above processes listed above in the photographer section.
- Use the Levels and Curves tools.
- Use the Burn tool.
- Use the Shadow Highlights tool.
- The Eye Dropper may only be used on a neutral gray area to set color.
- Use the Saturation tool.
- Cloning or Healing Tools may only be used for sensor dust removal.
- In rare and exceptional cases where an important photo has been improperly exposed, make significant adjustments using a variety of tools to “rescue” a photo that would otherwise be unsuitable for publication
Color space must be set to Adobe RGB.
Composite Images/Visual Effects
Composite images that show the progression of an event (e.g. lunar eclipse, time lapse) must indicate the technique in their captions. They are never acceptable in a news assignment.
Captions must also make clear on those rare occasions when a specialty lens (e.g., lens babies, tilt-shift lenses) or a special technique (e.g., soft focus, zooming) has been used to create an image in portraiture or on a features assignment.
Set-ups / Staging of Pictures
Our news photography must depict reality. Any attempt to alter that reality constitutes fabrication and can lead to disciplinary action, including dismissal.
Reuters photographers, staff and freelance, must not stage or re-enact news events. They may not direct the subjects of their images or add, remove or move objects on a news assignment.
If photographers from outside Reuters orchestrate or set up scenes, it is still a setup and must never be introduced into our picture production workflow under any circumstances. Reuters photographers, however, may retain examples of such pictures and forward them to the chief photographer for their information.
The best news photography occurs when the presence of the camera is not noticeable. The presence of the media can often influence how subjects behave.
In some circumstances, such as during demonstrations, civil unrest, street celebrations or conflict, the presence of photographers and television crews may prompt subjects to act abnormally. Reuters photographers should be aware of the influence their presence can exert, recognize possible efforts by parties with an agenda to manipulate the depiction of an event, and always strive to depict reality.
Accuracy in Captions
Just as our news photographs must reflect reality, so too should our captions. They must adhere to the basic Reuters rules of accuracy and freedom from bias and must answer the basic questions of good journalism. Who is in the picture? Where was it taken? When was it taken? What does it show? Why is a subject doing a particular thing?
When communications permit, photographers must remain contactable until their work is published to allow editors to clarify the content of photos and captions.
Captions are written in the present tense and should use concise simple English. They generally consist of a single sentence but a second sentence should be added if additional context or explanation is required.
Contentious information, like death tolls in conflict, must be sourced. The caption must explain the circumstances in which a photograph was taken and state the correct date.
Photos and captions must avoid juxtaposing people and subjects with unrelated matters, suggesting membership in a group or participation in an activity when there is no evidence to support the suggestion.
For instance, a photo of an ordinary person exiting a bank combined with a caption about customer fraud at banks unfairly suggests the person in the photo somehow is connected to the fraud. Similarly, a person seen in an area where drug use is rampant is not necessarily involved in that activity. We should not suggest that someone is involved in an activity based solely on where they happen to be located.
Captions must not contain assumptions by the photographer about what might have happened, even when a situation seems likely. Explain only what you have witnessed. All other information about an event must be sourced unless you are certain of your information.
For instance, someone marching at a rally for same-sex marriage is likely a supporter of same-sex marriage, but it would be incorrect for our caption to suggest that the person is gay.
Captions also should not make assumptions about what a person is thinking; e.g., "England captain David Beckham ponders his future after his team was knocked out of the World Cup soccer finals." Stick to what the photo shows and what you know.
Sensitive Images in a Controlled Environment
Some of our photographs are taken under controlled conditions in which photographers cannot operate freely. This is particularly true during conflicts and in countries where the media’s movements are restricted.
Such photographs must say if the image was taken during an organized or escorted visit unless the photographer was truly free to work independently. The circumstances can usually be indicated in a short second sentence in the caption.
Under certain limited circumstances, photographers may request subjects to strike an artificial pose or look in their direction. These so-called photo opportunities include red carpets, movie and television premieres, book signings, award ceremonies, and medal or trophy ceremonies. However, the caption must not mislead the reader into believing these images are spontaneous and must clearly indicate the subject is posing.
Photographers may also direct the subjects of portraits, but must clearly indicate the subject is posing in the caption. This is frequently the case in exclusive interviews with major business, entertainment, or political newsmakers.
These images should be few and can be clichés. They must be clearly captioned to show the reader that the actions are not spontaneous and to explain the context. We should say clearly when a subject’s manner or demeanor is not natural, such as when a subject has posed for a portrait or been asked to bite a gold medal on the podium, and say clearly that it is a pose.
Category: Guide to Operations