Photographing the Milky Way

Your content will be up shortly. Please allow up to 5 seconds
News & Insight

Reuters Enacts Ban On RAW Photos For Sake Of Speed & Ethics

By Kishore Sawh on November 18th 2015

reuters-freelance-photographer-journalism-photography-slrlounge-kishore-sawhReuters is a name you’re probably familiar with, given that they are a major news agency out of the UK, employ thousands of journalists the world over, and they do actually place an importance on and hire freelance photographers. These journalists and photographers have made waves and a name for themselves, and I’m not just speaking of Anthony Grey, who is considered to be the first political refugee of the modern era when the Chinese government detained him for two years.

Reuters, like most major news agencies that aren’t FOX, tries to put the utmost importance on fair, truthful, and unbiased presentation of news relevant material, essentially upholding integrity as a primary value. Of course, as with all news agencies, this has been questioned. None are perfect and with thousands of eager journalists, it’s not always easy to do. In order to help this, each is to use the Reuters Handbook of Journalism as their scripture and moral compass.

00-raw-vs-jpeg-comparison-cover-image

In a further effort to intensify ethics and speed, according to a correspondence between PetaPixel and a Reuters spokesperson, they’ve now issued a worldwide memo effectively banning the use of RAW files or even JPEGs derived from original RAW files.

As per PP’s commentary, this information was disclosed in an email to Reuters freelance photographers from a Pictures Editor, and here is the snippet:

Hi,
I’d like to pass on a note of request to our freelance contributors due to a worldwide policy change…In future, please don’t send photos to Reuters that were processed from RAW or CR2 files. If you want to shoot raw images that’s fine, just take JPEGs at the same time. Only send us the photos that were originally JPEGs, with minimal processing (cropping, correcting levels, etc).
Cheers,

However…

Now, on the surface this would suggest Reuters’ aim to keep images from being altered and to reflect no opinion but what’s there. Of course, sending JPEGS to clients will certainly be easier for everyone to view and implement. There’s also the speed gain, but they seem to be pushing the fact that they just really don’t want processed files that can manipulate ‘truth.’

sharpening-camera-raw-filter-masking-easy-photoshop-photography-india-delhi-1-5

Here’s the problem with that, however, that the truth can be this sort of ambiguous thing, and using a camera to suggest something is done all the time by other means other than processing. If you defocus parts of an image, you can blur out important background information, and simple framing can change how the event being captured is perceived. Hell, a picture taken at a moment and not one before or after can suggest a lot. The famous Pulitzer prize winning image from Kevin Carter during his trip to the Sudan in the early 90s comes to mind.

[REWIND: JPEGmini Reduces File Size By Up To 5x With No Perceivable Reduction In Quality ]

It’s the riveting image of a severely malnourished child, leaning into the dry earth as a large vulture sits in the background as if waiting for the child to be weak enough or dead enough to feed on. The image would have you think that, but the story goes that this was taken just beside a feeding center where parents of children went ahead to get food as the children waited. The vulture made no such attempt on the child and was likely more looking for food scraps. But there you have it, the image was framed from a direction that told none of that, and the viewer left to interpret in their own way. Was it telling a lie? No, but it didn’t disclose the entire situation in a frame.

Anyway, this is just one of a million examples, and I can also hear many of you thinking that it’s easy to manipulate the metadata on the images or remove it altogether, but frankly, that’s not the point, and maybe they’ll refuse images without particular metadata within.

About

Kishore is, among other things, the Editor-In-Chief at SLR Lounge. A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

Please or register to post a comment.

  1. Callib Carver

    It’ll be interesting to see how the quality of their photo work changes, and as a photojournalism major I really think in some ways it will. Maybe we won’t see it, maybe it’ll only be visible to those that have an eye for photographs, or what have you. But again, as a photojournalism major and yes a photographer, RAW can be a great tool and very helpful. It can also allow too much freedom and in turn maybe it doesn’t have a place in the newsroom. Personally it’s saved my butt on assignments before when I under exposed a shot, but without it I’ve learned to be a better photographer on a technical end.

    | |
  2. Paul Nguyen

    It isn’t like this is anything that new. For years news and sports shooters have been shooting JPG. Next time you’re at a major sporting event, take a peep down at what the pros are doing in the pit, they’ll all be sitting there with their huge 400/2.8 or longer shooting JPGs.

    | |
    • Dave Haynie

      That makes lots of sense… sports guys are all about their high frame rates, to get exactly THAT shot, and you fit a whole mess more shots in a camera’s RAM buffer shooting JPEG over raw. No one going to new or magazine print should care much about the quality difference — either way, it’s better than your delivery medium.

      | |
  3. Peter Nord

    And I used to think I was speedy shooting an evening NCAA basketball game with my Speed Graphic & a dozen film holders, hustle to the darkroom at the end of the game, make a couple of prints from wet negs, take them to the sports editor so he could send them to the printer in time for the morning paper. Not much time for image manipulation, just a little cropping in the enlarger. Glad I’m an old retired guy.

    | |
  4. Matthew Saville

    Nikon has offered Image Authentication in all of its high-end cameras for a long while now; I don’t know how it works but it apparently pairs with software that allows the viewer / news agency to determine whether or not the image was ever altered in any way.

    They debuted this system in 2006, I believe. Unfortunately by 2011 it was hacked I think, and I don’t recall the outcome of that whole debacle. Maybe they fixed the error, but all I know is that even my most recent Nikon cameras have all had a menu option for Image Authentication.

    Canon has offered a similar image verification program as well. It was mainly used in forensic and other more legally oriented imaging, but I’m sure it could prove useful in general news reporting too.

    I generally agree that it’s not just a matter of one file format being more “truthful”. Because if anything, it is FAR easier to pass off a JPG as un-edited, than to turn in the actual NEF / CR2 file itself, since a raw file is a raw file is a raw file, and as far as I know, unless you are converting to DNG, there is no way to manipulate an NEF / CR2 file, and retain that file format.

    | |
  5. lee christiansen

    Speed is not an issue. Import to LR or Capture One with a preset that mirrors a JPEG output. Crop, name it, maybe fine tune exposure if it’s needed and pump it out. If time is that tight then don’t crop or name or adjust…!

    Maybe an extra 5 secs per image? Perhaps we should be equipping our photographers with running shoes and sports cars if seconds count so much.

    | |
    • Steven Pellegrino

      The most important software for many photojournalists is Photo Mechanic and that’s where the post-processing starts. It’s not just a matter of delivering photos, but they have to be tagged, captioned, and IPTC data added to everything that is submitted to the news agency. It is standard for any photographer shooting professional sports.

      Having to shoot JPEG is not new. It’s done for major sporting events and music festivals where you’re competing with a lot of other photographers to be among the first to get their image live. And the running shoes comment is not off-base. I know one concert photographer who, at a music festival, had to do just that. He shot for a bit, then had to run back to the media center to get his photos up to the agency he was working for. It is that fast now.

      You have to look at this from a photo editor’s perspective. They have different problems than a photographer has and they are under tremendous pressure to get breaking news photos out as the news is breaking – again, as the news is breaking, not after. You’re shooting for them because they’re the people who get you published and paid.

      | |
    • Matthew Saville

      Lightroom is definitely not a good tool for critical reportage work. It’s not just a matter of an extra 5 seconds. If you’re shooting a few hundred or few thousand images, a proper Photo Mechanic workflow can be DONE and sending images to editors before Lightroom is even done importing into a catalog, let alone done rendering any previews.

      | |
  6. nd1979

    great article.

    | |
  7. robert garfinkle

    If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor! Healthcare will be less expensive by $2500.00, per Obama, reported on FOX, not a lie…

    Obama, lies, and your other news agencies just don’t report it, like it never occurred, that in and of itself is lying by omission. Obama is a 100000% control freak, a sociopath. Yet a liberal thinks he is a savior, GOD’s gift.

    Obama is the worst president we have ever seen. It is not due to his color, it is due to his behavior. He is a baby, a high-chair tyrant. he does not know how to keep his mouth shut, he is not an adult. He proactively abuses and uses fear, national security, as a means of control. it is corrosive to this country, it’s an act of inhumanity.

    Here is truth. If you are a liberal, you are not helpful to the American public, you are a pure destructive force to an individual’s ability to be independent, think for themselves, earn a living. There is nothing in your demeanor which is about the constitution, freedom; you want free, you are ALL about a sense of entitlement.

    A liberal states that the constitution needs change; yes it does? Starting with the president, it needs to be followed, respected, and a government’s first duty is to ensure that an AMERICAN CITIZEN’s rights are fully protected.

    FOX news never, ever made statements to the effect calling anyone a racist, throwing color into an equation, when an incident was about a simple disagreement or which had nothing to do with race whatsoever. A police officer arresting an individual for committing a crime, is not an act of racism. when MSNBC chooses to use color (white cop vs. black perp) and call it racist – it is not just a misrepresentation of a news story, BUT a clear, clear sign that the people reporting that news are the racists themselves… fact. Go look up the definition of racism.

    If you are a liberal – I can go as far as respecting your freedom of choice; yet can’t let go that ultimately, you seek the destruction / removal of your choice to choose altogether – you are a self defeatist. why, because you seek to remove the freedom of choices from others, because you cannot handle the differences in others because they so offend you; yet, if you get your way, in removing one’s choice, then the same rules apply to you… they must. and how can you be ok with it….

    I could have made simple statement; saying I object to the inference that FOX lies, and left it right there…

    But I am sick and tired of a liberal’s one sided view that seeks to restrict my voice, that seeks and feels they deserved to my money, strip me of religion, and my right to defend myself all so he / she can feel a little safer, won’t hear something they don’t want to hear, or eyes be blinded by a cross or star that could be misconstrued as a threat to one’s sexual preference. you are weak. get a pair. be / act like an american.

    I expect / anticipate that this post will be deleted and I will be banned from this forum. fine…

    But, if you are a true American, honor freedom of press, freedom of speech, recognize that we have a voice and wish to be heard. you let this post be and not worry so much that it may reflect on you forum, or what people might think goes on here, and note that one person, me, wishes to express sentiment, concern, be a bit real about how he feels people are acting like in this country.

    have a nice day…

    | |
  8. Daniel Thullen

    I’d agree with Steven. It is probably more about deadlines than it is about ethics. Kish, the line about FOX was unnecessary. Perhaps the same comment could be made about any news gathering organization depending upon ones personal political views.

    | |
    • Natoyi Lively

      Kishore has a lot more faith in major news networks than i do (based on his statements in the above article). I don’t really trust mainstream media, be it fox, cnn, etc. to give an as truthful as possible representation. As far as i’m aware, most news outlets like to sensationalize things.

      | |
  9. Natoyi Lively

    I understand the speed aspect of the jpegs, but i don’t get the ethical issue with a raw file. It’s my understanding that raw files CANT be manipulated then passed off as unedited. Am i wrong?

    | |
    • Kishore Sawh

      Natoyi, the thing is there are ways to get around it. You can use programs to strip any metadata, and all sorts of round about ways to try to pass it off as an original JPEG. But you’d have to try. Most image metadata will say if it’s been through a post processing program, and then if the metadata is blank, my guess is it could look suspect. Therein lies, I guess, where they want only JPEGS. but speed, in my estimation is largely a factor, if not the primary one.

      | |
    • Matthew Saville

      Kishore, I think what Natoyi was saying was, why not turn in the raw file itself, not a JPG edited from the raw file. Because if you turn in the raw file itself, it’s impossible (or at least 1000x more difficult) to “fake” a raw file.

      | |
    • Joseph Cha

      I think because Reuters gets thousands of images every day from photographers worldwide, if they were to just send RAW files then Reuters would have to have a team of photo editors editing the raw files (color correcting, straightening, cropping, etc.). The photo editors could easily misinterpret what the photographer was trying to capture and another level of bias is added when they get to control the final image.

      | |
    • Steven Pellegrino

      Joseph – it’s not about sending RAW files. I don’t know any media outlet that wants RAW files. What Reuters is saying is they want photographers to shoot JPEG and send those files to them, not JPEG that was converted from RAW.

      | |
  10. Steven Pellegrino

    Personally I think it’s more about speeding up the workflow than it is about ethics. There are a lot of people commenting on PetaPixel who have never shot for a news agency and certainly not breaking news stories. If you’ve never done it it’s unlike anything you’ve done with photography. You have to work quickly, sometimes under very tight deadlines.

    A typical workflow for a photojournalist on assignment at an event, like a political speech for example, is to take a lot of photos for 20 minutes or so, stop shooting, ingest those images into Photo Mechanic. You quickly cull through those photos and start adding keywords, write captions and IPTC data is filled in. Minimal editing is all you have time for and then the first batch of photos is FTP’d to the news agency’s server. Then you go back and shoot some more and repeat the same process. You just don’t have time to fuss over every image. No one is ever going to see a few dust specs. In a situation like this the event is supposed to start at 2pm and your deadline is 3:30pm. But the event never starts on time, always goes over time and you will have about an hour to get the images to the client.

    The world of breaking news journalism is very crowded. If you’re working for an wire service at a big event you are going to be standing shoulder to shoulder with photographers from other wire services and the goal for all of these services is to get their photos sold to media outlets as the news is breaking. And why shouldn’t they? If the average person with an iPhone can deliver acceptable images/video in real time, pro photojournalists should be able to as well.

    | |
    • Kishore Sawh

      Steven, I am leaning towards your thoughts here, because speed is just so important. I mean one only needs to see the type of set-up news agencies have at something like the Olympics to get an idea of just how important speed is.

      | |
    • Dave Haynie

      Sure.. speeding up the workflow, not having to deal with a hundred different raw formats, etc… there’s plenty of logic in that. It’s also a factor in data transmission and storage volumes — no idea if that’s significant or not, but cutting it by 25x or whatever across the board makes some sense if it is an issue.

      But as far as ethics goes… well, I know how to put all kinds of fakery into a JPEG. I don’t know how to put that into a camera-raw format (a DNG, sure, but not a CR2 or OVF or NEF or whatever). I’m sure it’s possible, but it’s certainly more work. I would trust the authenticity of a raw photo over a JPEG… particularly given how trivial it is to edit metadata.

      | |
    • Steven Pellegrino

      Dave,

      It’s not about submitting RAW files to Reuters, no one does that. All wire services and media outlets want JPEG. I’m guessing the ethical argument they’re trying to put forward is that you’re less likely to over manipulate a JPEG than you would a RAW image. Perfection is not required because your image is going to either be on a website or printed in a magazine/newspaper.

      | |
    • Dave Haynie

      OIC. Makes sense. The article mention they would no longer accept “raw or JPEGs made from raw”… that kind of implied they were dealing with raw. That really didn’t make any sense.

      | |
    • Drew Pluta

      This is pretty much only a consideration for celebrity event and sports, not the entirety of journalism. That’s the problem with this thinking, it’s not thinking. There are plenty of situations where we don’t get the exact exposure in camera that we want in the final. Like sometimes you have to shoot a little hot to expose the shadows then in post you knock down the highlights. This process actually gets the “correct” portrayal of the scene. The jpg would have blown highlights or shadows in the black. A RAW with a careful post process is always going to provide a more accurate portrayal of reality. If accuracy and honesty is what they’re after, jpg only isn’t the way to do it.

      | |
  11. Rob Browne

    “Reuters, like most major news agencies that aren’t FOX, tries to put the utmost importance on fair, truthful, and unbiased presentation of news relevant material, essentially upholding integrity as a primary value.”

    That’s unadulterated bullshit. ALL news agencies have biases – Fox is open that it leans to the right in its opinion programming – while the likes of Reuters pretends to be objective and neutral but any news consumer know that isn’t the truth.
    But its good to know what SLR Lounge thinks of half of its potential U.S. audience.

    | |
    • Steven Pellegrino

      There’s a lot of truth to that. After Ferguson I stopped believing most of what all media reports. I’ve lived there for almost 15 years and still live within walking distance of it and saw first hand how just about every media outlet twisted facts to fit their own agenda. They still do. Just as Kishore’s example of the vulture and the child photo, you weren’t presented with the bigger picture regarding what happened in Ferguson. When presented with other options to present, the media turned their backs on the residents of Ferguson.

      | |
    • Korey Napier

      Agreed.

      | |
    • Kishore Sawh

      Rob, hi there. I’ll keep this short, but I’d just like to clarify that you’re projection of what we at SLRL think of you, our lovely audience, is entirely empirical and narrowly so (nevermind the sarcasm totally missed), making what you’ve said somewhat facile, and subjective. We’re rather fond of you all, Rob. This, of course, is just my opinion, and I do value yours and welcome it in the future. I just ask that we keep it clean, and have no further brandishing of expletives. Cheers

      | |
    • Matthew Saville

      Unadulterated bullshit? I’d call it light-hearted sarcasm, a jab at a stereotype. Time to take a deep breath and not feel insulted / offended by something that wasn’t aimed at you in the first place. :-)

      | |
[i]
[i]