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Photo Filing and Ethics Guidelines


  • * Each photo must be slugged in the following format:
  • * lastname_eventname_number (example: smith_parade_01)
  • * If more than one photo is filed, they should be numbered sequentially (example: smith_parade_01, smith_parade_02, etc)
  • *  Proper image size: At least 2000 pixels along the longest edge A total file size between 1-5MB
  • * With your submission, please include: your name, as you want it to appear on the site the address for your website, if you have one

Captions must:

  • *  Clearly identify the people and location that appear in the photo. Professional titles should be included as well as the formal name of the location. SPELL NAMES CORRECTLY (check against the spellings in the article if necessary) For photographs of more than one person, identifications typically go from left to
  •      right. In the case of large groups, identifications of only notable people may be required and sometimes no I.D.s are required at all.
  • *  Include the date and day the photograph was taken. Provide some context or background to the reader so he or she can understand the news value of the photograph if required. A sentence or two is usually sufficient.
  • *  Photo captions should be written in complete sentences and in the present tense. The present tense gives the image a sense of immediacy. However, it is not always logical to write the entire caption in the present tense. Often the first sentence is written in the present tense and following sentences are not.
  • *  Be brief. Most captions are one or two short, declarative sentences. Some may extent to a third sentence if complex contextual information is needed to explain the image completely.
  • *  Try and include important key words in the caption. It will make later archive searches easier for the news service.

Here are some things to watch out for:

  • *  Don’t be vague in your caption. Make sure names of people and places are correctly identified and spelled. Be accurate. A photojournalist is a journalist.
  • *  Do not use verbs or verb phrases such as “looks on” or “poses” or “is pictured above”. They are obvious and boring.
  • *  Do not editorialize or make assumptions about what someone in a picture is thinking: “an unhappy voter…” or “A fortunate survivor…” The reader should be given the facts and allowed to decide for herself or himself what the feelings or emotions are.
  • *  Do not characterize the content of a picture as beautiful, dramatic, horrifying or in any other such descriptive terms that should be evident in the photograph. If it’s not evident in the photograph, your telling the reader won’t make it happen.


New York City Police Officers check subway cars at Columbus Circle on Friday, Oct. 7, 2005. Security in the city’s mass transit system has been increased following yesterday’s announcement of a specific terrorist threat to the subway system. (AP Photo/John Smock)

(L-R) New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and Deputy Mayor for Education Denis Wolcott at PS 40 in Brooklyn on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2005, announce the highest scores for New York City public school 4th graders on state math exams since standards-based testing began four years ago.

Musician Phil Stewart uses software by Ejamming Inc. to play online with musicians (pictured on the screen) in other parts of New York City at the DigitalLife Expo on Friday, Oct. 14, 2005. The three-day DigitalLIfe Expo features cutting-edge technology for work, home and play. (AP Photo/John Smock)


The industries professional and ethical standards for photography apply to images submitted at the Graduate School of Journalism.

Below are summaries of the ethical standard s for both the National Press Photographers Association (www.nppa.org/professional_development/business_practices/digitalethics) and the Associated Press (www.ap.org/newsvalues) .


As journalists we believe the guiding principle of our profession is accuracy; therefore, we believe it is wrong to alter the content of a photograph in any way that deceives the public.

As photojournalists, we have the responsibility to document society and to preserve its images as a matter of historical record. It is clear that the emerging electronic technologies provide new challenges to the integrity of photographic images … in light of this, we the National Press Photographers Association, reaffirm the basis of our ethics: Accurate representation is the benchmark of our profession. We believe photojournalistic guidelines for fair and accurate reporting should be the criteria for judging what may be done electronically to a photograph. Altering the editorial content … is a breach of the ethical standards recognized by the NPPA.

  • *  Be accurate and comprehensive in the representation of subjects.
  • *  Resist being manipulated by staged photo opportunities.
  • * Be complete and provide context when photographing or recording subjects. Avoid stereotyping individuals and groups. Recognize and work to avoid presenting one’s own biases in the work.
  • * Treat all subjects with respect and dignity. Give special consideration to vulnerable subjects and compassion to victims of crime or tragedy. Intrude on private moments of grief only when the public has an overriding and justifiable need to see.
  • * While photographing subjects do not intentionally contribute to, alter, or seek to alter or influence events.
  • * Editing should maintain the integrity of the photographic images’ content and context. Do not manipulate images or add or alter sound in any way that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects.
  • * Do not pay sources or subjects or reward them materially for information or participation.
  • * Do not accept gifts, favors, or compensation from those who might seek to influence coverage.
  • * Do not intentionally sabotage the efforts of other journalists.



The content of a photograph must not be altered in PhotoShop or by any other means. No element should be digitally added to or subtracted from any photograph. The faces or identities of individuals must not be obscured by PhotoShop or any other editing tool. Only retouching or the use of the cloning tool to eliminate dust and scratches are acceptable.

Minor adjustments in PhotoShop are acceptable. These include cropping, dodging and burning, conversion into grayscale, and normal toning and color adjustments that should be limited to those minimally necessary for clear and accurate reproduction (analogous to the burning and dodging often used in darkroom processing of images) and that restore the authentic nature of the photograph. Changes in density, contrast, color and saturation levels that substantially alter the original scene are not acceptable. Backgrounds should not be digitally blurred or eliminated by burning down or by aggressive toning.

When an employee has questions about the use of such methods or the AP’s

requirements and limitations on photo editing, he or she should contact a senior photo editor prior to the transmission of any image.