In the age of social media and instant gratification it is incredibly easy to edit photos to fit a specific ideal. The world is becoming increasingly more visual and consumers want content that tells a big story with a quick glance at a single photo. With so much content circulating so quickly it may not seem potentially problematic to alter photos to meet your goals. However, infamous cases have shown that this is simply not the case. With a constant stream of stories highlighting photo editing faux pas, consumers have developed a keen sense of smell when it comes to sniffing out highly altered or superficial photos.
To put your best foot forward, consider the ethical ramifications of photo editing, even though it may be all the rage. Keep these tips in mind the next time the digital airbrush calls your name.
Rule of Thumb: Don’t Change the Story.
If you are going to edit an image, ask yourself: What does this image portray? Will this edit change the story somehow? If so, don’t do it.
There are bigger issues that could come up as a result of your actions. In most cases photo editing fails are due to core ideas or messages from a photograph being manipulated. As the photo editor, you may think that you are clarifying the image. Others may see it as an attack on individuality and authenticity. It is best to keep the image as natural as possible to tell the complete truth rather than what the organization or individual may wish were the truth.
You’re Better Than That. Seriously.
Whether you are a photojournalist covering a massive story or an entry-level employee posting a picture from your latest staff meeting, there are understood do’s and don’ts when it comes to editing images.
Every professional has an ethical responsibility to the overall industry and their specific organization to tell the truth. Choosing to do otherwise damages the credibility of the individual, the organization and, in some cases, the industry at large. Truly, a single photo editing misjudgement can have an overwhelmingly negative impact.
Don’t be that guy, no one likes that guy.
What Would Others (Your Consumers) Think?
Your ultimate goal is to build trust between your business and your consumers. As story-telling professionals, trust is of your utmost concern. Without such trust, there would be no reason to tell any story—no one will believe it anyway! It’s critical that your consumers believe what you have to say and take it seriously. The photoshop fail will be found and will be the thing that people will remember about your brand. This will make you and your organization less credible and possibly irrelevant—damaging any attempt to form connections with new and existing customers.
Learn from Other People’s Mistakes: Infamous Mishaps
From hilarious mistakes to insulting dishonesty, there are so many cases to take note of and learn from. Check out the following examples:
1. Diversity Is the New Company Buzz Word, But the Tech Industry Completely Missed The Point.
2. Politics are Really Only Fun When Everyone Else Agrees with You … Right? See How Far This Photojournalist Was Willing to Go to Get His Political Agenda Across.
3. Who Approved This Photo of a Three-Legged Beauty?
The storytelling industry is everchanging; it’s understandable that these changes can be hard to follow. Don’t let that be a barrier to quality work that fosters trust. Do your organization (and yourself) a favor and follow your ethical gut. Be proud of the work that you put forth. Keep the trust and integrity in the storytelling industry alive.