Friday, January 6, 2012

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 Reuters Trust Principles.

Reuters Journalists:
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 plagiarise.
Never alter a still or moving image beyond the requirements of normal image enhancement.
Never pay for a story and never accept a bribe.

source of information: Reuters


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 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.


Photoshop is a highly sophisticated image manipulation programme. We use only a tiny part of its potential capability to format our pictures, crop and size them and balance the tone and colour.

Materially altering a picture in Photoshop or any other image editing software will lead to dismissal.


No additions or deletions to the subject matter of the original image. (thus changing the original content and journalistic integrity of an image)
No excessive lightening, darkening or blurring of the image. (thus misleading the viewer by disguising certain elements of an image)
No excessive colour manipulation. (thus dramatically changing the original lighting conditions of an image)


Only minor Photoshop work should be performed in the field. (Especially from laptops). We require only cropping, sizing and levels with resolution set to 300dpi. Where possible, ask your regional or global picture desks to perform any required further Photo-shopping on their calibrated hi-resolution screens. This typically entails lightening/darkening, sharpening, removal of dust and basic colour correction.

When working under prime conditions, some further minor Photo-shopping (performed within the above rules) is acceptable.

This includes basic colour correction, subtle lightening/darkening of zones, sharpening, removal of dust and other minor adjustments that fall within the above rules. Reuters recommendations on the technical settings for these adjustments appear below. The level of Photoshop privileges granted to photographers should be at the discretion of the Chief/Senior Photographers within the above guidelines. All photographers should understand the limitations of their laptop screens and their working environments.

Photographers should trust the regional and global pictures desks to carry out the basic functions to prepare their images for the wire. All EiCs and sub editors from regional and the global desks will be trained in the use of Photoshop by qualified Adobe trainers to a standard set by senior pictures staff. The photographer can always make recommendations via the Duty Editor. Ask the desk to lighten the face, darken the left side, lift the shadows etc. Good communication with the desk is essential.

Technical Guidelines

Cloning, Healing or Brush Tools are not to be used. The single exception to this rule is sensor dust removal. The cloning tool will only be used below the 100 pixels radius setting. Unless performed on a well-calibrated screen under good working conditions we strongly recommend photographers to request dust removal by pictures desks.

Saturation should not be used. It affects image quality and cannot be judged well on a laptop screen and adds nothing more than what can be achieved in levels.

Colour Balance adjustment should be kept to the minimum, especially on laptop screens which tend to have a blue dominance.

Levels should only be adjusted to the start points of the histogram graph on both shadows and highlights.

Auto Levels should not be used.

The Burn Tool in most cases should only used to subtly darken areas that have been overexposed. When the burn tool is used in shadows a visible element of everything that can be seen in the raw file must remain visible.

Highlights and Shadows can be toned by using the selective highlights tool, a feather of 25-30 and then adjusted in curves.

The Lasso Tool should not be used when using a laptop to file pictures. It is essential that great care is taken with this tool to avoid the ‘halo’ effect which is produced when the feathering is too great and the tonal change ‘bleeds over’ into the unselected zone. Likewise, not enough feathering will produce a vivid jagged edge to the lasso area. Typically a feathering setting of between 5 and 20 pixels is used, depending on the size and positioning of the zone. Again we strongly recommend this is handled by desks.

The Eye Dropper can be used on a neutral gray area to set colour. But is dependent on the quality of the computer screen to determine if you are in fact seeing a real gray! Sharpening should be set at zero (0) in the camera. Pictures may then be sharpened by 300% at a radius of 0.3, threshold 0, in Photoshop.

No selective area sharpening should be done.

Third-party Sharpening Plug-ins are not permitted.

Third-party Noise-Reduction Plug-ins should be avoided but are acceptable if Chief Photographers are convinced they are being used properly.

Camera Settings, in particular saturation (and Image Styles in the Canon 5D) should be set to “standard” with the exception of in-camera sharpening which should be turned OFF. The Color setting Adobe RGB is the Reuters standard.

Multiple-Exposure pictures must be clearly identified in the caption and drawn to the attention of pictures desks before transmission.

To Recap


Adjustment of Levels to histogram limits
Minor colour correction
Sharpening at 300%, 0.3, 0
Careful use of lasso tool
Subtle use of burn tool
Adjustment of highlights and shadows
Eye dropper to check/set gray

Not Allowed:

Additions or deletions to image
Cloning & Healing tool (except dust)
Airbrush, brush, paint
Selective area sharpening
Excessive lightening/darkening
Excessive colour tone change
Auto levels
Eraser tool
Quick Mask
In-camera sharpening
In-camera saturation styles

The above list is not exhaustive. Global Pictures Desk Deputy Editor Pedja Kujundzic and Kevin Coombs will be available to answer any questions on use of other functions not mentioned above including latest CS2 and upcoming CS3 functions.

Set-ups / Staging of Pictures

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. Our news photography must depict reality. Any attempt to alter that reality constitutes fabrication and can lead to disciplinary action, including dismissal.

Photographers may direct the subjects of portraits, formal interviews and non-news feature images needed to illustrate a story. The caption must not mislead the reader into believing these images are spontaneous.

The presence of the media can often influence how subjects behave. When the behavior shown is the result of the media’s presence, our captions must make that clear. If photographers from outside Reuters orchestrate or set up scenes, it is still a set-up.

The best news photography occurs when the presence of the camera is not noticeable. Photographers should be as unobtrusive as possible to avoid influencing events and consider using long lenses.

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 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.

Handout images from outside sources should be examined carefully for accuracy and news value. Questionable handout images will be reviewed by the Duty Editor in Charge, whose decision is final on whether they are published. Photographers or Editors who pass on handout images must alert the Duty EIC if the image is suspect.

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?

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.

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.

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.

The Duty Editor-in-Charge will come back to the photographer or the Chief Photographer with questions if the caption does not fully explain the image. For this reason, photographers must remain contactable until their work is published.

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 organised 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. For examples, please see Appendix ‘A’ of the complete Guide to Caption-Writing for Reuters.

Photo Opportunities

Reuters does not stage news photos. Sometimes, subjects may strike an artificial pose, such as at a product launch, a show business event or a sports victory ceremony or when requested to do so to illustrate a feature. 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.

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. There are many ways to describe the situation without saying that the subject “poses” for a photograph, though we should say so when it is clearly the case.

See below a selection of examples. For a more complete set, with pictures, please see Appendix ‘F’ of the complete Guide to Caption Writing for Reuters.

The Global Pictures Desk will flag any possible issues to the Chief Photographer who carries the responsibility for the file from the region in question.

Caption examples
An employee of Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd shows the media the company’s new 32-Gigabit NAND flash memory card (top) and chip during a news conference in Seoul September 11, 2006. Samsung said it has developed the world's first 32-Gigabit NAND flash memory devices. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (SOUTH KOREA)
Actress Helen Mirren poses with the Coppa Volpi at the Venice Film Festival September 9, 2006. Mirren won the Best Actress award for her role in director Stephen Frears' movie 'The Queen'. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch (ITALY)
A man lies dead in the street May 7 after a NATO daylight air raid near a market over the town of Nis some 200 kilometres south of Belgrade. The Yugoslav army took media to show them damage it said the raid caused to two residential areas and a hospital. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan
Nobel Peace prize winner Wangari Maathai hugs a tree for photographers in Nairobi October 9, 2004. Maathai, a Kenyan, became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, the first Nobel given to an environmentalist. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti
A Mexican soccer fan wearing a traditional sombrero waves his country’s flag at a photographer before a Copa America quarterfinal match against Brazil at Miguel Grau stadium in Piura, July 18, 2004. REUTERS/Henry Romero