Reuters Retracts Icelandic Volcano Photo

Last week when Reuters released photographs of the volcanic activity at Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland, one photograph stood out to Wade Laube, the photo editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.

After making a few calls, Reuters decided to investigate. Laube writes on his blog,

Reuters had made contact with the photographer, an Icelandic local, and sought access to the original. It transpired that before being acquired by the wire service, the photograph had been in the possession of an Icelandic newspaper and it was there that some fairly liberal digital dodging and burning took place. When a comparison was made with the original, it became obvious that post production had been applied to sufficient extent that it violated Reuters’ very firm position on digital enhancement. So they retracted the picture and supplied the original in its place, and we dropped that image into the Herald for later editions.

Looking at the before and after photographs shown above, you can see that post-processing was done in order to make the plume of ash look extremely dramatic.

What are your thoughts on how far post-processing can go before it becomes too much?

Image credits: Photographs by Reuters

  • Brad Trent

    Jesus…I am so bloody sick of this argument! Robert Capa dodged & burned his images in the darkroom to make them more dramatic. Ditto Eddie Adams. And W. Eugene Smith…and Dorothea Lange…and Cartier-Bresson…and Eisenstaedt and Nachtwey and Meiselas…how long is it gonna be before these 'purists' realize that for the foreseeable future, digital manipulation of RAW files is nothing more than what every photojournalist has ever done in the darkroom?!! If I have to spend the rest of my days looking at unretouched RAW files because a group of these editorial mullahs think that's what 'reality' is all about, then shoot me now!!!

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  • editelf

    Just getting started in photography, has give me a huge advantage over well established photographers. I don’t have to buy expensive editing software,learn all the tricks, and waste time on my computer. I started shooting weddings because I love photography and I love people, so that’s what I spend my time doing!
    Edit elf

  • Rachael Hulme

    This battle between the “purists” and the pro-post-processors is almost as annoying as the Nikon vs. Canon battles that continue to occur on message boards around the Internet. People – it's time to wake up and realize that just about every image you consume on a daily basis has been retouched in some way. Images for print in the media, in my opinion, should only be questioned in terms of their post-processing if elements have been added or removed to make the photograph tell a different story. The image on the left is an image of an ash plume – the image on the right is also an image of an ash plume…with more tonal range. Why this continues to make people blue in the face is beyond me.

  • joenichols

    Though the picture was edited to be more dramatic, it doesn't seem to be over the top in any way. The volcanic eruption in Iceland was a dramatic event and to modify a photograph digitally to show the extent of drama caused is merely a form of art. Human expression is a beautiful thing and it should not be “censored” by anyone.

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  • deltaflux

    You could have produced something much closer to the image on the right with a couple of filters, different white balance settings, etc. so just because something is edited in photoshop doesn't make it wrong in my opinion. There's nothing added to or removed from the original photo.

    Here's an example that shows the vastly different results produced just by camera settings:

  • Ova

    Do we all see the same? My red is you red? My blue is your blue? What is “original”?

  • Name

    I think that digital manipulation is a different thing than photography. Photography is the process of taking the picture from a camera to the negative to the print not just from the camera to the computer to the printer. They digital and regular photography are two different things and should be treated as such. no this picture post being edited is probably not anything that you could make if you were doing regular photography but it is still art. Regular photography can be manipulated as well but to a lesser extent. I

    I think that these photos are just two different forms of art.

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  • E.

    Considering how often they twist the real stories they cover, seems totally consistent to have a “processed” image…

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  • Simonshack

    Dear Michael Zhang,

    You ask: “What are your thoughts on how far post-processing can go before it becomes too much?”

    I’d say it’s barely tolerable to fiddle with lighting/contrasts/color levels to enhance/embellish any given news image – although it might a times be necessary if the shot was botched in the first place (due to difficult circumstance/poor lighting conditions or the like). 

    However, I would definitely say it becomes too much when tons of images are manufactured from scratch to sell to the public any given news story which suits the so-called establishment. 

    kind regards

    Simon Shack