Newspaper Photographer Suspended for Splicing Bird Photos

The Sacramento Bee has suspended award-winning staff photographer Bryan Patrick after it was discovered that he had Photoshopped two photographs of an egret eating a frog into a single photo. The newspaper, which is the 5th largest in California and the 25th largest in the US, says that the manipulation was done to make the frog more visible while still showing a second bird lunging for it. NPPA president Sean Elliot labeled the case a “betrayal”:

If this photographer in Sacramento can diddle around with a photograph of an egret, how can I know that any photograph I look at is trustworthy? It feels like a betrayal. […] It violates a feeling of trust I think we have with all of our members.

The case is reminiscent of LA Times reporter Brian Walski’s infamous splicing of Iraq war photographs (though the subject matter is nowhere near as divisive).

(via SacBee via News 10 via Poynter)

Image credits: Photographs by Bryan Patrick/The Sacramento Bee

  • flashorton

    someone is making mountains out of molehills… just not sure if it’s the photographer or the newspaper

  • Elisabeth

    I think the first photo was a better depiction of one bird feeding the other and there was no need to Photoshop. In fact, more curiosity is generated when people start asking, “what it is that the bird has in its beak?”. The second photo has a better background showing multiple ripples in the water. Perhaps the photographer should have just stuck around and gotten a better shot altogether.

    I have to ask, when a newspaper prints a photo that is the reverse of the original, in other words they flip the negative, does that change the status of the newspaper to deceptive? or are they only responsible for an apology to all the readers? Because I have seen this happen numerous times in newspapers and magazines – and it is obvious – rings are on the wrong hands, watches have reverse faces and numbers, words are backwards, etc. and I think they do this on purpose most of the time so the subjects are facing the direction they prefer for the story, etc.

    How far do we want to take this? Publications also get the colors wrong. Even the DMV got the color of my shirt wrong by incorrectly printing orange for my shirt color when I was wearing a hot pink fuscia top. They also shrunk my photo disproportionately and made my head square. I did not change my appearance, they did. It was total distortion on their part.

    Perhaps the photo in the story should have just been labeled – frog enhanced for viewer/reader delight and enjoyment.

  • Elisabeth

    And there are other ways to manipulate a photo before taking one – called perspective. So if someone finds a higher vantage point to stand when taking the shot, you see a different angle and hence, you have manipulated the outcome from how the first angle would have looked compared to the second angle. In this way things can look larger, one person can be made to appear taller than another, etc.

  • Attila Volgyi

    Perspective is an integral element of taking the photograph just like composition is. You influence the viewer by the mere fact where you stand and which direction you look with your camera. But you are unable not to do any of this, because this is photography itself: choosing viewpoints, angles, perspectives and compositions to show just a portion of reality that you think to be the most important to show. You cannot avoid using a composition, perspective, etc, because there would be no photograph at all without them.