Photo Contest Insider Blog

WHNPA Disqualifies Altered Tracy Woodward Contest Photo

February 26, 2013



Statement from White House News Photographers Association President Ron Sachs:

It was brought to our attention that the image “State Champion” by Washington Post photographer Tracy Woodward, that received an Award of Excellence in the 2013 WHNPA ‘Eyes of History’ stills photo contest in the Sports Feature / Reaction category, was digitally manipulated in violation of the contest rules. When we became aware of the altered image, the photo was immediately disqualified in accordance with our published contest rules.

This seems to be a common occurrence in some of the biggest photo contests and awards of late, there was also the recent disqualification of Harry Fisch’s ‘Preparing the prayers at the Ganges’ from the National Geographics Photo Contest 2012 and prior to that, David Byrne was disqualified from the Landscape Photographer of the Year award ‘Take a view’ for employing excessive digital manipulation in his winning entry.

With today’s’ digital photography, and in light of recent events, how realistic is it for us to believe a winning photo has fully complied with the contest rules? What steps should photo contest organisers be taking in the future to verify wining photos?

Share your views and tell us what you would do to ensure fair play in contests and awards.

  • Bernard Minns

    ANY sensible photographer would record their images in RAW which CAN be amended and still remain RAW so advocating supplying both the raw file with the tiff/jpeg in any competition would be futile.
    Just like plagiarism, where is the honesty in todays standards.
    Justifiably people are being disqualified, and the only way to prevent this is to publicly NAME & SHAME.

  • Alan

    Don’t image manipulation programs leave signatures in the metadata of the files?

  • lawayne

    Personally, I don’t have an issue with dodge/burning to a limit (like the head-gear in this instance). But it goes too far when this technique is used to remove elements of the/a photograph for the purpose of awards, showings, contest, etc. Furthermore.. and quite frankly, this is a poor attempt to remove the official from the background. You can still see & make out that this is a persons lower torso.. can see part of the tennis shoe on the right foot/leg area.. and see where there’s a stray brush stroke that extends into the blue curtain area right under the wrestlers left tricep.. I honestly like the original photograph much more.. and probably would’ve only done slight editing (primarily in the facial are of the top wrestler and the head-gear – as done here…. boosted the color a bit and DeNoised the picture a bit). Bottom line.. if this was the winning shot.. there must not have been much to choose from. Sorry to be harsh, but that’s my opinion.

  • andrzej bochenski

    Saving jpg camera makes a digital manipulation.It is necessary to edit the pictures. Manually editing of RAW images make some manipulation. This is a creative work.
    For each final work must be accompanied by a RAW file. The jury can decide whether the creative work of the artist is in the rules of the competition

  • Ian Lunn

    In my opinion, it’s a very harsh decision.
    After all, In the “old days” one would sometimes sweat blood and tears in the darkroom, bleaching, dodging, burning in, scraping etc. to get rid of unwanted areas.
    So what’s the difference?
    Only that nowadays, with digital, it’s far easier.
    One can sit in the comfort of one’s favourite chair, lap-top on knees, with a cup of tea, or a glass of wine, whilst getting rid of the unwanted blemish.
    With all the millions of images circulating the globe now, how does one know whether all are originals without meticulously scrutinising each one?
    Some authors will not be too good at manipulating, others will be brilliant, and their efforts will be difficult to spot. These people will have an advantage straight away.
    Maybe the less learned could give their work to another party to have the alterations done. Would this be fair?
    Then maybe the information required would contain the author’s name and the manipulator’s.
    A whole can of worm could be opened.
    We are in the digital age….accept it and it’s results.
    After all, it’s the image that counts, is it not? And as long as the integrity of the main image isn’t compromised, I, for one, have no problem.