No more highlights for dead people
December 27, 2006 3:14 PM   Subscribe

I once heard that newspapers (and/or magazines) before publishing pictures of people who recently passed, would color in the highlight on their pupils. Is this a myth or a truth?
posted by grefo to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know if it was once true, but it does not truck with modern journalistic ethical standards and no reputable American newspaper would do this today.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 3:17 PM on December 27, 2006

Doctoring photos is generally verboten in the newspaper and magazine industries.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:19 PM on December 27, 2006

Doctoring photos is generally verboten in the newspaper and magazine industries.

Um, news magazines may frown on photoshopping, but fashion, food and travel magazines have no such qualms.
posted by eve harrington at 3:40 PM on December 27, 2006

Regarding portraits, my photography professor told me to always make sure there are catchlights in your subject's eyes, because if you don't they look dead. Catchlights are reflections in the iris or pupil and photographers sometimes use an extra light to create them if they don't happen from the rest of the lighting.

You might have heard this from someone who misheard or misremembered something similar.
posted by crabintheocean at 3:55 PM on December 27, 2006

This never happened in my five years at a newspaper. In fact, this is the first I've even heard of it. I have a hard time seeing it happening at any halfway decent U.S. newspaper.
posted by veggieboy at 4:02 PM on December 27, 2006

Um, news magazines may frown on photoshopping, but fashion, food and travel magazines have no such qualms.

News magazines may frown on photoshopping, but it hasn't stopped them from doing it.
posted by juv3nal at 6:22 PM on December 27, 2006

Despite what you read above, most newspapers do in fact do this. But not just for dead people, for all images. It's not unethical (though I love watching the same media that bowed down to GWB suddenly get all ethical about the tiny, easy stuff) -- it's an integral part of the development process.

Previously it would be done in a chemical darkroom, by the developer holding his hand over parts of the image he wants made lighter, and concentrating the light on parts he wants made darker. In the even older days, when press reproduction was appalling, they would paint "halos" around people so they stood out, or paint in red-eye with black.

Photoshop and digital images have made this process much easier, and there is a line between enhancing the image and substantially altering it, but the techniques are nothing new to the digital era. The reason most journalists aren't aware of it is because it is done by a technical department.
posted by bonaldi at 7:38 PM on December 27, 2006

My newspaper picture editor buddy tells me that eyes are routinely touched up for colour, particularly if it's a picture of someone who's supposed to be good looking (ie a young woman).

So the model opening that supermarket doesn't really have bright blue eyes, they've livened them up. And evened out her skin tone and photoshopped her spots. And removed her little tummy or arm flab.

Pictures desk guys are the people who do it rather than journalists. Obviously, magazines go in for it more, but newspapers certainly do it. What makes it unethical for them is if they change the sense of the news by doctoring the photo eg like that photo of smoke in the Lebabanon. They've no problem with making someone look a bit prettier or more appropriate for the story they're illustrating.

I've never heard of dead people's eyes being altered specificfally because they're dead, but it's far from unthinkable.
posted by tiny crocodile at 7:40 AM on December 28, 2006

i used to do photo touch-up for newspapers and it was pretty standard to treat red eye, bad coloration, and the like. the unspoken guiding principle was that we could enhance things that were solely related to the technical details of the photo (exposure, color balance, &c.) but there's no way we would have been allowed to alter the subject of the photo, even something as seemingly minor as catchlights.
posted by sonofslim at 7:49 AM on December 28, 2006

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