Photo: Luis Tato / Agence France-Presse
Photo: Luis Tato / Agence France-Presse
National Press Photographers Association Best of Photojournalism 2024
National Press Photographers Association Best of Photojournalism 2024
Visual Journalism that Educates and Illuminates
$75; free for NPPA member

Visual Integrity

To photograph means to write with light. Visual journalists must attain and maintain the highest ethical standards in order to be considered the best of photojournalism. The last year has seen tremendous technological growth in the areas of artificial intelligence in the most common software applications we use.

The use of AI generative tools to create, add, remove, expand or alter images or videos in any way is expressly prohibited. The content of a photograph or video clip -- what is seen and what is not seen, what is heard and what is not heard -- is locked at the moment it is recorded.

Making/capturing the image

Photographers must not intentionally alter the scene they capture in any of the following ways:

  • You must not add objects.

  • You must not move/take away objects.

  • You must not "stage" situations -- meaning you must not deliberately arrange objects, subjects or situations that are not already occurring.

  • You must not "set-up" situations -- meaning you must not deliberately create a situation that does not exist. For example, bringing disparate characters together in a place they would not be, giving or directing subjects to wear particular clothing, or creating or altering a scene by painting, adding objects, or people that aren't normally in that location or occur in that location.

  • You must not ask your subject to re-enact actions or scenes that occurred in the past in order to make a photograph.

  • Portraits and formal interviews have different rules. Portraits and formal interviews can be constructed as long as they are identified as such. They must not be made to look like they are naturally occurring events.


Post-processing, in and of itself, is not manipulation as long as it is within normal limits of toning and color correction.

Types of post-processing that count as manipulation:

  • Dramatic changes in color that alter the original color of the scene. For example, changing a gray sky to blue. Color correcting sensor/white balance issues from incorrect camera settings is allowed.

  • Changes made by dodging or burning, adjustments to brightness, contrast, color, saturation, sharpening or clarity that significantly alter content by obscuring, enhancing or diminishing elements in the photograph.

  • Just like during the making/capturing of an image you may not add, move, remove any objects or persons. You may only use the cloning tool – or any other tool – to remove dust spots on the image created by the lens, the camera sensor or dust from scanning physical negatives. You may NOT use digitals tools or software to alter the content that was visible to the camera at the moment the photograph was made. Altering the sequencing of an audio or video recording so as to change the meaning of someone's statement or apparent actions is prohibited.

Entry disqualification due to manipulation

If the judges have any questions regarding any possible image manipulation, entrants will be required to submit images as recorded by the camera. The judges will have a private conversation regarding the entry and the entry may be disqualified.

Additionally, filmmakers and photographers cannot be paid by anyone with a commercial stake in the story, and no branded content will be accepted. Work created as a team photographer or videographer is therefore prohibited.

Stories should honor the viewer's trust, and under no circumstances should scenes depicted as candid be set up, directed or controlled in any way.

Any re-creations of scenes to illustrate events in the past must be clearly marked as such. Special effects and music should be used sparingly and not alter the truthfulness of the narrative.

If the judges or Best of Photojournalism committee finds cause to disqualify an entry after judging has been completed and awards have been announced, that award position will be vacated. Decisions about the eligibility and integrity of all entries reside wholly with the committee and their decisions are final.

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