Photoshop, Photos and Ethics: The Rodeo

Written by Bill Hankins

This one might be more difficult to justify, but it is an example of what Photoshop can do and why you should control how it is applied to your yearbook images.

The photo on the right shows the mutton-buster hanging on with the cowboy in the background ready to help. Shot at f/2.8 with a 300mm lens, I got this image with the least depth of field I was capable of shooting. I know of numerous professional photographers who would further soften the background of this image to play up the little kid riding, like the photo to the left. How? By selecting the background (I lasso the main subject and invert), then going to the blur command, I blurred the background once and then blurred some more. The softer focus on the background makes the boy and sheep jump out a bit more. Here is the sticking point: with gaussian blur, you can make the background just about disappear.

This may seem like a minor point, but we would not allow the background to be burned so dark that it disappears. The same should apply to use of gaussian blur.

In the past year, a photographer in North Carolina was disqualified from a prestigious competition and had to return his awards because it was found that he had over-darkened the background  of his winning images. He also was suspended from his newspaper without pay. Professional publications are taking the misuse of Photoshop very seriously and so should everyone in scholastic publications.


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Bill Hankins

Bill Hankins taught scholastic photojournalism for 26 years, advised student publications for 29 years, and instructed more than 1,600 photojournalists, mostly at Oak Park High School in Kansas City. Before retiring, Hankins received the Missouri Journalism Teacher of the Year Award, the Pioneer Award from the NSPA, the Certificate of Merit from the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002 from the JEA.