The Washington Post’s “Composite” Front Page Photo

The Washington Post ran a front page photo as part of the coverage of the anniversary of a horrific story of an airliner crash. This is the photo that ran-read the caption.

On the one hand, good for the Post for disclosing that it had altered the image. On the other hand, WHY alter the image of a static bridge?  Here are the answers from The Post in an interview with Poynter.

What is HDR?

The alternation is using HDR (High Dynamic Range) which is able to be achieved through Photoshop’s “merge to HDR” feature.  With that technology, a photo editor can combine more than one exposure to make a single image that takes the best tones of each image.  In the bridge shot, for example, it might be possible to capture the underside of the bridge but the background would be blown out.  You could exposure for the background but the bridge would be dark.   In the end, the image is true but/and it is not a single image, it is a richer tone than any single image could capture.

Consider these three images from http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/high-dynamic-range.htm

You may have read the HDR is now available through your iPhone.
Arstechnica explained:

By default, the “normally” exposed image is saved to your Camera Roll along with the HDR image, though you can change this by launching the Settings app and tapping on Photos. This feature is quite handy, in our opinion, because in some cases you may actually prefer the non-HDR result.

iPhone 4 HDR: Settings

Earlier we said to be as still as possible when shooting HDR images. The iPhone 4 will take the three separate exposures very quickly, especially when bright daylight allows for very short shutter times, but a few attempts to photograph a close-up of a flower that was blowing in the breeze resulted in a blurry mess. And if it’s not readily apparent, HDR won’t work for action shots. As impressive as HDR results can be, that on/off switch is there for good reason.

What ethical concerns should we have about this?

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One thought on “The Washington Post’s “Composite” Front Page Photo

  1. Looks like a high-dynamic range photo — and a pretty restrained example — which, when done properly, can actually capture an image that is more like what the human eye can see than a regular photo can.

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