Last week yet another world leader demonstrated how there’s a near universal need among government agencies learn Photoshop. The official government of India’s Press Information Bureau used some less-than-stellar Photoshop skills to modify an image of the Prime Minister, then shared the edited image on social media. The Photoshop work was so poor that it was quickly noticed, criticized, and spawned a series of imitators. While receiving formal Photoshop training improves skills so that it is less likely that revisions are noticed, it also provides a better context for understanding what is generally acceptable. This provides an ethical framework for using Photoshop.

Details of the latest governmental Photoshop incident

In this internationally criticized Photoshop incident, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is shown from inside an aircraft, surveying flood damage across Chennai, one of the major cities in India. In the original image, the city below is barely visible through a window of the aircraft, and is generally obscured by clouds. The failed Photoshop version of the image takes a separate image of the city from the air, in which the ground and flooding is clearly visible, and superimposes it over the general location of the window.

Photoshop Ethical Considerations for Government

The ethical considerations of a government using Photoshop to alter a news image are several. The image should reflect the original image, with no outside images being merged together using Photoshop. Where Photoshop is used, the manipulation should keep the original image, reflecting what an in-person observer might otherwise see. Photoshop can be used to clarify, sharpen, or bring areas into focus that might otherwise be difficult to see. Ethics for photo journalists should also apply to those at a governmental press agency, dictating that separate images should never be combined to create a more dramatic effect, which is what occurred with this image.