The NPPA Ethics Committee has compiled a collection of “Ethics Matters” columns that originally appeared in News Photographer Magazine over the past six plus years. It is hoped that this compilation will be a resource for students and professionals alike. Each column is listed by the date it first appeared and is headed by a concise summary for ease of research. Photos are included for columns that had photos in the original publication.

The Revolution Is Upon Us

April, 2012

The recent use of an HDR image by a newspaper set off a debate on the propriety of using the new techniques made possible by Photoshop. This led to an examination of the age-old concept of the “Decisive Moment” and its meaning in the era of computational photojournalism.

Manipulated Photos End With Firing

March, 2012

This column details the controversy that ended with the dismissal of Bryan Patrick from the Sacramento Bee for combining two photos in order to make one better photograph.

What Keeps You Honest?

January–February, 2012

This ethics column ran in the News Photographer Magazine dedicated to the issues surrounding freelancing.

Potter Box Teaches Loyalty

September, 2011

This column attempts to help photojournalists work their way through the process of making a tough ethical decision. The information in this column is very practical for anyone wrestling with competing values.

Diana at 50

August, 2011

When is a photo illustration a lie and when is it just an illustration?


May, 2011

The aftermath of the revelation that the photos of President Obama announcing that Osama bin Laden had been killed were recreations.

It’s A Cloudy, Liquid World

March, 2011

Part three of a three part examination of “Truth” in photojournalism. It focuses on the power of the real photograph.

But Is It Art?

February, 2011

Part two of a three part examination of “Truth” in photojournalism. It deals with honesty, accuracy and the meaning of the word “truth”.


January, 2011

Part one of a three part examination of “Truth” in photojournalism. It focuses on the reality behind the image.

This Time, Editors are the Problem

July, 2010

Some editors do not have the same respect for the photograph as they have for the written word and have been the problem behind a series of ethical mistakes.

When Words Collide

March, 2010

This is a column on the importance of words and pictures working together. Both need to be treated with equal respect.

Haiti's Disaster

March, 2010

Compassion for your subjects is a necessity for photojournalists.

Shoot First, Then Help

February, 2010

One of the most basic dilemmas that photojournalists ever face is the conflict between making photographs and putting the camera down to help people in need. This is one person’s opinion.

The Nature of Photography

January, 2010

The photographic process is simple. This is an examination of ethics of photojournalism based on the simple chemical reactions of photography.

Multimedia Ethics

September, 2009

The definitive study of ethics in the emerging world of multimedia photojournalism.

An Ounce of Prevention

August, 2009

Editors need to be more vigilant in vetting photographs. The most useful tool in an editor’s bag is a healthy skepticism. They also need respect for the work that photographers produce.


July, 2009

A discussion of the differences between a point of view, advocacy journalism and propaganda.

Mentors, Now More Than Ever

June, 2009

All photographers need to learn from those who go before us how to live as decent human beings and have respect for those we photograph.

Danish Debate Leads to Disqualification

May, 2009

The use of HDR technology and other Photoshop techniques leads to disqualification in a Danish photojournalism contest. What are the limits to processing images? What is accurate and what is extreme?

Ethics, Frames, Terrorism

February, 2009

Photojournalism is more than striking images. True photojournalism demands understanding in depth the story we are telling and being as fair as we can as we tell the story.

Know Thyself

January, 2009

An examination of the word “truth” and how it means different things to different people. “Accuracy” is a better word to describe what photojournalists aspire to.

Let’s Play Phuzzle

July, 2008

Phuzzle is one of the many brain-teasers based on comparing photographs, one of which has been modified in five or ten ways. Is it appropriate to use documentary photos in these games?

HDR Photography, Evolution, & Ethics

April, 2008

High Dynamic Range photography is one of the new, controversial techniques available to photojournalists today. This column examines the evolution of thought on this process.

What Do I Do Now?

February, 2008

It’s the age-old question many photojournalists have faced at one time or another: “What do I do now — keep shooting and document a piece of history, or maybe help save a life that’s hanging in the balance?”

Convergence & Ethics

January, 2008

This was an initial examination of the ethical problems faced by still photographers who were now being asked shoot video. It is a little dated but does lay out the issues concisely.

Think Fast

November, 2007

Should a photojournalist help police in civil disturbances and non-life threatening crime events? This is an especially important column for small town photographers.

The Greater Good

October, 2007

When photojournalists are faced with competing “goods” how do you make the decision which “good” is the more important one? Is it more important to run a manipulated photo or not run the photo at all? What is your value system?


September, 2006

In journalism we need to respect the documentary photograph the way we respect the written word.


April, 2006

The economic uncertainty of the future of photojournalism and the evolving nature of photography itself has caused much nervousness among photographers, especially among young photographers.

Archived Ethics Matters columns from Dr. Paul Martin Lester