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Imaging Ethics

The Department of Defense has a responsibility to maintain complete credibility when sharing information with the American people, and that extends to ensuring DoD imagery meets or exceeds the highest ethical standards used by the DoD and the news industry. It is imperative that DoD photographers maintain the highest ethical standards by presenting images that accurately depict a scene and subject as seen by the eye and recorded in the camera. In addition, still and motion imagery of acquired during DoD operations are official evidentiary Visual Information records and must be protected from deliberate or accidental alteration in accordance with United States Code, Title 44.

DoD Instruction 5040.02, "Visual Information," Enclosure 10, Section 4 states, in part, "The alteration of official DoD imagery by persons acting for or on behalf of the DoD is prohibited. Prohibited alterations include the addition, removal, or changing of photographic details. Examples of prohibited alteration include the addition, changing, or removing of individuals, equipment, scenery, or the unrealistic changing of color or light."

Certain modifications or enhancements to official DoD imagery are permitted provided the photographer fully acknowledges any manipulations beyond acceptable photojournalistic practices (e.g. standard color, brightness and contrast adjustments do not need to be disclosed). Beyond these simple adjustments, any and all image modification or enhancement for any purpose must be disclosed in the caption data so that the image does not mislead or deceive." For example, there will occasionally be images that show Personally Identifiable Information (PII), such as identification tags or access badges. It is permissible to obscure such information using digital means, as long as it is made clear within the caption of the image that portions of the image were blurred for security or privacy concerns.

Other examples and more information is available in the reference links below: