Conference PaperPDF Available

Image Manipulation

Authors:
1
There are pictures almost everywhere. Whether we
want it or not, we are constantly confronted with
numerous visual impressions. We see pictures in
public places, on TV, at the cinema, in books, news-
papers and periodicals, on various types of packag-
ing and in many other contexts as well. We have
never before had access and been exposed to – or
the victims of – as many pictures as exist today. It is
obvious, and perhaps a good thing, that all pictures
are not salient at every separate occasion. Many
actually drown in the general media noise.
Selection of pictures
Different people perceive and describe any given
event in different ways. Photographers, journalists,
editors and graphic designers may all have differ-
ent priorities and they may make separate selec-
tions. This means that readers and viewers have
completely different opportunities to interpret
what has actually happened in connection with a
given event.
Every published picture has been subject to
selection, not just once, but on several occasions
before being published in a book, newspaper or
any other medium. First the picture creator, the
photographer, and/or the artist makes a selection
of the subject matter. The photographer makes the
initial decision as to how much or how little of a sit-
uation will be on the film, tape or memory card. In
any given situation a lot of different pictures may
be produced. Then the editor, the art director, and/
or the designer make a selection among various
pictures in a collection or in a picture archive. In
instructional materials a picture should never be
used just because it is pretty. In information mate-
rials every picture should have some information
to convey – if it does not, it should be left out. A
number of authors have described different meth-
ods for the editing of visuals so as to change their
importance and impact. Some important changes,
which can be made to a visual prior to publication,
should be mentioned (Pettersson, 1993). For exam-
ple, a picture editor may elect to crop or expand the
original picture. Parts of the picture can be deleted,
added, altered, moved or changed in shape. The
picture can also be enlarged or reduced in size. A
colour can be changed, removed or added. The pic-
ture's expressiveness can be altered by the choice of
repro method etc.
Conscious and perhaps even unconscious
deception, falsification and manipulation of pic-
tures – through tampering, biased selection or
improper captions – occur rather often, resulting in
readers being manipulated, deluded and misled
(Pettersson, 2002). Readers are seldom or never
able to judge and understand what has happened
before or after the moment a photograph was
taken. Nor do they know what occurred in proxim-
ity to the situation in question.
Views on image manipulation
Students at the department of Information Design
at Mälardalen University in Sweden took part in a
study regarding their views and opinions on image
Image Manipulation
MEDIA AND EDUCATION, University of Adam Mickiewicz, Poznan, April 20 – 23, 2002
Rune Pettersson
Abstract
Concurrent with the rapid development of computers and computer programmes is the growing risk that
pictures – particularly photographs – will lose their traditional credibility as it becomes easier to manipulate
them as well as our perception of their contents. It is often impossible to see whether a picture is manipulated
or authentic. Picture manipulation implies the improper control of people's perception of a given reality
through the use of pictures.
2
manipulation during the spring term of year 2000.
The students were asked to answer the following
five questions.
1. How do you define the concept image manipu-
lation?
2. What media do you think use image manipula-
tion?
3. How common do you think that image manipu-
lation is?
4. What do you think about image manipulation?
5. Can you see if an image is manipulated?
The students wrote their answers on special
forms. After registration of participation it was no
longer possible to link any opinion to a specific per-
son. A total of 186 subjects took part in the study.
This is about half of all the students at the depart-
ment. Most students are between twenty and thirty
years old. The 930 answers to the five questions
presented more than 1,300 opinions about image
manipulation. In this study it is not possible to dis-
tinguish between opinions from female and from
male subjects.
Definitions
The answers to the first question (“How do you
define the concept image manipulation?”) can be
divided in categories of descriptions rather than
definitions. The students have used 390 verbs or
expressions in their descriptions.
Most of the descriptions (86%) explain how
the “sender” somehow
makes changes
in the picture.
Quite a few descriptions use similar expressions. In
some cases synonyms are used. In the second
group (14%) some answers describe
“possible objec-
tives”
for the image manipulation. These descrip-
tions therefore represent another perspective on
the concept image manipulation than that of the
first group. The five most common verbs are
change (28%), transform (15%), add (8%), delete
(8%), and distort (7%).
We may note that some subjects mix up and
confuse image and reality. For example four indi-
viduals have answered, “Improve reality.” They
probably mean, “Improve the image of reality.”
Media
The answers to the second question (“What media
do you think use image manipulation?”) were
sorted in such a way that similar answers and
answers with basically the same contents are put in
“media groups”. This question resulted in 368
explanatory expressions for media. The most fre-
quent answers include (1) print media (33%), (2)
television (19%), and (3) “all” or “most” media with
images (19%).
Occurrence
The answers to the third question (“How common
do you think that image manipulation is?”) were
sorted so that similar answers with basically the
same contents are put in “types”. The subjects pro-
vided 186 explanatory answers. Most students
(91%) consider image manipulation to be “fre-
quent”. A small group (6%) view image manipula-
tion to be “uncommon”. A few subjects (3%) do not
know that image manipulation may occur or they
have no comments.
Opinions
The answers to the fourth question (What do you
think about image manipulation?) may be put in
five groups:
1. Image manipulation is a good thing. (6%)
2. Image manipulation is acceptable when this is
clearly noted. (7%)
3. Sometimes image manipulation is acceptable.
(68%)
4. Image manipulation is wrong. (14%)
5. Other views. (6%)
Thus a small portion of the students (14%)
view that image manipulation is wrong. However,
a clear majority have the view that
image manipula-
tion may be acceptable
. According to many of the
answers things like “the context, the specific situa-
tion and the objective of the sender” define if image
manipulation is acceptable or not.
The students also
accept
image manipulation
in some media, such as magazines, when the topic
is “fashion, advertising and propaganda”. In fact
several students
expect
the use of image manipula-
tion in these media. To “improve, simplify and
enhance image quality” are also quite acceptable to
many of the students in this group.
Does it show?
The fifth question (“Can you see if an image is
manipulated?”) was used to clarify to what extent
students feel that they can see if an image is manip-
3
ulated or not. The answers from the 186 subjects
may be put in three groups:
1. No, and denying answers. (60%)
2. Hesitating answers. (17%)
3. Yes, and affirmative answers. (23%)
Thus most of the subjects believe that they are
not able to see if an image is manipulated. How-
ever, almost one quarter of the subjects feel that
they are able to see if an image is manipulated.
Validity
It may be reasonable to assume that this group of
students have the same, or similar, opinions as
other groups of students and as the general public
regarding the
definition
of image manipulation.
This would also be true for opinions about the
occurrence of image manipulation in various
media
.
However, with respect to opinions about the
occurrence
of image manipulation this group may
differ from the general public. It is reasonable to
assume that information design students are more
aware about image manipulation, and how easy it
is done, than other groups of people. This would
also be the case for
opinions
as well as if it is possible
to see and
detect
if an image is manipulated or not.
Digital image manipulation
Digitally manipulated photographs began to
appear in the daily press in the mid-1980s (Alling-
Ode and Tubin, 1993; Becker, 1996; Paul, 2000). The
introduction of digital pictures and electronic
transmission of pictures has had a radical effect on
how pictures are dealt with at various stages of
production (Pettersson, 2002) as well as on how
readers perceive these pictures (Ritchin, 1990).
Technical development has fundamentally
changed our presumptions concerning credibility
in photographs (Pettersson, 2001). Photos need no
longer have natural ties to the film-based original
(Fetveit, 1997).
Using modern computers and image process-
ing programs, one can, in principle, make any con-
ceivable change in drawings and photographs as
well as in moving pictures on film or video from
the very moment the photograph is taken until it is
published (Paul, 2000). For a person with the neces-
sary skills and access to the right equipment, there
are almost no limitations (Hedgecoe, 1994). Thou-
sands of pictures of various standard backgrounds
and foregrounds – depicting different types of
landscapes, city environments, people, plants, ani-
mals, etc. – can be combined to form an endless
number of entirely or partly new picture motifs. In
this context, naturally, interesting ethical questions
arise, which are neither trivial nor in any way easy
to answer.
Image manipulation
. One of these pictures is digitally
manipulated.
Regulations
Modern computer-based graphical systems have a
lot of built-in possibilities for manipulating images.
However, usually we need permission from the
copyright owner, and – from an ethical point of
view – also from any person in the picture. It seems
that photo manipulation has become a common
practice for many graphic designers working in
4
advertising and entertainment. However, in news,
information design, and instruction design, readers
and viewers expect pictures and images to repre-
sent the truth in a correct way.
In Sweden the law relating to photography
ceased to be in effect on 1 July 1994, at which point
the regulations concerning the right to photo-
graphs were subsumed under the copyright laws.
Since then the financial as well as the idealistic
interests of photographers, authors, draughtsmen,
songwriters and other originators of creative works
are protected by the copyright law relating to liter-
ary and artistic works (Copyright Act, URL, SFS
1960:729).
Since 1 January 1996, artistic works are pro-
tected for the originator's entire life plus an addi-
tional 70 years. Thus, many works are protected for
more than 120-130 years. This protection is interna-
tional. The economic right implies the sole right of
the originator to determine duplication of the
work, the making of copies and presentation of the
work in public. For “picture theft” occurring inten-
tionally or through sheer negligence, the penalty is
fines or imprisonment for up to two years.
The ethical rules for the press, radio and TV
clearly take exception to manipulation or falsifica-
tion of picture content through trimming, montage
or misleading captions (Bildleverantörernas Fören-
ing, 1999; Harrie, 1999; Pressens Samarbetsnämnd,
1999). Presenting inauthentic pictures as though
they were real documentary material is forbidden.
The party purchasing the pictures is responsible for
their proper use. Despite these rules, clear viola-
tions occur all too often, in Sweden as well as in
many other countries.
Photographers and draughtsmen as well as
their organisations stipulate in their terms of deliv-
ery that published pictures shall be correct. Those
purchasing the right to publish the pictures may
not use them in a misleading manner. Nor may
they make a picture montage or retouch electroni-
cally in such a way that the results can mislead or
delude the reader or viewer. Today, one does not
have the right to change the content of any picture
without the express permission of the holder of the
right to that picture.
According to Cifuentes, Myers and McIntosh
(1998) the Associated Press has adopted photo
manipulation guidelines to prevent dishonest
reporting (p. 170):
The content of a photograph will never be
changed or manipulated.
Only the established norms of standard photo
printing methods such as burning, dodging,
black-and-white toning, and cropping are
acceptable.
Retouching is limited to removal of normal
scratches and dust spots.
Serious consideration must always be given in
correcting colour to ensure honest reproduc-
tion of the original.
Cases of abnormal colour or tonality will be
clearly stated in the caption.
Colour adjustment should always be mini-
mal.
Digital retouching
. It is easy to change individual pixels
in a picture. These pictures show an old DC-3 flying low
over Stockholm. We can easily remove scratches and
dust spots and “clean” the picture.
5
However, sometimes digital photo manipula-
tion, or digital deception, may enhance a message,
and sometimes it should be used for better commu-
nication. It is possible to modify an image in several
different ways. We can change projection, expand,
compress, reduce, delete, modify, add, supple-
ment, move, turn, isolate, or combine various parts
of an image.
Changing projection
The projection plane can be altered through image
modification or shrinkage. This distorts size rela-
tionships within the picture and affects our percep-
tion of the image contents. It can be used in a crea-
tive and positive way to enhance or restore the con-
tent of an image. This is easy to experience when
using OH-transparencies or slides without a
proper set-up of projector and screen.
Expansion and compression
An image can be vertically and/or horizontally
expanded
or
stretched
. This will of course change the
size relationships within the image, but may some-
times be necessary. A picture can also be
com-
pressed
, i.e. squashed from the sides or from the top
and bottom. Expansion and compression will
always result in a more or less serious distortion of
the original image. Sometimes this can create use-
ful effects.
A photograph
. This is a photograph from Yellowstone
National Park. Tourists are looking at some of the hot
springs. We can use positive as well as negative captions
to describe any picture. The content in the caption will
influence our perception of the picture. Consider the fol-
lowing two alternative captions to this picture:
1. Already in 1872 the authorities managed to preserve a
large area in the western part of USA for all people to
enjoy. Thus the marvellous Yellowstone National Park is
the oldest National Park in the world. This picture shows
how easy it is for visitors to access the hot springs and
enjoy the wonders of nature. Various minerals create an
“artistic” and colourful environment.
2. Already in 1872 the authorities regulated our possibili-
ties to move around at our own will in the western part of
USA. This picture shows an area with hot springs in the
Yellowstone National Park. The steam has a nasty smell
ant it may cause serious illness. It is a very dangerous
surrounding. Take a step in the wrong place and you may
disappear forever.
Changes and deletions
To focus the reader’s attention on the main content
in a picture, individual picture elements can be
changed so as to improve contrast, acuity, sharp-
ness, grey scale, or colour scale. Surrounding parts
can be made paler, darker, or out of focus. The vis-
ual’s external contour can be blurred and unclear
so the picture fades in/out of the background.
Good photographers select focusing and depth of
field to achieve the same goal – better clarity and
better communication. The grey scale can some-
times be transformed into optional colours.
Deletions
. Undesirable parts in a picture can be
removed
by painting with an appropriate retouching col-
our. Here the left group of persons are gone. This is easy
to do, and it will change our perception of the image con-
tent in an improper and unethical way. Now a mother is
all alone with her child in a desert-like environment.
6
Individual picture elements, as well as groups
of picture elements, can be
moved
or
turned
around
within an image for the sake of better balance and
harmony. Groups of picture elements can also be
copied from one place in an image and moved to
one or more other positions within the image. It is
also possible to move parts of an image to other pic-
tures.
A picture can be
tilted
on the page at will. Tilt-
ing of a picture may draw special attention to it.
Distracting or undesirable details in a picture
can be
removed
by painting with an appropriate
retouching colour or shade. This is also a way to
iso-
late
parts of a picture by, say, peeling and cropping.
The detail can then be used independently or as a
part of other pictures. Deletion can be used for par-
tial silhouetting of a picture so that an important
part of the picture pokes beyond the frame. Dele-
tion can also be used for full silhouetting to get rid
of all background disturbances. The outline of an
image can be softened.
Additions
The relation between width and height of the
image can be changed by the addition of space.
Additions
. Parts in a picture can be
added
by painting
with an appropriate retouching colour or shade. Here a
number of new persons are digitally created and added
to the image. Now it is almost crowded. The mother is no
longer alone with her child. This is easy to do, and it will
change our perception of the image content in an
improper and unethical way.
To achieve emphasis it is common to add
information such as shadows, contrasts, colours,
signs, and symbols. Letters of the alphabet, numer-
als, lines, arrows, circles, and other symbols or
markings can be
added
to a picture for the purpose
of enhancing image content and focusing attention
to specific parts of the image and links to the leg-
end. The super-imposition of text onto a picture
image usually impairs our ability to absorb the con-
tents of both text and picture.
Converting photos
McDougall (1990, p. 32) noted that converting pho-
tos to art is a type of photo theft that picture editors
should crack down on. It is far to common that art-
ists transform photographs to artwork for use as
illustrations in newspapers and books. To trans-
form a photo into a drawing is not only unethical,
it is also often an infringement of copyright.
McDougall writes: “The courts have held that a
work of art which has been copied from another
work which is copyrighted, regardless of altera-
tions, is primafacie evidence of copyright infringe-
ment. The courts have also held that copying a
work of art in a different medium such as changing
a photo into a drawing is still a violation.” There
are, however, examples also of the opposit.
Discussion
Earlier people used to make retouch on photo-
graphs using a brush and Indian ink. Today such
operations can easily be performed in the compu-
ter. However, it is not enough to consider only
these kind of surgical changes in pictures as image
manipulation. In my view we also need to consider
two different types of image manipulation.
1. No change of any picture elements. People's
perception of reality can be influenced and
steered in a desired direction through well-con-
sidered selection of pictures, careful trimming
as well as leading captions.
2. Change of certain picture elements in order to
influence people's perception of the reality the
picture appears to depict.
Based on these distinctions I have proposed
the following definition of image manipulation
(Pettersson, 2002): “Image manipulation implies
the improper control of people's perception of a
given reality through the use of pictures.” Thus
effective use of computers and digital technology
for editing and production of good quality pictures
do not have to mean image manipulation.
7
It is obvious that technical development has
fundamentally changed conditions for our ability
to use pictures in different contexts as well as for
the credibility of all pictures. In practice, individual
newspaper readers and TV viewers no longer have
any real opportunity to discover whether a pub-
lished picture has been manipulated or not. We can
hardly assume that this situation will improve in
the future since computer technology is developing
rapidly. With each passing year, it becomes easier
for anyone to create and revise pictures, and make
them accessible to others on the Internet.
Difficulties, as well as mistakes and decep-
tion, exist within news reporting. So far we don’t
know how to answer the questions: “How can we
best ‘protect’ ourselves from being manipulated
by, for example, news reporting? Can we trust the
pictures we see? How can we expose deception?”
We can, of course, hope that the established media
actually assume their responsibility and live up to
their own rules. Rules and ethical norms are
already in place, but it is evident that all people
working in media are not aware of the great
responsibility they bear. In the long run this lack of
responsibility could lead to a credibility crisis for
the news media. If we become accustomed to
deception, our trust in the media will diminish.
Good rules and norms, however, are not
enough. What is also needed is that people work-
ing in media learn them, and that readers and
viewers adopt a critical approach to media. To
achieve this, pictorial communication, critical anal-
ysis and source criticism must become a real and
natural feature of teaching in school.
It is conceivable that future generations –
growing up with increasingly advanced computers
and learning to use them early in life – will develop
a freer and more independent approach to pictures
and pictorial communication than the one charac-
terising adults of today. Children who learn to
work with pictures on computers should find it
easier to understand what can be done. When these
children are grown, pictures will no longer have
any “natural credibility” for them (Pettersson,
2001). They will not expect, for example, that
advertisement pictures even attempt to reflect any
form of objective reality. At this point, we know lit-
tle about how pictures function as communicative
expressions. There is a great need for research,
development work and education regarding the
role of pictures.
References
Alling-Ode, B. och Tubin, E. (1993).
Falska kort?
BILDEN I DATAÅLDERN.
Stockholm: Styrelsen
för psykologiskt försvar.
Becker, K. (1996).
Pictures in the Press: Yesterday, To-
day, Tomorrow.
I U. Carlsson (Red. ).
Medierna i
samhället Igår idag imorgon.
Göteborg: NORDI-
COM-SVERIGE.
Bildleverantörernas Förening. (1999).
Rätt och Pris
Handbok vid bildhantering och videoproduktion med
BLF:S cirkaprislista.
Tullinge: Bildleverantör-
ernas Förening.
Cifuentes, L., Myers, L. J., & McIntosh, K. (1998).
Selective Data Analyses, Photo Manipulation,
and Honest Message Design.
Journal of Visual
Literacy, Autumn 1998, Volume 18,
Number 2,
165-174.
Fetveit, A. (1997).
The digitalized screen: revisiting the
issue of indexicality.
Paper presented at The 13th
Nordic Conference for Research on Mass Com-
munication, August 9–12, Jyväskylä, Finland.
Harrie, A. (1999).
Vardagsetik
,. Stockholm: SJF,
Svenska Journalistförbundet.
Hedgecoe, J. (1994).
John Hedgecoe’s New Book of
Photography.
London: Dorling Kindersley Limit-
ed.
McDougall, A. (1990).
Picture editing & layout a
guide to better visual communication.
Viscom
Press. School of Journalism. University of Mis-
souri. Columbia.
Paul, H. (2000).
Den bildjournalistiska etiken i praktik-
en
. I R. Nordlund (Red.).
Nyhetsbilder–etik–påver-
kan
. Stockholm: Styrelsen för psykologiskt
försvar. Meddelande 154.
Pettersson, R. (1993).
Visual information.
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Pettersson, R. (2001).
Trovärdiga bilder.
Stockholm:
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180.
Pettersson, R. (2002).
Bildmanipulering.
Stockholm:
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Pressens samarbetsnämnd. (1999).
Spelregler för
press, radio och TV
. Stockholm: TU Service AB.
Ritchin, F. (1990).
In Our Own Image.
New York:
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värld
. Stockholm: Mediaproduktion. )
8
... It is obvious, and perhaps a good thing, that all pictures are not salient at every separate occasion. Many actually drown in the general media noise Conscious and perhaps even unconscious deception, falsification and manipulation of pictures-through tampering, biased selection or improper captions-occur rather often, resulting in readers being manipulated, deluded and misled (Pettersson, 2002b). Readers are seldom or never able to judge for them what has happened before or after the moment a photograph was taken. ...
... In one study (Pettersson, 2002b) subjects were asked to answer the following five questions. ...
... Digitally manipulated photographs began to appear in the daily press in the mid-1980s (Alling-Ode & Tubin, 1993;Becker, 1996;Paul, 2000). The introduction of digital pictures and electronic transmission of pictures has had a radical effect on how pictures are dealt with at various stages of production (Pettersson, 2002b) as well as on how readers perceive these pictures (Ritchin, 1990). Technical development has fundamentally changed our presumptions concerning credibility in photo-graphs. ...
Book
Full-text available
In information design the main functions of images are to visualize, clarify, inform, attract attention, facilitate reading, explain, and convey information. The type of visual to be used in the production of materials for information and learning must often be determined in each case with a view to specific demands on the visual, and also to the prevailing budget framework. Image design is an important “tool” in message design. Pictures can be used to facilitate attention, perception and mental processing Visual presentation support is persuasive and may aid learning. You can download the previous edition of this book from IIID Public Library < http://www.iiid.net/public-library/iiid-library/ > (almost at the bottom of the page). IIID will soon upload the new editions here./Rune Pettersson
Book
Full-text available
My life with words, visuals, and form. This book includes some special memories often related to several of my many non-commercial books, drawings, paintings, poems, and other texts. This book is mainly about my private activities, and what I have done in my own time, not payed for by any employer
Data
Full-text available
I have sorted all my documents available on ResearchGate in twelve different "project areas". In this way it will be easier for an-yone to search for and find research within their own areas of in-terest. Due to copyright situations a few of my documents are not available. / Rune
Book
Full-text available
I min bok Ord, bild och form – observationer och forskningsresultat beskriver jag mina arbetsuppgifter under 50 yrkesverksamma år. Jag har arbetat både praktiskt och teoretiskt med frågor som rör samspel mellan ord, bilder och form i skilda medier. Detta arbete har bidraget till att informationsdesign kunde bli inrättat som ett nytt akademiskt ämne i Sverige. Boken innehåller referenser till mina artiklar, böcker och konferensbidrag.
Article
Photo ma tables. However, by applying various methods of data analysis and representing data graphically, designers can convey a message in different ways without jeopardizing th of the message. First, establish the intensions of a message. Then identify various methods for nipulation and stylistic embellishment can be used to create dishonest figures and e integrity analyzing the data and make decisions about which method is most appropriate for representing the intended message. Once the data have been represented, photo manipulation or stylistic embellishment can be applied to enhance the message. Both designers and readers must be mindful of possibilities for dishonesty in graphic messages associated with these techniques. Graphic examples are provided along with the recommendation to remain aware of the limitations of data sources.
Falska kort? BILDEN I DATAÅLDERN
  • B Alling-Ode
  • E Och Tubin
Alling-Ode, B. och Tubin, E. (1993). Falska kort? BILDEN I DATAÅLDERN. Stockholm: Styrelsen för psykologiskt försvar.
Pictures in the Press: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow. I U. Carlsson (Red. ). Medierna i samhället Igår idag imorgon
  • K Becker
Becker, K. (1996). Pictures in the Press: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow. I U. Carlsson (Red. ). Medierna i samhället Igår idag imorgon. Göteborg: NORDI-COM-SVERIGE.
Rätt och Pris Handbok vid bildhantering och videoproduktion med BLF:S cirkaprislista. Tullinge: Bildleverantörernas Förening
  • Bildleverantörernas Förening
Bildleverantörernas Förening. (1999). Rätt och Pris Handbok vid bildhantering och videoproduktion med BLF:S cirkaprislista. Tullinge: Bildleverantörernas Förening.
The digitalized screen: revisiting the issue of indexicality
  • A Fetveit
Fetveit, A. (1997). The digitalized screen: revisiting the issue of indexicality. Paper presented at The 13th Nordic Conference for Research on Mass Communication, August 9-12, Jyväskylä, Finland.
John Hedgecoe's New Book of Photography
  • J Hedgecoe
Hedgecoe, J. (1994). John Hedgecoe's New Book of Photography. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited.
Picture editing & layout a guide to better visual communication
  • A Mcdougall
McDougall, A. (1990). Picture editing & layout a guide to better visual communication. Viscom Press. School of Journalism. University of Missouri. Columbia.
Den bildjournalistiska etiken i praktiken . I R. Nordlund (Red.). Nyhetsbilder–etik–påverkan
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