Whenever I doubt an image I go into Adobe Bridge and see what the image has to say about what it has been put through. In this winning image, downloaded here, I am able to see Paul Hansen’s recipe for his “look”. When I apply that recipe to a photograph I have made in light that is probably not similar, I am able to get an image with a similar “look”. I started with a DNG because I convert all of my Raw files into DNG when I import them into Lightroom. My experiment is not totally exact, but close.
Now, here is the kicker. I took his recipe from the POYi image linked above because the World Press Photo image did not have any info on it. That image is a bit more desaturated than the file I downloaded from POYi. It had been converted into a PNG file for their website. My feeling is this, unless these experts come forward and say I used a file I received from this person, which they have not, I treat the findings as suspect. Which is what I hoped others who still work in journalism would have done. I just saw this link. So, I guess the doubters are getting what they wanted. I feel pretty confident in that Hansen will be cleared of this. My hope is that photojournalists will stop trying to eat their own. I hope that he does not have to supply a Raw file to the world because in a way that is letting the doubters win. My opinion on this is based during my time in journalism. I equate the Raw file with the reporter’s notebook, which in America is protected. What is legally protected is apparently not protected in the court of public opinion though.
In some of the classes I teach, I require students to turn in JPG files so I can see how they are toning images. Whenever the metadata is stripped from the image, or the dates are off, I immediately suspect them image until the student provides an explanation. When there is information like the one found in the POYi file, I trust it. If the World Press Photo had the metadata on it I could say he did not fake that one, but it does not. I can’t say that. I can say the POYi image looks clean. My assumption is: Hansen desaturated more and sized it differently for World Press. I could be wrong. I hope I am not.
UPDATE: One thing I should have said is that my example image was not made with a Canon 5D MarkIII camera and 16-35 f2.8 lens, which Hansen used for almost his entire POYi portfolio. Having that equipment, which I don’t, would have helped to prove my point. Each camera and lens combination is going to create a file that is different.