Insights from Reuters on Capturing Images People Can Trust
This month, as we launch the Adobe Stock Editorial collection, we’re thinking about the role of photojournalism in our social-media-saturated visual environment. For an insider’s perspective, we talked to John Pullman, Global Head, Video and Pictures at Reuters, about what it means to cover a whole world’s worth of news, what makes for an image people can trust, and the new Reuters collection for Adobe Stock.
Documenting every corner of a fast-changing world.
As the world’s largest multimedia news agency, Reuters runs 200 news bureaus around the world, and employs a team of 600 photojournalists, so it’s no surprise that they cover almost everything. “There isn’t a world leader whose picture isn’t in our file. There isn’t a major sporting event we haven’t covered,” says John. “And there’s rich visual storytelling from every corner of the globe. It’s not all hard news—we do features photography, entertainment photography, and sports photography, too.”
The agency, which dates back to 1851, finds itself in a unique moment in history—now that most everyone considers themselves a photographer with a camera always at the ready, and social media provides a platform for instant dissemination of images, Reuters stands as a check on reality and journalistic principles: “While, if a news event happens you may often find pictures taken by the public available faster on social media networks, it’s very often the case that the first professional picture will be a Reuters photograph,” says John. “And in an era of fake news, the Reuters name has a high value. So it’s a picture you can trust that’s come from an organization that has a very strong ethical core. We have a set of principles that everyone who works here has to follow and I think, increasingly that gives us an advantage.”
The Reuters principles—that the agency will preserve its integrity, independence, and freedom from bias, and supply news from reliable sources— were developed during World War II, when Reuters wanted to establish its commitment to war coverage without influence from any government. The principles turned out to be timeless; every new hire still learns them.
Today, Reuters’ ethical principles also extend to their stance on photo-altering technology for documentary photos. “The picture we deliver is as close as we can to the picture the photographer took on the ground. That gives us something that I think is, through no doing of our own, becoming increasingly valuable. Those values are suddenly more important than they might have been in the past,” John explains.
Preserving a timeless look and feel.
While Reuters uses the latest photography techniques and tools, like robotic cameras for capturing every angle of a sporting event, the look and feel of their photographs has a definite continuity. This, John explains, grows out of the company’s commitment to straightforward reporting: “Because we try to stay true to the moment, I suspect our photography doesn’t change with the times as much. Sure there are new storytelling devices, so we do 360-degree photography, when we put slideshows together we might use a before-and-after or timelines or some sort of slider to show development in a story, but in the actual picture itself, we don’t follow fashion. All our pictures are color; we don’t put our pictures in black and white. All our pictures are landscape rather than portrait. It’s a consistency that doesn’t change with the changing fashions.”
Capturing iconic moments.
Reuters photographs include some of the historic images we’ve all seen, and photos that help shape our understanding of world events. In just the last year, their photographers captured Pulitzer Prize-winning images of the migrant crisis in Europe, Usain Bolt’s unforgettable smile, and the striking moment when a calm but defiant woman stared down riot-gear-clad police during a Baton Rouge Black Lives Matter protest.