The World Press Photo Contest has recently sparked controversy by initially allowing AI-generated imagery to be entered into its Open Format competition category, only to backtrack and update its entry rules to exclude such submissions. The decision to allow AI-generated images into the contest was met with immediate backlash from photojournalists who argued that it goes against the fundamental principles of photojournalism.
Following the backlash, the World Press Photo Foundation released a statement on its website announcing that it has reversed its decision and updated the contest rules to bar AI-generated images from the Open Format category. The foundation acknowledged the feedback it received and emphasized that both generative fill and fully generated images will be prohibited in the Open Format category, as well as in other categories including Singles, Stories, and Long-Term Projects.
It’s important to note that AI-generated images have never been eligible for submission to the prestigious World Press Photo of the Year contest. The rules for image manipulation of photos taken by a lens-based camera have also been updated to provide greater clarity on what constitutes an AI-generated image. Light changes such as denoising, automatic adjustments, and object selection are considered acceptable examples of AI editing tools, while tools based on generative AI models that introduce new information to enlarge and sharpen images, such as Adobe Super Resolution and Topaz Photo AI, are not permitted.
In an effort to further clarify what constitutes a photograph in the age of AI, the World Press Photo Foundation has collaborated with photojournalism institutions, visual journalists, and editors to develop a set of clear ethical standards. These standards are meant to ensure that photographs are fair and accurate representations of what the photographer witnessed and are not produced in a way that misleads the public.
The increasing prevalence of AI technology in cameras and editing software has prompted the World Press Photo Foundation to revise its submission guidelines. Many photography apps and software, such as Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, now feature AI-assisted editing tools designed to automate tedious tasks for photographers. Additionally, modern smartphones increasingly rely on AI to power their imaging systems, with features like Google’s Magic Editor and Best Take found in devices such as the Pixel 8.
With AI becoming increasingly integrated into the photography pipeline, the World Press Photo Foundation’s efforts to define what level of AI manipulation is permissible for a real photograph are crucial in drawing a clear line between AI “art” and photojournalism. These guidelines serve as a reflection of the ongoing debate surrounding the role of AI in the creation and distribution of visual media, as well as the ethical considerations associated with its use in photojournalism.