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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Air Force adds it two cents on photo manipulation


1. POSTURE: Active. Queries beyond the scope of this guidance should be directed to AFPAA, 703-696-1158 (DSN 426-1158) or appropriate unit. Organizations should respond to questions relating to their mission or the related policy concerning image alteration. Refer calls to AFPAA only if they go beyond the scope of location-specific information or this PAG.

2. BACKGROUND: On Friday, 14 Nov 08, the Associated Press suspended the use of photos provided by the Defense Department after the Army distributed a digitally altered photo of the U.S. Military’s first female four-star general. The image was cropped to lead viewers to believe the subject was wearing four stars when, in fact, there were only three stars.


The Department of Defense has policy, DoD Instruction 5040.05, dated June 6, 2006, which prohibits the alteration of all photographic and video images. The purpose of this policy is to ensure the absolute credibility of official DoD imagery.

It is DoD policy that imagery is an essential tool for decision-makers at every DoD level.

Mission success and the protection of lives and property depend on official DoD imagery being complete, timely, and above all, highly accurate.

Anything that weakens or casts doubt on the credibility of official DoD imagery in or outside the Department of Defense shall not be tolerated.

Specific forms of alteration are allowed in the guidance.

§ Photographic techniques common to traditional darkrooms and digital imaging stations such as dodging, burning, color balancing, spotting, and contrast adjustment that are used to achieve the accurate recording of an event or object are not considered alterations

§ Photographic and video image enhancement, exploitation, and simulation techniques used in support of unique cartography; topography; engineering; geodesy; intelligence; criminal investigation; medical; research, development, test & evaluation; scientific; and training requirements are authorized if they do not misrepresent the subject of the original image.

§ The obvious masking of portions of a photographic image in support of specific security, criminal investigation, privacy, or legal requirements is authorized.

§ The use of cropping, editing, or enlargement to selectively isolate, link, or display a portion of a photographic or video image is not considered alteration. Cropping, editing, or image enlargement that has the effect of misrepresenting the facts or circumstances of the event or object as originally recorded is prohibited.

§ The digital conversion and compression of official DoD imagery is authorized. \

§ Photographic and video post-production enhancement, including animation, digital simulation, graphics, and special effects, used for dramatic or narrative effect in education, recruiting, safety and training illustrations, publications, or productions is authorized under either of the conditions below:

o The enhancement does not misrepresent the subject of the original image; or,

o It is clearly and readily apparent from the context or from the content of the image or accompanying text that the enhanced image is not intended to be an accurate representation of any actual event.

The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs office has oversight of the policy and guidance to ensure the absolute credibility of official Imagery.


The Air Force trains its photographers, photo-journalists, public affairs specialists and public affairs officers the importance of maintaining absolute credibility of official DoD imagery.

The Air Force solidifies DoDI with Air Force Instructions 35-101, Public Affairs Policies and Procedures, and 33-117, Multimedia Management. The information contained in these instructions echo the intent and information contained in the DoDI.

AFI 33-117, paragraph 2.8.1. reads, “The alteration of a photographic or video image by any means for any purpose other than to establish the image as the most accurate reproduction of an event is prohibited.”


  • Credibility of DoD imagery is critical to mission accomplishment and the protection of lives and property.

  • The DoD has provided clear and unquestionable guidance concerning the alteration of official imagery.

  • The policies and procedures concerning image alteration are taught in various levels of training classes to Air Force photographers, photo-journalists, public affairs specialists, and public affairs officers.

  • The U.S. Air Force takes the credibility of imagery very seriously.

  • The Air Force will not tolerate the alteration of imagery with the intent to deceive. Official imagery must be used to establish an accurate representation of an actual event.


DoDI 5040.05, Alteration of Official DoD Imagery, can be found at:

AFI 35-101, Public Affairs Policies and Procedures can be found at:

AFI 33-117, Multimedia Management, can be found at:


AFPAA: Refer all queries relating to the alteration of official DoD imagery to 703-696-1158.

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