Imaging Ethics

Official Defense imagery includes all photographic and video images that are recorded or produced by persons acting for or on behalf of Department of Defense (DoD) activities, functions, or missions--regardless of the medium in which they are acquired, stored, or displayed. The alteration of official defense imagery by persons acting for or on behalf of the DoD is prohibited except as outlined below:

  • Ethics and guidelines used for creating and working with standard photography will be the same for digital imagery.
  • 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, geodesy, intelligence, medical, RDT&E (Research, Development, Test, and 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 and criminal investigation 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. However, cropping, editing, or image enlargement that has the effect of misrepresenting the facts or circumstances of the event or object as originally recorded constitutes a prohibited alteration.
  • The digital conversion and compression of photographic and video 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 following conditions:
    • The enhancement does not misrepresent the subject of the original image.
    • 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.