As with any conflict, photographers are at the heart of the propaganda war - with both sides attempting to use the power of the camera to their own ends.
Yesterday’s announcement by Reuters that it has withdrawn all the pictures taken by Adnan Hajj (one of its stringers in Lebanon), following his use of Photoshop to manipulate two images, has meant all of us need to understand the processes by which these pictures are obtained and used.
I asked the BBC News website's picture editor, Phil Coomes, to explain some of the background to the images we can easily take for granted.
- "At the BBC News website we rely on a number of international news agencies to provide us with the majority of our still images. Trusted and well established names such as the Associated Press and Agence France Press sit beside new players in the game such as Getty News Images.
- "All of these companies have their own staff photographers who work alongside local freelancers around the world - forwarding their pictures to an editor who will then send it on to their subscribers.
- "At the BBC we receive over 5,000 pictures per day on the picture wire service; ten years ago it would have been less than 500. News websites need vast quantities of pictures and often in real-time - the days of a photographer providing the one defining image for a newspaper front page are long gone.
- "All the pictures we use are checked for any obvious editing - the easiest to spot being cloning of parts of the image (which appeared to be what happened in this example).
- "Today a photographer working in the field is under more pressure than ever, especially in a combat zone. He or she no longer has to just take the pictures, not to mention ensure they are in the right place to begin with, but they also have to edit, caption and transmit them.
- "For this and other reasons photographers often work together, so at any major event you will usually have a number of sources to compare against each other - giving a good indication as to the basic truth of the picture.
- "The Qana pictures are interesting, in that there are many ways to interpret the images. The basic truth is undeniable, but with so many photographers all shooting the same event, and filing many alternative pictures to their agencies, the sequence of events is hard to pin down.
- "To some extent the presence of a camera will alter the event, but it’s up to those on the ground to work around this and present us with an objective a view as possible.
- "Digital photography has altered the landscape of photojournalism like nothing before it, placing the photographers in total control of their output. All the news agencies have photo ethics policies, many of which are rooted in the days of film. The standard line is that photographers are allowed to use photo manipulation to reproduce that which they could do in the darkroom with conventional film.
- "This usually means, colour balance, 'dodging and burning', cropping, touching up any marks from dust on the sensor and perhaps a little sharpening. If we are honest though, an accomplished darkroom technician could do almost anything and there are many historical examples of people being airbrushed from pictures.
- "All this sounds fine until you look at the reality - one man’s colour balancing is another's grounds for dismissal.
- "By definition a photograph is a crop of reality, it’s what the photojournalist feels is important. But it doesn't equate to the whole truth, and perhaps we just need to accept that."
UPDATE (from Steve Herrmann): I should have said at the start - we didn't use the Reuters picture on the BBC News website.
But we have had some emails about another picture we used yesterday of a Lebanese woman in front of damaged buildings. We got the picture from AP and it was dated last Saturday but a reader pointed out it bore a resemblance to another picture - which we hadn't run - attributed to Reuters and dating from July.
It wasn't the same image, but conceivably could have been the same place and time. We weren't in a position to get to the bottom of this immediately ourselves so we decided to update the picture with a different, more recent image. But not before it was picked up by at least one blog.
Steve Herrmann is editor of the BBC News website