Photo Manipulation

October 6, 2008

Pictures are worth a thousand words. Pictures are frames in time. Pictures capture reality..well most of the time.

A good picture can enhance a story or feature ten times. They give the reader a clear visual and launch them to the scene as if they were there. Many journalists, photographers, and government officials stay true to media ethics and post untampered pictures, however, thanks to the rise of digital photo-manipulation, there has been an increase in altering pictures to a desired effect.

This isn’t new and can be traced back to when photography was invented, but the problem is becoming more dire due to the immediacy that news can received around the world. Any altered picture can effect millions of people in the blink of an eye.

The most problematic alterations are the ones of course that embellish a scene enough that they change the context, and possibly affecting the public’s views.

This first photo alteration is from a pamphlet for the University of Wisconsin at Madison which was supposed to portray its diversity.

The image on the left is the altered image with an African American student's head inserted. The image on the right is the original image with only white students.

The image on the left is the altered image with an African American student's head. The image on the right is the original image with only white students.

Or in a more severe text, when the U.S. Army released photos of two deceased soldiers at Fort Stewart in Georgia in September, 2008, seen here

The man on the left is a composite of the right man's body and his own head.

The man on the left is a composite of the right man's body and his own head.

Then there are less severe photo alterations that don’t necessarily hurt anyone or change someone’s perspective, but still morph reality none the less. Here is the cover of a National Geographic in February of 1982. The Great Pyramids of Giza were squeezed together to create a more aesthetically pleasing cover.

It’s common knowledge that many magazines alter their models with an airbrush and other tools to the extent that they don’t look like themselves, and this seems to be allowed…unless it is a famous person, then the magazines are accused of not portraying them as their true selves. It’s acceptable for models, but not “real” people?

In addition, often, after a print company publishes a photoshopped picture, they will write on the inside cover an exclaimer letting readers know that the photo has been digitally altered. Is this acceptable?

That is a tough question. I say that pictures are meant to capture the truth. Any alteration of any kind is a distortion of reality. But what if your camera doesn’t capture the colors the way they were and you want to enhance the blue sky?

It’s a tough call to make about the limitations of photo manipulation. My final say is that as a photographer, journalist, or any kind of media official, it is your responsibility to deliver the truth to the public. Alterations should not be made unless it is an unofficial type of graphic design media or a personal media to express your creativity or humor.

You can visit the photo tampering site I got my pictures from here

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One Response to “Photo Manipulation”

  1. jennbmackay Says:

    Excellent examples.


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