In a recent exercise you manipulated a photograph of a musician to make him look more handsome and more traditional. And you have just modified a picture of elephants to make them look like wild elephants. In both cases you are guilty of fraudulent image manipulation or 'fauxtography'! It is easy to manipulate photographs with powerful software like the GIMP with the intent of deceiving people, and since this practice is becoming more common it is worth a special page. The most important thing is for you to ask yourself "how acceptable it is to modify photographs in order to change the viewers reaction to the photo?" Is it OK to use the GIMP to modify the photo you took of Grandma by removing or softening some of the wrinkles in the photo? Is it OK to modify the photo of the house you're trying to sell by replacing the gray Belgian sky in the photo with a much-less-typical blue sky taken from another photo? (This is a fairly common technique used by Belgian estate agents.)
A number of photographs that have appeared in the media in recent years have turned out to be fraudulent - they had been modified to make them more dramatic or to manipulate the truth. Some examples:
The first photo below was obtained by Agence France-Presse - it shows the test-firing of some missiles somewhere in the Middle East. It was used on the front pages of The Los Angeles Times, The Financial Times, The Chicago Tribune and several other newspapers as well as on BBC News, MSNBC, Yahoo! News, NYTimes.com and many other major news Web sites. Look at the photo carefully - does it look suspicious in any way?
Some people noticed that the pattern of stirred-up dust on the ground under the two rightmost rockets is very similar and the smoke patterns under the middle two rockets are also very similar. You may also be able to detect that the sky around the third rocket seems a little too light in colour? Here are the suspicious areas highlighted:
A confirmation that the image had been fraudulently manipulated came when the following photo came to light. It was clearly taken from almost the same location at almost the same moment as the first photo but shows only three rockets in the air. Conclusion? One of the rockets had failed to fire so the photo was manipulated to hide this fact. (Or is the photo below the fake???)
Image manipulation (e.g. to make women look more beautiful) is common practice in magazines. The magazine makers claim that this is OK because their readers are smart enough to know that most of the images have been manipulated, but are the readers really that smart? The animated image below shows thecover of Redbook magazine, July 2007 and the original. How many differences can you spot?
The above photo shows 1999 Scientology event in Los Angeles. It shows clear evidence of Photoshop "cloning." In the cloning technique, details in one area of a photo are copied and then repeatedly pasted in another area to fill space. In this photo above, the cloning was used to copy individuals (see woman right of red patch) and repeatedly paste them to expand the audience.
A hoaxer took an existing photo of Obama, see top image, and added a cigarette. The Photoshopped image, on bottom, circulated the Internet during the 2008 campaign. Barack Obama, a former smoker, admitted to sometimes lighting up a cig or two during the stressful campaign, but this photo is a fake.
Another president, Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy, was photographed canoeing in August 2007. The photo was modified by Paris Match magazine before they published it...
Celebrity culture and sales require ageless beauty... even if it has long faded. 'My Pinoy Humor Blog' apparently found some "before and after" images of a recent photo shoot of Madonna...
Spot the difference between these two pictures of British supermodel Twiggy, both taken recently when she was 59. The manipulated photo on the left was used in an advertising campaign for Olay cosmetic creams. The one on the right was not altered, and shows Twiggy at her local supermarket.
According to an article in the Daily Mail, airbrushing expert Michelle Facey of Facey Media said the amount of work done to wizard away the signs of aging in the advert picture was 'a sham' and 'totally misleading to the customer'.
Finally, here are two photographs showing General Dunwoody, the highest ranking female military officer in the US Army. In the original photo she is sitting at a desk with a bookshelf behind her but the altered photo, distributed by the army and initially sent by the Associated Press news agency (AP) to its clients around the world, shows General Dunwoody against a background of the stars and stripes. When the digital alteration was discovered, AP immediately withdrew the photo and began an investigation. AP says that adjusting photos and other imagery, even for aesthetic reasons, damages the credibility of the information distributed by the military to news organizations and the public.
The video below shows an interview with a photographer who explains how magazines almost always manipulate photos.
A November 2009 article in the French newspaper 'The Connexion' reports that a French MP has proposed a law requiring that images that have been touched up by computer should carry a clear warning saying that they have been altered. 50 MPs have already backed the plan. Publishers ignoring the disclaimer would face fines of up to 37500 Euros. Would you be in favour of a similar law for Belgium or the UK? Do you think that such a law could be applied effectively?
See also (don't miss the first two!):
and don't miss this possibly faked video.