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Photograph manipulation

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Photograph manipulation


Photo manipulation (also called photoshopping or—before the rise of Photoshop software—airbrushing) is the application of image editing techniques to photographs in order to create an illusion or deception (in contrast to mere enhancement or correction) after the original photographing took place.[1]

Types of digital photo manipulation

In digital editing, photographs are usually taken with a digital camera and input directly into a computer. Transparencies, negatives or printed photographs may also be digitized using a scanner, or images may be obtained from stock photography databases. With the advent of computers, graphics tablets, and digital cameras, the term image editing encompasses everything that can be done to a photo, whether in a darkroom or on a computer. Photo manipulation is often much more explicit than subtle alterations to color balance or contrast and may involve overlaying a head onto a different body or changing a sign's text, for example. Image editing software can be used to apply effects and warp an image until the desired result is achieved. The resulting image may have little or no resemblance to the photo (or photos in the case of compositing) from which it originated. Today, photo manipulation is widely accepted as an art form.

There are several subtypes of digital image-retouching:

Technical retouching

Manipulation for photo restoration or enhancement (adjusting colors / contrast / white balance (i.e. gradational retouching), sharpness, removing elements or visible flaws on skin or materials, ...)

Creative retouching

Used as an art form or for commercial use to create more sleek and interesting images for advertisements. Creative retouching could be manipulation for fashion, beauty or advertising photography such as pack-shots (which could also be considered inherently technical retouching in regards to package dimensions and wrap-around factors). One of the most prominent disciplines in creative retouching is image compositing. Here, the digital artist uses multiple photos to create a single image. Today, 3D computer graphics are used more and more to add extra elements or even locations and backgrounds. This kind of image composition is widely used when conventional photography would be technically too difficult or impossible to shoot on location or in studio.

History

Before computers, photo manipulation was achieved by retouching with ink, paint, double-exposure, piecing photos or negatives together in the darkroom, or scratching Polaroids. Airbrushes were also used, whence the term "airbrushing" for manipulation. Darkroom manipulations are sometimes regarded as traditional art rather than job related skill. In the early days of photography, the use of technology was not as advanced and efficient as it is now. Results are similar to digital manipulation but they are harder to create.[2]

An early example of tampering was in the early 1860s, when a photo of Abraham Lincoln was altered using the body from a portrait of John C. Calhoun and the head of Lincoln from a famous seated portrait by Mathew Brady – the same portrait which was the basis for the original Lincoln five-dollar bill.[3]

The 1980s saw the advent of digital retouching with Quantel computers running Paintbox, and Scitex imaging workstations being used professionally. Silicon Graphics computers running Barco Creator became available in the late 1980s which, alongside other contemporary packages, were effectively replaced in the market by Adobe Photoshop.

Political and ethical issues

Joseph Stalin pictured with the "Vanishing Commissar" (Nikolai Yezhov) before retouching...
...and after

Photo manipulation is as old as photography itself, contrary to the idea of a photo having inherent verisimilitude.[dubious ] Photo manipulation has been regularly used to deceive or persuade viewers, or for improved storytelling and self-expression. Often even subtle and discreet changes can have profound impacts on how we interpret or judge a photograph which is why learning when manipulation has occurred is important. As early as the American Civil War, photographs were published as engravings based on more than one negative.

Joseph Stalin made use of photo retouching for propaganda purposes.[4] On May 5, 1920 his predecessor Vladimir Lenin held a speech for Soviet troops that Leon Trotsky attended. Stalin had Trotsky retouched out of a photograph showing Trotsky in attendance. In a well known case of damnatio memoriae image manipulation, NKVD leader Nikolai Yezhov (the "Vanishing Commissar"), after his execution in 1940, was removed from an official press photo where he was pictured with Stalin.[5] (For more information, see Censorship of images in the Soviet Union.)

The pioneer among journalists distorting photographic images for news value was Bernarr Macfadden: in the mid-1920s, his "composograph" process involved reenacting real news events with costumed body doubles and then photographing the dramatized scenes—then pasting faces of the real news-personalities (gathered from unrelated photos) onto his staged images. In the 1930s, artist John Heartfield used a type of photo manipulation known as the photomontage to critique Nazi propaganda.

Some ethical theories have been applied to image manipulation. During a panel on the topic of ethics in image manipulation[6] Aude Oliva theorized that categorical shifts are necessary in order for an edited image to be viewed as a manipulation. In Image Act Theory,[7] Carson Reynolds extended speech act theory by applying it to photo editing and image manipulations. In How to Do Things with Pictures,[8] William Mitchell details the long history of photo manipulation and discusses it critically.

Use in journalism

A notable case of a controversial photo manipulation was a 1982 National Geographic cover in which editors photographically moved two Egyptian pyramids closer together so that they would fit on a vertical cover. This case triggered a debate about the appropriateness of photo manipulation in journalism; the argument against editing was that the magazine depicted something that did not exist, and presented it as fact. There were several cases since the National Geographic case of questionable photo manipulation, including editing a photo of Cher on the cover of Redbook to change her smile and her dress. Another example occurred in early 2005, when Martha Stewart's release from prison was featured on the cover of Newsweek; her face was placed on a slimmer woman's body to suggest that she had lost weight while in prison.[9]

Another famous instance of controversy over photo manipulation, this time concerning race, arose in the summer of 1994. After O.J. Simpson was arrested for allegedly murdering his wife and her friend, multiple publications carried his mugshot. Notably, Time published an edition featuring an altered mugshot credited to Matt Mahurin, removing the photograph's color saturation (perhaps inadvertently making Simpson's skin darker),[10] burning the corners, and reducing the size of the prisoner ID number. This appeared on newsstands right next to an unaltered picture by Newsweek.

A further noted example is the Adnan Hajj photographs controversy (2006), when the photographer in question retouched war images using the clone tool to increase the size of a smoke plume and to duplicate flares.

Photo manipulation alters the content of the images in a devious manner. It becomes difficult for the audience to differentiate between a manipulated image and reality. But Photoshop's popularity has proven to be divisive. While some laud it for its ability to allow subjects to look their best in a photograph, others see it as a vehicle for feeding our culture's desire for ultimate perfection. Manipulated images are created to deceive the audiences and form their understanding on how the media presents everything with perfection.[11] Therefore, with digital democratization increasing at a rapid rate it is creating problems. Since more people have access to technology it creates curiosity in the readers mind when they see an image published in newspapers or magazines. The reader begins to question the ethics of the publication which results in a debate. Photo images were considered as a reliable source and were known as a medium of communication to present the truth to the media.[2]

There is a growing body of writings devoted to the ethical use of digital editing in photojournalism. In the United States, for example, the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) have set out a Code of Ethics promoting the accuracy of published images, advising that photographers "do not manipulate images [...] that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects."[12] Infringements of the Code are taken very seriously, especially regarding digital alteration of published photographs, as evidenced by a case in which Pulitzer prize-nominated photographer Allan Detrich resigned his post following the revelation that a number of his photographs had been manipulated.[13]

Use in glamour photography

The photo manipulation industry has often been accused of promoting or inciting a distorted and unrealistic image of self; most specifically in younger people. The world of glamour photography is one specific industry which has been heavily involved with the use of photo manipulation (an obviously concerning element as many people look up to celebrities in search of embodying the 'ideal figure').[14]

Celebrities against photo manipulation

Photo manipulation has triggered negative responses from both viewers and celebrities. This has led to celebrities refusing to have their photos retouched in support of The American Medical Association that has decided to “take a stand against rampant photo retouching, declaring the practice detrimental to your health.”[15] These include: Keira Knightley, Brad Pitt, Andy Roddick, Kim Kardashian, and Jessica Simpson.

In April 2010, Britney Spears agreed to release "un-airbrushed images of herself next to the digitally altered ones".[14] The fundamental motive behind her move was to "highlight the pressure exerted on women to look perfect".[14] In addition, 42-year old Cate Blanchett also appeared on the cover of "Intelligent Life’s 2012 March/April" issue ; makeup free and without digital retouching for the first time.[16]

Governments against excessive photo manipulation

Governments are exerting pressure on advertisers, and are starting to ban photos that are too airbrushed and edited. In the United Kingdom the Advertising Standards Authority has banned an advertisement by Lancôme featuring Julia Roberts for being misleading, stating that the flawless skin seen in the photo was too good to be true.[17] The US is also moving in the direction of banning excessive photo manipulation where a CoverGirl model's ad was banned because it had exaggerated effects, leading to a misleading representation of the product.[18]

Social and cultural implications

The growing popularity of image manipulation has raised concern as to whether it allows for unrealistic images to be portrayed to the public. In her article "On Photography" (1977), Susan Sontag discusses the objectivity, or lack thereof, in photography, concluding that "photographs, which fiddle with the scale of the world, themselves get reduced, blown up, cropped, retouched, doctored and tricked out".[19] A practice widely used in the magazine industry, the use of photo manipulation on an already subjective photograph, creates a constructed reality for the individual and it can become difficult to differentiate fact from fiction. With the potential to alter body image, debate continues as to whether manipulated images, particularly those in magazines, contribute to self-esteem issues in both men and women.

In today's world, photo manipulation has a positive impact by developing the creativity of one's mind or maybe a negative one by removing the art and beauty of capturing something so magnificent and natural or the way it should be. According to the Huffington Post, “Photoshopping and airbrushing, many believe, are now an inherent part of the beauty industry, as are makeup, lighting and styling”. In a way, these image alterations are “selling” actual people to the masses to affect responses, reactions, and emotions toward these cultural icons.[20]

Photoshopping

Photoshopping is a neologism for the digital editing of photos.[21][22] The term originates from Adobe Photoshop, the image editor most commonly used by professionals for this purpose;[23] however, any image-editing program could be used, such as Paint Shop Pro, Corel Photopaint, Pixelmator, Paint.NET, or GIMP.[24] Adobe Systems, the publisher of Adobe Photoshop, discourages use of the term "photoshop" as a verb out of concern that it may become a generic trademark, undermining the company's trademark.[25]

Despite this, photoshop is widely used as a verb, both colloquially and academically, to refer to retouching, compositing (or splicing), and color balancing carried out in the course of graphic design, commercial publishing, and image editing.[26][27]

In popular culture, the term photoshopping is sometimes associated with montages in the form of visual jokes, such as those published on Fark and in MAD Magazine. Images may be propagated memetically via e-mail as humor or passed as actual news in a form of hoax.[28][29] An example of the latter category is "Helicopter Shark," which was widely circulated as a so-called "National Geographic Photo of the Year" and was later revealed to be a hoax.[30]

See also

References

Further reading

External links

  • DigitalCustom Model Ethics Guidelines
  • Digital Tampering in the Media, Politics and Law – a collection of digitally manipulated photos of political interest
  • Hoax Photo Gallery – more manipulated photos
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