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Photograph manipulation involves the transformation or alteration of a photograph using various methods and techniques to achieve desired results. Some photograph manipulations are considered to be skilful artwork, while others are considered to be unethical practices, especially when used to deceive the public. Other examples include being used for political propaganda, or to improve the appearance a product or person, or simply as entertainment or practical jokes.
Depending on the application and intent, some photograph manipulations are considered an art form because it involves the creation of unique images and in some instances, signature expressions of art by photographic artists. Ansel Adams employed some of the more common manipulations using darkroom exposure techniques, burning (darkening) and dodging (lightening) a photograph. Other examples of photo manipulation include retouching photographs using ink or paint, airbrushing, double exposure, piecing photos or negatives together in the darkroom, scratching instant films, or through the use of software-based manipulation tools applied to digital images. Software applications have been developed for the manipulation of digital images, ranging from professional applications to very basic imaging software for casual users.
Photo manipulation dates back to some of the earliest photographs captured on glass and tin plates during the 19th century. The practice began not long after the creation of the first photograph (1825) by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce who developed heliography and made the first photographic print from a photoengraved printing plate. Traditional photographic prints can be altered using various methods and techniques that involve manipulation directly to the print, such as retouching with ink, paint, airbrushing, or scratching Polaroids during developing (Polaroid art). Negatives can be manipulated while still in the camera using double-exposure techniques, or in the darkroom by piecing photos or negatives together. Some darkroom manipulations involved techniques such as bleaching to artfully lighten or totally wash-out parts of the photograph, or hand coloring for aesthetic purposes or to mimic a fine art painting.
In the early 19th century, photography and the technology that made it possible were rather crude and cumbersome. While the equipment and technology progressed over time, it was not until the late 20th century that photography evolved into the digital realm. At the onset, digital photography was considered by some to be a radical new approach and was initially rejected by photographers because of its substandard quality. The transition from film to digital has been an ongoing process, although much progress was made in the early 21st century as a result of innovation that has greatly improved digital image quality while reducing the bulk and weight of cameras and equipment.
An early example of tampering was in the early 1860s, when a photo 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. Another is exampled in the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalogue wherein it exposes a manipulated American Civil War photograph of General Ulysses S. Grant posing horseback in front of his troops at City Point, Virginia. Close analysis of the photograph raises questions and reveal certain details in the photograph that indicate it has been manipulated. For example, Grant's head is set at a strange angle to his body, his uniform is of a different time period, and his favorite horse Cincinnati did not have a left hind sock like the horse in the photograph, although his other horse Egypt did have a sock, but on a different foot. With further research, three different photographs were discovered that explained the composite using Grant's head from one photograph, the body of Major General Alexander McDowell McCook atop his horse from another photograph, and for the background, a 1864 photograph of Confederate prisoners captured at the Battle of Fisher's Hill. Queen Victoria herself once scratched out her own face on the negative of a family picture made in 1852, as she found herself 'horrid' looking. After this picture, she became more aware of how she looks in pictures and made sure to look a certain way.
In the 20th century, digital retouching became available with Quantel computers running Paintbox in professional environments, which, alongside other contemporary packages, were effectively replaced in the market by editing software for graphic imaging, such as Adobe Photoshop and GIMP.
Political and ethical issues
Photo manipulation has been used to deceive or persuade viewers or improve storytelling and self-expression. Often, even subtle and discreet changes can have a profound impact on how a photograph is interpreted or judged. As early as the American Civil War, photographs were published as engravings based on more than one negative. In 1860, a photograph of the politician John Calhoun was manipulated and his body was used in another photograph with the head of the president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. This photo credits itself as the first manipulated photo.
Joseph Stalin made use of photo retouching for propaganda purposes. On May 5, 1920 his predecessor Vladimir Lenin held a speech for Soviet troops that Leon Trotsky attended. Stalin had Trotsky retouched[when?] out of a photograph showing Trotsky in attendance. In a well known case of damnatio memoriae ("condemnation of memory") image manipulation, NKVD leader Nikolai Yezhov, after his execution in 1940, was removed from an official press photo where he was pictured with Stalin; historians subsequently nicknaming him the "Vanishing Commissar". Such censorship of images in the Soviet Union was common.
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.
Some ethical theories have been applied to image manipulation. During a panel on the topic of ethics in image manipulation Aude Oliva theorized that categorical shifts are necessary in order for an edited image to be viewed as a manipulation. In Image Act Theory, Carson Reynolds extended speech act theory by applying it to photo editing and image manipulations. In "How to Do Things with Pictures", William J. Mitchell details the long history of photo manipulation and discusses it critically.
Use in journalism
A notable incident of controversial photo manipulation occurred over a photograph that was altered to fit the vertical orientation of a 1982 National Geographic magazine cover. The altered image made two Egyptian pyramids appear closer together than they actually were in the original photograph. The incident triggered a debate about the appropriateness of falsifying an image, and raised questions regarding the magazine's credibility. Shortly after the incident, Tom Kennedy, director of photography for National Geographic stated, "We no longer use that technology to manipulate elements in a photo simply to achieve a more compelling graphic effect. We regarded that afterwards as a mistake, and we wouldn’t repeat that mistake today."
There are other incidents of questionable photo manipulation in journalism. One such incident occurred in early 2005 after Martha Stewart was released from prison. Newsweek used a photograph of Stewart's face on the body of a much slimmer woman for their cover, suggesting that Stewart had lost weight while in prison. Speaking about the incident in an interview, Lynn Staley, assistant managing editor at Newsweek said, "The piece that we commissioned was intended to show Martha as she would be, not necessarily as she is." Staley also explained that Newsweek disclosed on page 3 that the cover image of Martha Stewart was a composite.
Image manipulation software has affected the level of trust many viewers once had in the aphorism "the camera never lies". Images may be manipulated for fun, aesthetic reasons, or to improve the appearance of a subject but not all image manipulation is innocuous, as evidenced by the Kerry Fonda 2004 election photo controversy. The image in question was a fraudulent composite image of John Kerry taken on June 13, 1971 and Jane Fonda taken in August, 1972 sharing the same platform at a 1971 antiwar rally, the latter of which carried a fake Associated Press credit with the intent to change the public's perspective of reality.
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) established a Code of Ethics which promotes the accuracy of published images, advising that photographers "do not manipulate images [...] that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects." 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.
In 2010, a Ukrainian photographer – Stepan Rudik, winner of the 3rd prize story in Sports Features – was disqualified due to violation of the rules of the World Press Photo contest. "After requesting RAW-files of the series from him, it became clear that an element had been removed from one of the original photographs." As of 2015, up to 20% of World Press Photo entries that made it to the penultimate round of the contest were disqualified after they were found to have been manipulated or post-processed with rules violations.
Use in fashion
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 (what many consider to be a concerning element as many people look up to celebrities in search of embodying the 'ideal figure'). Manipulation of a photo to alter a model's appearance can be used to change features such as skin complexion, hair color, body shape, and other features. Many of the alterations to skin involve removing blemishes through the use of the healing tool in Photoshop. Photo editors may also alter the color of hair to remove roots or add shine. Additionally, the model's teeth and eyes may be made to look whiter than they are in reality. Makeup and piercings can even be edited into pictures to look as though the model was wearing them when the photo was taken. Through photo editing, the appearance of a model may be drastically changed to mask imperfections.
In an article entitled "Confessions of a Retoucher: how the modeling industry is harming women", a professional retoucher who has worked for mega-fashion brands shares the industry's secrets. Along with fixing imperfections like skin wrinkles and smoothing features, the size of the model is manipulated by either adding or subtracting visible weight. Reverse retouching is just as common as making models skinnier, “distorting the bodies of very thin models to make them appear more robust in a process called reverse retouching. It is almost worse than making someone slimmer because the image claims you can be at an unhealthy weight but still look healthy. In reality, you can't, you have to Photoshop it". Reverse retouching includes eliminating shadows from protruding bones, adding flesh over body parts, color correcting, and removing hair generated for warmth from extreme weight loss. Professionals are saying that if an image is not labeled "not retouched," then the public can assume that photograph has been modified. As the fashion industry continues to use photos that have been manipulated to idealize body types, there is a need for education about how unreal and unhealthy these images are and the negative implications they are promoting.
A digital manipulation expert, who edited and altered a lot of images for the fashion industry and wants to remain private, says it is normal to digitally manipulate a photograph of a model to make them appear thinner, regardless of actual weight. Generally, photographs are edited to remove the appearance of up to 10 kilograms (22 lb). However, in the past 20 years,[when?] the practice has changed, as more celebrities are on social media and the public is now more aware of their actual appearances; it is likely that significant alterations would be noticed. The retoucher notes that the industry's goal is to make significant income in advertising, and that the unrealistic ideals cycle will continue as they have to maintain this.
Since 2012, Seventeen Magazine announced they will no longer manipulate photos of their models. 14 year old Julia Bluhm petitioned that the magazine use a minimum of one unaltered photo in their spread. The petition received over 84,000 signatures.
Not only are photos being manipulated by professionals for the media, but also with the rise of social media, everyone has easy access to edit photos they post online. Countless mobile phone applications such as Facetune have been created to allow smartphone users to modify personal images. These applications allow people to edit virtually every aspect of themselves in the photo. With social media users and the younger generation being exposed to an extreme amount of imagery that has been manipulated, the consequences include body ideals that are unachievable.
Photo manipulation has been used in advertisement for television commercials and magazines to make their products or the person look better and more appealing than how they look in reality. Some tricks that are used with photo manipulation for advertising are: fake grill marks with eye-liner, using white glue instead of milk, or using deodorant to make vegetables look glossy.
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 that "[we] must stop exposing impressionable children and teenagers to advertisements portraying models with body types only attainable with the help of photo editing software". These include Keira Knightley, Brad Pitt, Andy Roddick, Jessica Simpson, Lady Gaga and Zendaya.
Brad Pitt had a photographer, Chuck Close, take photos of him that emphasized all of his flaws. Chuck Close is known for his photos that emphasize all skin flaws of an individual. Pitt did so in an effort to speak out against media using image manipulation software and manipulating celebrities' photos in an attempt to hide their flaws. Kate Winslet spoke out against photo manipulation in media after GQ magazine altered her body, making it look unnaturally thin. 42-year-old Cate Blanchett appeared on the cover of Intelligent Life's 2012 March/April issue, makeup-free and without digital retouching for the first time.
In April 2010, Britney Spears agreed to release "un-airbrushed images of herself next to the digitally altered ones". The fundamental motive behind her move was to "highlight the pressure exerted on women to look perfect". In 2014, Hungarian pop vocalist and songwriter Boggie produced two music videos that achieved global attention for its stance on whitewashing in the beauty industry: the #1 MAHASZ chart hit "Parfüm" (Hungarian version) and "Nouveau Parfum" (French version) from her self-titled album Boggie, which reached two Billboard charts (#3 Jazz Album, #17 World Music Album). In the videos, the artist is shown singing as she is extensively retouched in real-time, ending with a side-by-side comparison of her natural and manipulated images as the song fades out.
Multiple companies have begun taking the initiative to speak out against the use of photo manipulation when advertising their products. Two companies that have done so include Dove and Aerie. Dove created the Dove Self-Esteem Fund and also the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty as a way to try to help build confidence in young women. They want to emphasize what is known as real beauty, or untouched photographs, in the media now. Also, Aerie has started their campaign #AerieREAL. They have a line of undergarments now that goes by that name with the intention of them being for everyone. Also, their advertisements state that the model has not been retouched in any way. They also add in their advertisements that "The real you is sexy."
The American Medical Association stated that is opposed to the use of photo manipulation. Dr. McAneny[who?] made a statement that altering models to such extremes creates unrealistic expectations in children and teenagers regarding body image. He also said that the practice of digitally altering the weight of models in photographs should be stopped, so that children and teenager are not exposed to body types that cannot be attained in reality. The American Medical Associations as a whole adopted a policy to work with advertisers to work on setting up guidelines for advertisements to try to limit how much digital image manipulation is used. The goal of this policy is to limit the amount of unrealistic expectations for body image in advertisement.
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. 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.
In 2015, France proceeded to pass a law that battles against the use of unrealistic body images and anorexia in the fashion industry. This includes modeling and photography. The models now have to show they are healthy and have a BMI of over 18 through a note from their doctor. Employers breaking this law will be fined and can serve a jail sentence up to six months. When a creator of a photograph does not disclose that the picture is edited or retouched, no matter how small the edit, they may also receive a fine or 30% of the costs of what they used to create their ad.
Some editors of magazine companies do not view manipulating their cover models as an issue. In an interview with the editor of the French magazine Marie Claire, she stated that their readers are not idiots and that they can tell when a model has been retouched. Also, some who support photo manipulation in the media state that the altered photographs are not the issue, but that it is the expectations that viewers have that they fail to meet, such as wanting to have the same body as a celebrity on the cover of their favorite magazine.
Surveys have been done to see how photo manipulation affects society and to see what society thinks of it. One survey was done by a fashion store in the United Kingdom, New Look, and it showed that 90% of the individuals surveyed would prefer seeing a wider variety of body shapes in media. This would involve them wanting to see cover models that are not all thin, but some with more curves than others. The survey also talked about how readers view the use of photo manipulation. One statistic stated that 15% of the readers believed that the cover images are accurate depictions of the model in reality. Also, they found that 33% of women who were surveyed are aiming for a body that is impossible for them to attain.
Dove and People Weekly also did a survey to see how photo manipulation affects the self-esteem of females. In doing this, they found that 80% of the women surveyed felt insecure when seeing photos of celebrities in the media. Of the women surveyed who had lower self-esteem, 70% of them do not believe that their appearance is pretty or stylish enough in comparison to cover models.
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". 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,[timeframe?] 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.
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A digital fake refers to a digital video, photo, or audio file that has been altered or manipulated by digital application software. Deepfake videos fall within the category of a digital fake media, but video may be digitally altered without being considered a deepfake. The alterations can be done for entertainment purposes, or more nefarious purposes such as spreading disinformation. The information can be used to conduct malicious attacks, political gains, financial crime, or fraud. It can also be used in pornographic style videos, where an individual's face is placed on the body of a porn star.
As journalists we believe the guiding principle of our profession is accuracy; therefore, we believe it is wrong to alter the content of a photograph in any way that deceives the public. As photojournalists, we have the responsibility to document society and to preserve its images as a matter of historical record. It is clear that the emerging electronic technologies provide new challenges to the integrity of photographic images ... in light of this, we the National Press Photographers Association, reaffirm the basis of our ethics: Accurate representation is the benchmark of our profession. We believe photojournalistic guidelines for fair and accurate reporting should be the criteria for judging what may be done electronically to a photograph. Altering the editorial content ... is a breach of the ethical standards recognized by the NPPA.
Historical image manipulations
An iconic portrait of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln was a composite of Lincoln's head and the Southern politician John Calhoun's body. This is a very good example of a photograph that is very well known by the general public as a real photograph and not an altered one.
This picture shows Frances Griffiths, one of two cousins who featured in the images known as the "Cottingley Fairies". This photo was part of a series showing fairies made by the cousins. The photos became highly publicized with some people believing they were fake while others believed their authenticity. Later the cousins admitted that the pictures were not manipulated but that they made the fairies out of cardboard and staged them in the scene. Besides this confession the cousins still claimed that they had seen fairies.
Oprah Winfrey was on the cover of TV Guide in 1989. The picture showed a very slender-looking Winfrey in a dress that was recognized by actress Ann-Margret's fashion designer. It was revealed that the picture was actually a composite of Oprah's head spliced onto the body of Ann-Margret from a 1979 publicity shot. Neither Oprah Winfrey nor Ann-Margret had given permission for the composite to be created.
OJ Simpson (1994)
OJ Simpson's June 17, 1994 mugshot was used on the cover of Time and Newsweek magazines. Newsweek used the mugshot unaltered, whereas Time released one that made Simpson's face appear darker, blurrier and unshaven. This resulted in many people protesting Time for attempting to make Simpson appear guilty.
Tourist of Death (1997)
This picture was released to email and went viral after New York City was attacked on September 11, 2001. The title of the email was 'the tourist guy', 'the accidental tourist', 'Waldo' or the 'WTC Guy'. It showed a man standing on the observation deck of one of the World Trade Center towers, with an aircraft visible behind him on a collision course with the tower. When others started claiming to be the subject of the photo, a 25-year-old Hungarian man named Péter Guzli came forward and explained that he did not want any publicity.
"I'd like to keep my identity incognito ... This was a joke meant for my friends, not such a wide audience." Guzli had taken the picture in 1997 when he had visited relatives in New York; after 9/11, he edited the picture to make it appear as though he had been on the tower when the aircraft collided with it.
Hoping to illustrate its diverse enrollment, the University of Wisconsin at Madison doctored a photograph on a brochure cover by digitally inserting a black student in a crowd of white football fans. The original photograph of white fans was taken in 1993. The additional black student, senior Diallo Shabazz, was taken in 1994. University officials said that they spent the summer looking for pictures that would show the school’s diversity but could find none.
Walski forgery (2003)
In the early media coverage of the 2003 Iraq War, a minor controversy erupted when it was revealed that Los Angeles Times photographer Brian Walski had taken two images and made a more dramatic composite.
“When that guy came up with the baby, I shot off ten more frames. I had just one where you could see the soldier's face. The others he was turned away. I put four pictures on my laptop. I was going back and forth. There was no reason to do [what I did]. I was playing around a little bit. I said, 'that looks good.' I worked it and sent it.... I wasn't debating the ethics of it when I was doing it. I was looking for a better image. It was a 14 hour day and I was tired. It was probably ten at night. I was looking to make a picture. Why I chose this course is something I'll go over and over in my head for a long time. I certainly wasn't thinking of the ramifications”.
On April 1, Walski was fired.
Beatles Abbey Road (2003)
The original copy of the Beatles' Abbey Road album cover shows Paul McCartney, third in line, holding a cigarette. United States poster companies have airbrushed this image to remove the cigarette from McCartney’s hand. This change was made without the permission of either McCartney or Apple Records, which owns the rights to the image.
Kerry-Fonda Rally (2004)
A manipulated photograph surfaced during the U.S presidential campaign of John Kerry in 2004, causing serious controversy. The picture shows both Kerry and Jane Fonda speaking at an anti-war rally. Kerry's team quickly responded that while he did attend many rallies throughout the 1970s, and he did attend at least one with Jane Fonda (a September 1970 anti-war rally in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania of which there is a picture of Fonda with Kerry in the background), Kerry and Fonda never spoke together at any rallies.
Ralph Lauren (2009)
The most notorious example of extreme retouching in fashion advertising was made in a magazine advertisement by Ralph Lauren which depicted a heavily manipulated photo of model Filippa Hamilton. Many complaints were made saying that the image had impossibly inhuman proportions. A Ralph Lauren representative admitted to "poor imaging and retouching", and added, "we have learned that we are responsible for the poor imaging and retouching that resulted in a very distorted image of a woman’s body. We have addressed the problem and going forward will take every precaution to ensure that the calibre of our artwork represents our brand appropriately."
"Photoshop" as a verb
The terms "photoshop", "photoshopped" and "photoshopping", derived from Adobe Photoshop, are ubiquitous and widely used colloquially and academically when referencing image editing software as it relates to digital manipulation and alteration of photographs. The term commonly refers to digital editing of photographs regardless of which software program is used.
Trademark owner Adobe Inc. objected to what it referred to as misuse of their trademarked software, and considered it an infringement on their trademark to use terms such as "photoshopped" or "photoshopping" as a noun or verb, in possessive form or as a slang term. However, Adobe's attempts to prevent "genericization" or "genericide" of the company's trademark failed. Separately, the Free Software Foundation advises against using "photoshop" as a verb because Adobe Photoshop is proprietary software.
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. 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.
- Cottingley Fairies
- Derivative work
- Digital art
- Digital photograph restoration
- Error level analysis
- Image editing, the mechanics of altering images
- Kerry Fonda 2004 election photo controversy
- Pascal Dangin
- Photoshop contest
- Scientific misconduct#Photo manipulation
- Source criticism
- Straight photography
- SurfSafe, browser extension for detecting altered images
- Tobacco bowdlerization
- Truth claim (photography)
- Visual arts
- Whitewashing (beauty)
- 2006 Lebanon War photographs controversies
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The term photoshopping is a neologism, meaning "editing an image", regardless of the program used.
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And with digital photography, there is also the possibility of photoshopping – digitally editing the representation to make it more aesthetically pleasing, or to change decisions about framing.
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Please avoid using the term 'photoshop' as a verb, meaning any kind of photo manipulation or image editing in general. Photoshop is just the name of one particular image editing program, which should be avoided since it is proprietary. There are plenty of free programs for editing images, such as the GIMP [link in original].
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|Look up photoshop in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Photo manipulation.|
- Digital Tampering in the Media, Politics, and Law – a collection of digitally manipulated photos of political interest
- Hoax Photo Gallery – more manipulated photos
- Erased figures in Kagemni's tomb — discusses political image manipulation with an example from Ancient Egypt
- Creative Photo Manipulation - Why Is It Essential for Your Business