Photoshopped? How Can You Tell?

Is that not the most genius idea for an art school marketing campaign that you’ve ever seen? (source)

Listen, we all know that magazines and billboards are photoshopped, right? If not, check out:

And editing itself is not evil. Check out this photo that I took in Europe. Not bad in its original form.

But after a few basic tweaks…voila!

It’s the same…but better. I didn’t make my chin smaller, or my arms thinner. I didn’t add items in the background…I just improved what was already a decent shot.

Do I need to disclose to you that I did that? Probably not. I think you can assume (I do!) that bloggers do some basic editing of their photos, just like they do with their writing.

The issue comes, I think, when you make major structural changes to a photo that a reasonable person could find misleading. Now, science backs me up.

Dr. Farid and Eric Kee, a Ph.D. student in computer science at Dartmouth, are proposing a software tool for measuring how much fashion and beauty photos have been altered, a 1-to-5 scale that distinguishes the infinitesimal from the fantastic.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/29/technology/software-to-rate-how-drastically-photos-are-retouched.html

Some cool dudes at Dartmouth actually created a tool that can help you see how much an image has been changed! It’s available here and features some examples. You can toggle back and forth between befores:

and afters:

and also get an idea of what, specifically, has been done.

So, let’s go further. Let’s say a magazine edits the white balance, tone and does some minor smoothening/softening of a model’s face. What score would that get, compared to a tabloid that added wrinkles, changed the background and gave the celebrity something in his/her hand that didn’t really exist. Which one is a bigger deal to you?

Would you be more likely to read said magazine if it disclosed its Photoshop score? Would you applaud that, or do you think it’s unnecessary? 

*all photos, except my example, are credited and sourced at http://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/farid/downloads/publications/pnas11/

 

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Comments

  1. says

    In that scenario you describe (white balance/tone vs. tabloid editing), I have zero problem with either. We know tabloids are disreputable. It doesn’t bother me, because it’s pure entertainment.

    I used to be completely anti-Photoshop, but have since relaxed. I don’t think it’s as big of a problem anymore because we are all now aware that Photoshop happens. Most people will say “Think of the children!” but even kids know about Photoshop and photo editing these days.

  2. says

    I think bloggers, unless they can get great pictures with just their camera, should learn basic photo editing skills. I also think photo editing software can be a creative expression as well. Not everyone will go into Lightroom and edit photos the same hence it can be artistic in its own right.

    Not against photoshop in magazines unless it’s for an ad selling something and there are before and after shots. Then again I don’t read magazines unless I’m in a Dr office so it’s really a non issue for me. I think the bigger problem I have with advertising is the mass consumerism it promotes. I think that is far more dangerous to society as a whole than if Madonna has less wrinkles in a magazine than in in real life. :-)

  3. says

    I think bloggers, unless they can get great pictures with just their camera, should learn basic photo editing skills. I also think photo editing software can be a creative expression as well. Not everyone will go into Lightroom and edit photos the same hence it can be artistic in its own right.

    Not against photoshop in magazines unless it’s for an ad selling something and there are before and after shots. Then again I don’t read magazines unless I’m in a Dr office so it’s really a non issue for me. I think the bigger problem I have with advertising is the mass consumerism it promotes. I think that is far more dangerous to society as a whole than if Madonna has less wrinkles in a magazine than in in real life. :-)

  4. says

    this is a great topic. It has always fascinated (and annoyed) me how they photoshop so much. I love before and after pictures. makes the people seem more human and realize that they are not perfect or extra super amazing people, they just pay a lot of money to look that way and have editing people fix their pictures!

  5. says

    I think that basic photo editing is ok in regards to lighting, tone, balance, maybe even skin smookthing, but when it gets to major alternations I start to have a problem with it. The amount of photoshopping that goes into magazine is ridiculous and scary. Even if we know that what we are seeing is fake it still takes a toll on our psyches.

    I’d love to see a major american magazine have an issue without any photoshopping, even in the ads.

  6. says

    I think I’m in the minority here (at least amongst healthy living bloggers) but I don’t think that photoshopping in magazines is necessarily a bad thing. Magazines are an example of advertising and the goal of advertising is to make you want to buy the product. I think that while it does reinforce the message that a certain look is “better” even if it’s unrealistic, that’s what sells the magazine. I also, and this is probably the graphic designer in me, think that using photoshop correctly is an art form. So many people say, “Oh, she photoshopped herself to look thinner” without realizing that it’s not that easy to do. I consider myself to be a fairly intermediate to advanced photoshop user and I don’t really know how to erase a double chin without making the person look really weird.

    That said, I think the Dartmouth tool is cool and it’s fun to see what’s been doing, but I don’t think magazines have any obligation to disclose it.

  7. says

    I’m pretty good at detecting PS’ed pics. But probably because I’m married to a graphic artist who has pointed it out to me for years. So, now I just see it.

    I don’t think it’s necessary for a magazine to disclose anything. Is it going to make me feel better? No. Even the untouched photos look better than I do in most pictures. That’s what the magazines do – give the best possible presentation to sell issues. I think the only time it might be necessary is if the model/celebrity in the picture didn’t approve.

  8. says

    I don’t have any issue with edited photos when it comes to lighting, color, balance, etc. The ones that seriously bug me is when they thin people out and smooth them to the point where they don’t look like people. Or completely unlike themselves. I can’t tell you how many times I look at magazine covers and I have to dig deeper to figure out who the celebrity on the cover is because they just look…alien! So not like themselves.

  9. says

    So this is somewhat of a tangent from the original discussion, but when I went to Vegas last week, we decided to go to the wax museum. The figures are purportedly just like the real people and I was really shocked by how normal-sized the wax figures were. People who look ridiculously thin on magazine covers just looked thin in wax form. And short. Of course, I love that!

    I know that there is a lot of photoshopping on magazines, but it’s still depressing when tabloids call someone fat (Kim Kardashian comes to mind) who no doubt is smaller than I am. It’s an impossible standard.

  10. says

    I think the difference is intent. If you’re photoshopping to make something brighter or have higher or less contrast so it shows better on paper, that’s one thing. If you’re photoshopping to make someone who’s a size 2 into a size 0, that’s another.

  11. says

    I don’t mind photo shopping necessarily because I can spot it. Having magazines disclose how much they did or didn’t photo shop won’t make me buy it more. Well done photo shopping isn’t a problem. Poorly done photo shop does no one any good…not the magazine, the reader or the model/celebrity. Even with all the knowledge of photo shopping now it won’t stop and it’s more about understanding a photo doesn’t always show the true details…even blogger photos.

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