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The Media

Photographer Fired For Digitally Altering Photo 751

bewert writes "A sign of things to come? Is this kind of thing happening without anyone catching it? This short article notes that war photog Brian Walski was fired for combining elements from two photos to make one with 'better composition'. Here is the 'Editor's Note' detailing the transgression. It's not really highlighted on their front page ;) I wonder how often this type of Photoshopping is done without anyone noticing it? To paraphrase Pink Floyd, "Mother, should I trust the government?"..." Another submitter points out an article examining digitally altered magazine covers. Slashdot has done several stories on unnoticeable digital alterations; here's 1, 2, 3 old stories to peruse.
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Photographer Fired For Digitally Altering Photo

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  • by Drunken Coward ( 574991 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @03:45PM (#5646448)
    Great, this is just what we need: another reason for Bill O'Reilly to get his panties in a twist over the LA Times.

    He already seems to think they are actively aiding the Iraqis by spreading propaganda, and this surely won't help sway his opinion.
    • by nomadic ( 141991 ) <nomadicworld@gma ... m minus language> on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @04:02PM (#5646650) Homepage
      Despite a tremendous expenditure of willpower, I just can't bring myself to give a damn what Bill O'Reilly thinks.
    • If anything, the altered photo is propaganda for the military, not those opposing the war. The real picture on the right shows a soldier seemingly pointing a machine gun of some kind at a man carrying a young child. The real picture on the left shows the gun pointing over the heads of people sitting down but also shows the soldier motioning the man with child to sit down just as the man starts to stand up or approach the soldier. The fake picture shows him motioning the man (now standing with child in ar
      • by Lord Ender ( 156273 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @04:44PM (#5647049) Homepage
        If the gun were pointing at the man and kid, you would be seeing the back end of it, not the side. Guns can't shoot out of the side. Just letting you know. Neither picture has the gun pointed at anyone.
      • by Megahurts ( 215296 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @04:49PM (#5647106)
        If they had used the real photo on the right, it would be a picture of an American soldier pointing a gun at a man carrying his child.


        It takes a severe cluelessness to draw that conclusion. It's obvious in the soldier's stance that he's not pointing anything at anyone, and furthermore, between his uniform, his weapon, and the supplemental information, he is quite clearly British.
      • The soldier also appears larger and more prominent in the altered photo. In the first original it looks like the Iraqis don't listen or maybe disobey him. The altered photo OTOH shows the soldier more "in control". Pretty subtle really, but it changes the mood of the picture. I wonder what the motivation of the photographer was.
      • by The Dobber ( 576407 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @05:18PM (#5647363)

        Did anybody notice Waldo in the doctored photo?

  • Gee, I saw the 3 photographs and really don't see what the big deal is.

    I can see firing the photographer if he was trying to make something appear to have happened that didn't. That's not the case here. The original and re-touched photograph are conveying the same thing. This is a tempest in a teapot.

    I bet that famous photo of the sailor swapping spit with that woman after the war was over was probably Photoshopped too! I bet he was smelling his arm and they inserted her into the scene. ;-)
    • by johnnyb ( 4816 ) <jonathan@bartlettpublishing.com> on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @03:51PM (#5646503) Homepage
      The point is that _anything_ doctored cannot be considered news. If that became standard practice it would be so easy to abuse.

      Pictures are taken as evidence to be an exact representation of what they are looking at. If you can't trust pictures in a newspaper or magazine, you can't trust the newspaper or magazine, period.

      This was definitely the right decision.
      • by ChaoticChaos ( 603248 ) <l3sr-v4cf.spamex@com> on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @03:55PM (#5646571)
        IMHO, that's too simplistic of a way to make a decision.

        I bet some of the cameras being used by the photographers don't have "red eye" reduction. Should they be fired too? Won't the red dot make the person look angry? ...and you're telling me that coverage of the news by the talking heads is pure fact and nothing else?

        C'mon folks, let's look at this more critically.

        • by FatRatBastard ( 7583 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @04:08PM (#5646715) Homepage
          I bet some of the cameras being used by the photographers don't have "red eye" reduction....

          C'mon folks, let's look at this more critically.


          Ok... red eye reduction removes something that wasn't there originally. Unless the person you took a photograph has bright red eyes you are removing something that the camera artifically inserted into the image. The same goes with removing lense flair, colour balance correction, etc. This is *totally* different than manipulating the image by adding or subtracting content.
          • Ok... red eye reduction removes something that wasn't there originally. Unless the person you took a photograph has bright red eyes you are removing something that the camera artifically inserted into the image.

            Not true at all. The back of the eye actually is red. When a bright light is shown directly into the iris, the tissue at the back can be seen. It really is red. You just don't see it because the iris is designed to capture light for viewing not reflect it but a camera flash sends too much light i
      • " The point is that _anything_ doctored cannot be considered news. If that became standard practice it would be so easy to abuse."

        So if the photographer poses the subjects, she should be fired? I don't think theres much difference between telling people where to stand before you take the shot and splicing them together after you take it. The journalistic principles that you are describing went overboard once prime time news became a big revenue generator for TV stations.

      • Who cares? The entire idea of an objective media is completely at odds with reality, and incidents like these merely serve to trumpet the media's own idea of itself. What the photographer did was entirely reasonable, however the media likes to pretend that they'd never show a doctored photograph, with the ridiculous conclusion that if photodoctoring was done often they'd eventually show a picture of George Bush shaking hands with Hitler someday.

        Look, either you trust your media outlet, or you don't. If

      • reaction shot (Score:4, Informative)

        by slew ( 2918 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:10PM (#5649633)
        I'm also in favor of the decision to let the photographer go, however, you should also aware that this kind of augmented reality place all the time in video, although not in the same way. Simple examples of temporal editing of video can create a false reality even when no pixels are doctored (this is an extension of this transgression, where the two pictures are real, but the composite is not).

        An all too common practice is a video interview technique called the "reaction shot". The way this interview production technique works is when you are interviewing someone, mostly the camera is on the interviewee, but sometimes you want the image to switch back you you while the interviewee is still talking (this is called an "reaction shot"). It can be certainly be used to manipulate the emotions of the viewer (imagine a picture of the interviewer rolling their eyes, or glaring angrily, etc, etc).

        When you see this on tv, one might think that there are two cameras and this is a contemporaneous view of you "reacting" while the interviewee is talking, but it isn't usually the case. Most reaction shots are filmed before or after the interview in the studio when the interviewee is not there since usually only one camera is used and the reaction shots are "insert-edited" with a contiguous audio track to lend the appearence of contemporaneous action.

        Ahh, the magic of television. Reaction shots are done to improve composition and production values (staring at the interviewee for a long time can make you turn the channel in boredom, and a wide pan with a single camera will get you sick like a ping-pong match). You might say that since the audio track is unedited, this is a fair representation of what occured during the interview, but it's easy to see how this can be a slippery slope. In fact in the hollywood movie, Broadcast News, they have an all too true scene about the reaction shot where William Hurt tries a few times to fake tears to improve a reaction shot.

        Although you might think that this "reaction shot" stuff is just a lot of hype, but during the Nixon-Kennedy presidential debates, it's widely thought that the reaction shots of Nixon fidgetting and sweating while Kennedy was talking likely contributed to Kennedy winning the presidency. Polling data taken after the debate seemed to give the edge to Nixon among those who heard the debate on radio, where the tv watchers gave the edge to Kennedy. You can thank Don Hewitt technical director in charge of the television switcher at the debates (who went on to be the executive producer of 60 Minutes).

        Here's a quote from a Boston Globe article which explored the question if this type of insert editing was "ethical" journalism. Something to think about when you are watching the evening news...

        In 1962, CBS president William Paley complimented correspondent Daniel Schorr on his interview with an East German leader. "What impressed me most," Paley said, "was how coolly you sat looking at hm while he talked to you like that."

        Schorr laughed. "Mr. Paley," he said, "surely you know that those were reaction shots, which were done later?"

        Paley, it seemed, didn't know. "Is that honest?" he asked.

        "That's a funny question," said Schorr. "I'm unconfortable answering it. But no, it's not."

        At Paley's instruction, CBS News established a policy prohibiting after-the-fact reaction shots. The policy was soon ignored.

        Source: Bruce McCabe, "A Hollywood Version of TV News and the Industry's Reaction to It," Boston Globe, 3 January 1988, p. B3.

    • The big deal is once it's okay to photoshop a news photo a little, then it will be okay to photoshop it a little more.

      Would people mind if audio or video had been changed? Where will it stop?
    • Looking over the pictures I'm trying to work out if there is any real difference in the meaning. In both of them I see a solider trying to calm someone down. In the combined photo I see the same. The message is the same but I can see some people saying that it is all for propoganda

      Rus
    • by YetAnotherAnonymousC ( 594097 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @03:55PM (#5646562)
      It's a slippery slope. Once it's OK to alter photos as long as you preserve the "theme," all that's left is for a newspaper with a deluded idea of the "theme" of a photo to seriously alter a photo's contents. This already happens all the time with quotations being taken out of context and having phrases parenthetised for "clarity".
    • It's called journalistic integrity. There is no difference between making something less real and pulling something out of your butt. More importantly, how would you like it if someone won a Pulitzer prize for a photograph that was slightly doctored because their Photoshop skills were superior? (Or worse, you got beat to someone who altered their photo?)
    • by rgmoore ( 133276 ) <glandauer@charter.net> on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @03:59PM (#5646607) Homepage

      I strongly disagree for two reasons. One is that the paper already had a stated policy of no alterations, period. Once that policy has been adopted, they have to follow it. Two is that they chose the right policy. There has to be a bright, obvious line between what is allowable and what isn't. If you let a photographer alter things for artistic effect then somebody has to sit there and decide in each case whether the changes are just artistic or if they've distorted the truth. Only by having an objective standard of no alterations at all can you avoid that problem.

    • If you look closely [latimes.com], you'll see that the digital composition implies that the soldier was directing the civilian with the baby in his arms, implying that this soldier was somehow comforting, directing or otherwise assisting this distressed person.

      The actual photos revels that the soldier's raised hand was either unseen by the civilian or directed to something else.

      That's art, not reporting. That's the big deal.
    • by PetiePooo ( 606423 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @04:05PM (#5646677)
      I can see firing the photographer if he was trying to make something appear to have happened that didn't. That's not the case here. The original and re-touched photograph are conveying the same thing. -- ChaoticChaos

      Fade into courtroom interior..
      "Your honor, prosecution presents exhibit A. We took the liberty of touching up this photo. While it still represents the events that took place the day Mr. Chaos murdered his girlfriend, it doesn't make anything appear to have happened that didn't. It conveys the same thing."

      "OBJECTION!!! Conjecture!"

      "Sustained! Counsel, please approach the bench."
    • by morcheeba ( 260908 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @04:05PM (#5646681) Journal
      In one picture, the soldier is waving his hand and the guy with the baby is ignoring him; in the touched up one, the baby-carrier is looking at the soldier. That's a significant difference - what is this soldier doing, and is he getting any respect? In the first picture, it looks like his hand is up just to counter-balance himself as he's walking. In the composite, it looks like he's waving at people and they are dutifully following his orders.

      I was the main non-sports fotographer for a newspaper in college & talked with my editor about this. Sure, you can digitally take out something as simple as a fence that's blocking a view, but then that implies that there is no fence to block the view (and thus no security/privacy barrier). And that's not the truth.

      So, I agree with the editors here. No manipulation should be tolerated at all. The covers of magazines are different, though (and legally recogonized as different, too) - they serve as an attraction to buy the magazine, and not news reporting.
    • by guido1 ( 108876 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @04:05PM (#5646688)
      Gee, I saw the 3 photographs and really don't see what the big deal is.

      Directly from the article:

      Journalism ethics forbid changing the content of news photographs, and it is specifically barred in the newspaper's policy.

      So, he violated his employers policy, and he exercised bad ethics. Pretty simple...
    • by doublem ( 118724 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @04:07PM (#5646708) Homepage Journal
      As a former journalism student and someone who has been in print a few times in High School and College, I think I can say what part of the Big Deal is.

      Journalism is supposed to be accurate and unbiased. In practice this rarely happens, but the theory is there. The paper has a policy forbidding the modifying of photos, and they enforce it.

      It's similar to the honor code many schools use. Cheating only hurts the student in the long run, but it can still get them kicked out of the school.

      The point is the moral and ethical code. Journalists have a moral imperative to report the truth, and any modification, any stretching of the truth is a step down a slippery slope towards outright lies and falsehoods.

      The photographer was fired for good reason. A modified photo is fine as a piece of "art" but as journalism it brings the entire publication's integrity and honesty into question.

      I could go on, but my hope is that the majority of the people reading this thread realize that what the photographer did was a violation. It's not like photoshopping a playboy shoot to remove a pimple. This is falsifying the news. It's a small fake, a minor tweak, but it's still presenting falsehood as reality.

      And before you make a wise ass reply about the fallacy of journalistic integrity in the real world, keep in mind, I did say "In practice this rarely happens".
      • by anonymous cupboard ( 446159 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @04:59PM (#5647214)
        I'm sorry, but a photo doesn't meen that much. Where I put the photo with regards to an apparently unrelated headline or another photo can slant the news.

        Sorry, a photograph, as in silver nitrate can be manipulated in the dark-room so why is anyone suprised about digital manipulation. The only difference is the process is faster and less smelly.

        As regards journalisitic integrity, I'm sorry but there is none. Most journalists give the reports that their employers want, i.e. "Is there anyone here who has been raped who speaks English?". Of course they only tell the truth but it is a keyhole view of the truth. Both the original photo and the presentation can change the perceived meaning 100%.

      • Journalism is supposed to be accurate and unbiased. In practice this rarely happens, but the theory is there. The paper has a policy forbidding the modifying of photos, and they enforce it.

        It's not enforced at any newspaper. Often just cropping the image can completely change the meaning of the photograph. Also dodging, burning, red eye removal is sometimes required to get a "professional looking" photo. I think he crossed the line, and they did the right thing. But I wish it were done to creative cropper
    • by BeBoxer ( 14448 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @04:18PM (#5646821)
      I would say the merged photo does not convey the same thing. The main difference being that the merged photo conveys the impression of the soldier and the man carrying the child interacting in some way. That impression is not conveyed by either of the original photos.

      You can argue that that impression isn't important, but the photographer obviously felt it was important enough to expend the effort to doctor the photos and risk his job doing it.
    • by Anonvmous Coward ( 589068 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @04:26PM (#5646874)
      "Gee, I saw the 3 photographs and really don't see what the big deal is."

      You should. One could invent history with Photoshop. If *any* retouches with Photoshop are allowed while covering a controversial war, then how can any images be trusted?

      Journalism is about reporting events, not about photographs with great comopositional value.

      I can see the photographer's point of view, though. A camera has a nasty way of lying. Do you have a messy room? Want to take a picture of a clean room? Then clean up a vey small portion of the room, then take a picture of the clean part. Boom, you have a picture of a clean room. Want to look like you're interested in athletics? Put on a baseball cap and have a picture taken of you holding a bat. Boom, now you look like somebody who's into sports.

      The job of a photographer is to tell a story with a single image. Unfortunately, there are rules about how to go about that in the case of journalism. If he really wanted to edit the image to tell the story better, then he should have done something to the image to make it obvious that it was altered. I'd suggest running a Photoshop filter that makes it look hand drawn or something. At least then it'd be percieved as a rendering and not draw so much hoopla.
    • Not only is it not accurate news (especially for a front page), but the final image conveys a different setting.

      Picture 1: Soldier holding hand out to distant crowd (seemingly no real threat)

      Picture 2: Soldier standing casually as a man with child nears (seemingly no real threat)

      Picture 3: Soldier holding hand out to man approaching with child in hand. This conveys a feeling of threat and tension that did not exist in either of the two pictures.

      So, it's subtle, but multiply that by millions that see
    • by Black Copter Control ( 464012 ) <samuel-local.bcgreen@com> on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @07:12PM (#5648502) Homepage Journal
      I can see firing the photographer if he was trying to make something appear to have happened that didn't.

      Er, um: Yes he did. The image that you see was an image of something that didn't happen. The two events (the civilian with the child walking and looking towards the soldier; and the soldier gesturing) took place at different times. When the photographer submitted the photo, he submitted it as an original photo -- not as a photo montage (which gets a different credit).

      It's not like the ability to seamlessly blend image and art is new.. it's just that it's now avaiable to mediocre talent like me.. (the background image on my home page [bcgreen.com] was edited to create edge-to-edge seamlessness). More than 15 years ago I ran across the talent of Tim Hammell [obsessionen.de]. He regularly does airbrush work to blend photography and fantasy. One image that he submitted to an airbrush contest was so masterful that the artists -- knowing that it had been altered that they made the unusual request of asking for the original (unretouched) image so that they could tell where the photo ended and the painting began.

      Whether photo-retouching is a 'problem' is very context sensitive. Doing it in MAD magazine, or 'Punch', for example, isn't a problem. We regularly expect touched up photos in the National Enquirer (you do, don't you?). On the other hand, we expect images in our newspapers to be either real photos or clearly documented as something different.

      A more touchy problem, though, is cosmetic editing.... "Retouching" an image to take out blotches and spots from the photographic process seems generally accepted. Removing makeup blotches on models doesn't create much of a stir. For some men's magazines, the airbrushing of boobs is a long-standing joke.
      On the other end of that same spectrum, we have things like air-brushing Lenin out of old Soviet historical photos. Changes like that can have historical significance, although the Soviets who did it might have tried to spin it as a 'cosmetic' change.

      The LA Times article goes towards the latter, in my view. It's not quite as bad as showing that same soldier 'gesturing [akamai.net]' in front of a crowd of seated, clapping neo-nazis -- but if you don't draw a line on the principle here, then where do you draw it?

  • Well at least he can still use his skills to win the Photoshop Contests at FARK [fark.com]
  • by amstrad ( 60839 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @03:48PM (#5646475)
    ... is that he made it so obvious: Only after the altered photo appeared Monday did editors notice that some civilians in the background appeared twice, the Times said.
  • But that Floyd quote does not refer to this situation. This is a PRIVATE news photographer, not the US Government.

    But in the end, is there really any "integrity" at stake here. If the photographer is better able to present the situation by combining elements of different photos together, does it matter to the public? We just want to get a feel for what's going on.
    • It's very relevant (Score:4, Insightful)

      by doublem ( 118724 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @04:15PM (#5646781) Homepage Journal
      News services do have an obligation to tell the truth. A falsified photo is a falsified photo, no matter what the intent or source. This is not a playboy or fashion model photo shoot. Journalists are supposed to be held to a different standard, where the truth is god, and reporting the truth is the most important thing.

      The fact that you can make such a statement is an indication that you don't see the difference between news and entertainment.
  • by LeBain ( 524613 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @03:50PM (#5646484)
    It really is scary when reporters, and now photographers, insert themselves into what must be factual reporting. The LA Times did the right thing. It's integrity is at stake.
    • It really is scary when reporters, and now photographers, insert themselves into what must be factual reporting. The LA Times did the right thing. It's integrity is at stake.

      I don't know if I am the only one, but to me, the altered photo told a different story that either of the two source photos, at least in degree. This is a text book case of why it is unethical to edit the content of a photo without explicitely stating so or presenting it as "art" rather than news.
  • by Gorbie ( 101704 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @03:50PM (#5646489) Journal
    If this were an artistic piece for a magazine, no problem. Hair on Christie Brinkley's upper lip, no problem.

    A war photo that is altered so the depiction is inaccurate is unacceptable on any scale. There is not concrete place you can draw a line and say "this much alteration is okay, but this much changes the story".

    News commentary can be editorialized by any anchor. Pictures and video have alway been held in higher standing for thier direct integrity. This will rais equestions.
    • I should have said a "newsworthy photo" and not a war photo.
    • I totally agree - this is a basic ground rule that must have immediate consequences for being broken, so out he goes. All too often people want to make excuses and let people off the hook, but that only serves to erode the integrity of the medium.
    • There is not concrete place you can draw a line and say "this much alteration is okay, but this much changes the story"

      I disagree. Some alterations can and must be done, some are acceptable, some are questionable, and yet others are downright unethical.

      Debayering the image that comes off the CCD is a must. Sharpening it a little to make up for the lack of resolution the CCD's color mask introduces is clearly in the acceptable category. Further sharpening to make the image come out in print better is (

      • You are nit-picking wording. The photographer altered the content.

        Nobody recognizes adding a sharpening filter as "alteration". It is enhancement. Getting rid of CCD artifacts does not change the content of the photo.

        Enhancing the lighting/brightness/sharpness of a photo is entirely necessary in the print world. The is especially true in newsprint. You could not print a photo without some enhancement, because the colorspace that digital imaging devices use is not a printable colorspace..
    • by isomeme ( 177414 ) <cdberry@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @04:47PM (#5647094) Homepage Journal
      The odd thing is that all photographs we see in print or on major media outlets are altered. Either in the darkroom or using a computer, photographs are routinely cropped, retinted, lightened or darkened, and otherwise manipulated to make them easier or more pleasing to view.

      Some will argue that this is qualitatively different from rearranging content in the photograph, but the line is actually rather vague. For example, if you show someone aiming a gun, but crop out the target they were aiming at, the nature of the image changes. If you manipulate light and dark areas to minimize or emphasize the size of a crowd, ditto. Yet this sort of manipulation is almost as old as the camera (and certainly extends back into painting and drawing, which are of course far more subjective).

      So the real issue is where to draw the line, given that image manipulation is happening all the time.
  • Ann Margaret's body [fno.org] back in 1989.

    Then there was Time darkening O.J. mugshot [nppa.org]

    Certainly nothing new.....
  • "Only after the altered photo appeared Monday did editors notice that some civilians in the background appeared twice"

    OK now fire Taco next time he posts a story twice !!
  • Should I trust... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    >> To paraphrase Pink Floyd, "Mother, should I trust the government?"..."

    The real question is
    Should I trust "Mainstream media".

    Add to this investiagte why Peter Arnett was fired from CNN a few years ago. Read what Harry Stein wrote in his Autobiography about stories he made up to make his political point.

    This is not the government, it's the free press.
  • huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bobman1235 ( 191138 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @03:52PM (#5646517) Homepage
    to paraphrase Pink Floyd, "Mother, should I trust the government?

    While I respect your taste in music -- HUH? The guy was an LA Times photographer. Nowhere does he state that he has any affiliation with the government. The modification in question does not actually change much in the photo (I do NOT deny that it is wrong, just stating that it is not in any way propoganda IN THIS CASE). Don't blame the government for EVERYTHING.

    In other news, Kudos to the times for catching the guy, and also for admitting and publishing the "error."
    • Re:huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by k3v0 ( 592611 )
      i dont think the government was what was meant. if it was truly a paraphrase, the editor should have said "mother can I trust the corporately funded news media outlet to give the truth regardless of whether or not they doctor the photos"
    • Re:huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Matt - Duke '05 ( 321176 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @04:36PM (#5646957)
      Right, the original poster was just pandering to the mindless slashbots who see anything negative or the least bit suspicious as a part of a conspiracy by the RIAA/MPAA/Microsoft/Federal Government to outlaw Linux, kill babies, and enslave the world. What's nice about it this time is that for once, the little snide commentary comes in italics, as part of the posters words. Nine times our of ten, similarly paranoid remarks appear as the EDITOR's words. If you believe that this LA Times reporter violated his committment to journalistic integrity and OBJECTIVITY by using these photos, I suggest you take a closer look at Slashdot itself. The spin that gets put on the articles is just absolutely ridiculous.

      On a side note... you might find it interesting to note that the United States Department of Defense wrote a memo entitled "An Assessment of International Legal Issues in Information Operations." Basically, the paper is a review of information warfare tactics, and an analysis of whether or not some aspects of information warfare violate the Geneva Convention and other international treaties regarding the rules of war. The report concludes that, "Similarly, it might be possible to use computer 'morphing' techniques to create an image of the enemy's chief of state informing his troops that an armistice or cease-fire agreement had been signed. If false, this would also be a war crime."

      So, despite the fact that the government had absolutely NOTHING whatsoever to do with this story, even if they did, the government cannot digitally alter wartime photos because it violates the Geneva Convention. Granted, there are other things that one might be inclined NOT to trust the government for, but this is NOT one of them. Please move along...

      -Matt
      • Re:huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Snaller ( 147050 )
        So, despite the fact that the government had absolutely NOTHING whatsoever to do with this story, even if they did, the government cannot digitally alter wartime photos because it violates the Geneva Convention

        Which only means that they'll declared the Geneva Convetion unapplicable and dot it anyway.
  • by apankrat ( 314147 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @03:53PM (#5646532) Homepage
    Which one is the original - this [msnbc.com] or this [milanet.ie].

    The consensus on the BBS I found these at was that both are touched. Go figure.
    • by SerialHistorian ( 565638 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @04:12PM (#5646760)
      They are both touched. In the msnbc.com one, you can see that the front underside of the tank has been retouched using the 'rubber stamp' tool. I'm not sure what's been removed, but it might be a piece of equipment. It seems that the boy was genuinely there, though. The shadows match. In the milanet.ie one, the boy has been removed. You can tell because the armored plates and cables that are along the front of the tank don't match up anymore. Additionally, there is some false shadowing on the underside of the gun barrel that I can't explain. I'm not sure that's a US tank, by the way.
    • Do it for a living (Score:5, Informative)

      by Keighvin ( 166133 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @05:50PM (#5647650)
      Okay, there have been several comments on this so far but I feel obligated to chime in since digital photo enhancement/adjustment/manipulation is part of my occupation.

      The photo, with the boy, is real. Dispite the fact that the selective discoloration appears to be conveniently placed on the tank directly behind him, those things do happen in photography. All the shadows match the lighting angles and the objects in the scene, given that the sun was at a very low angle and the shadows compressed (vertically, extended laterally) by the angle of the photographer. Any manipulation which may have been done is not distinguishable at this resolution.

      The boy *removed* is most obviously fabricated for reasons both editorial (with regards to composition) and technical. Technically: the yellow material visible against the structure in the background behind and underneath the tank (which looks to be signage or equipment, it's difficult to make out given the depth of field used) is utterly plagued by a patterned replication, showing unskilled cloning tool usage. The front armor is not only magically repaired in this version, but also has tiles which mirror each other at their joint. The now inexplicable shadow which matched the boy previously remains, and is too sharp to be cast in conjunction with the antenna (or whatever it may be) contributing to the one next to it, even given the vertical/perspective shadow compression which makes this a more forgiving detail.

      Editorially, that's *not* the way to shoot a tank. Were it the subject, the depth of field is acceptable but it's too large in frame which would distract from it; the image has also been shot to compress multiple planes of perspective, but the reasoning for that choice is completely devoid from this version. There remains no balance, sense of motion, or romanticism of the elements which would suggest this to be a professional photograph. Given that other talent is still obvious (use of lighting, combination of aperature use even with telephoto for precision DoF control) these omissions make it suspect. It's only when the relationship between tank and boy are present that the photo makes journalistic or artistic sense.

      It's like watching one of those "funniest home video" gag ("gag" is an editorial pun here on my part) shows where people start trying to pick apart how the situation could have happened or been staged, without noticing the signs which do not appear in *front* of the camera: filming scenes without significant memorable of photographic content, panning to locations before the action occurs in preparation, etc.

      There are multiple ways to tell a fake, and gentlemen I do tell you: the "no boy"'s a hack job.

      (As a slight aside, the tank appears to be Israeli given the modern hebrew writing thereon and was not in motion when the photograph was taken)
    • by dmeranda ( 120061 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @05:58PM (#5647750) Homepage

      The second one (without the boy) is obviously faked, and rather poorly. Some obvious indications:

      Look at the grassline underneath the tank. See the regular vertical bands on the concrete wall just above the grass and below the tank. Those lines fall in direct line with both the blocky pattern of the grass as well as small brighter higlights on the underneath side of the tank (look closely). Obviously stamping the same pattern across the image, but the stamp includes the grass, the wall, and part of the tank; a dead giveaway.

      On the front edge of the tank where the transition is to the underneath side there is a row of attached square reactive plate armor. Notice that above each is what looks like a horizontal hinge. Now on the second image those plates which fall behind where the boy should be have no attachment "hinge". And there are two out of place half-width plates where all other plates are more nearly square. Also the center outer block is missing...it would seem a lot easier to take this out than to put it in.

      Now look at the ground which lies behind where the boy's legs would be. There is a very definite line-pattern there that looks sort of like tread marks, but is too regular. It certainly doesn't match the texture of the rest of the dirt. Also at the angle in which the light is shining any horizontal tread marks, if there, should be pratically invisible. And you can also see the same block repeated several times...way to regular to be real.

      As for the first image, it's not as clearly a fake as the second. But there are small indications which look like some attempt was made to burn (lighten) parts of the tank underside, perhaps to provide more contrast? As another reader pointed out, the boy's empty hand has an unusual lightness to it as if a brush was swiped across it. Also the darker halo around the boy traces his outline fairly well, but especially under his armpit there is a clear circular curve where you can almost tell the exact brush size that had been used. Of course film optics can also produce this halo-like effect in certain light, so it's not clear cut.

      Of course this begs the question (if my analysis is correct), the second image where the boy was removed is definitely unethical for news reports. But is it unethical to do minor corrections such as white balancing, darking or lightening incorrect exposures, etc as maybe was been done to the first?

    • See http://king.fn.com.au/~srn/tank_diff.jpg one image minus the other. There's clearly been some work done around the boy, which indicates he was removed and some blending done to cover the gap.

      The shadows around his feet (of him) are unchanged in the shot without him, which implies also that he was in the original shot.
  • by friedegg ( 96310 ) <bryan@nOSPAM.wrestlingdb.com> on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @03:53PM (#5646533) Homepage
    That I bet a few photographers miss Stalin [amazon.com].
  • ...Wired.com reports an apparently widespread epidemic of news items secretly being churned out by armies of robots.

    One columnist from theregister.com claimed, "You can tell we're for real because of all teh typos."

  • I remember at the beginning of this war, we were seeing a lot of photos shot from suspicious angles. One of them some of you have probably seen.. it features a soldier, in the foreground, and two little kids in the background. From where it is shot, it looks exactly like he has the rifle trained on these poor kids heads, but if you stop and look at it for a while, you realize its just the way the sling has it hanging against his body.

    Being an amateur photographer, I can tell you that a good SLR lets you do
  • by PhantomHarlock ( 189617 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @03:54PM (#5646545)
    Altering the substantive content of news photos is like altering the facts in the story, and is a journalistic no-no. Small corrections for contrast and minor dodging and burning are acceptable (an example of what I think is not acceptable is when that image of O.J. Simpson was burned out to make him look really evil on that magazine cover...)

    Photography is already biased enough depending on what you LEAVE OUT of the photo, or how you juxtapose certain elements, or use telephoto to change the size-distance ratio of objects. Use a long enough lens, and it looks like the kid running across the street is about to be bowled over by the tank, when in fact the tank is a block away.


    Anything other than news photos and it's fair game.

  • by Ridge ( 37884 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @03:54PM (#5646551)
    I looked for 20 minutes and I couldn't find him anywhere!
    • Re:Where's Waldo? (Score:5, Informative)

      by shiflett ( 151538 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @04:36PM (#5646952) Homepage

      Assuming you are looking here [latimes.com], "Waldo" is (I think) a few different people, mainly the guy to the left on the soldiers leg in the top-left photo (the guy looking left who has something red around his neck).

      In the top-right photo, the same guy is partially blocked by the soldier, but you can still see his knee and back. On the doctored photo, this guy appears on both the right and left side of the soldier's leg. In addition, there are two people a bit more in the distance behind "Waldo" who also appear to the right and left. Since the angle chanegd slightly between photos, these people were duplicated.

      Those three are the only duplicates; the crowd to the right of the soldier in the doctored photo is identical to the crowd in the top-right photo. To the left of the soldier's leg is the crowd as seen in the top-left photo.

  • Unspoken but obvious is the motive behind the "improved composition" -- the altered image depicts a coalition soldier motioning threateningly to a father holding his young son.

    How many such "improved compositions" has this photomangler published that didn't have repeated background elements giving it away?

    An aside, did the image first pass examination because the editor thinks "all Iraqis look the same"? It's pretty obvious that the same faces appear more than once.

  • Video and photo's are tricked, edited and retouched by documentary photographers and cinegraphers all the time.

    Sure, messing with a news photo is a grey area, since news should convey the truth, and by altering the photograph, you are altering the truth.

    In defense I would say that protographing is an art, and using photo-editing tools to make your picture better is also "acceptable" if you could go just around the corner and shot the exact same picture by accident. Of course the photographer wished to r

  • Okay, so he broke a newspaper's rules and was fired. So what? He adjusted the photo for composition; that is quite different than adjusting for content.

    Just like taking two photos and stiching them together to get a wider shot. Sure, it may not be an exact pixel-for-pixel representation of reality, but I wouldn't call it deception.

    This is definately Stuff That DOESN'T Matter
  • by meatbridge ( 443871 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @04:00PM (#5646628)
    they photoshoped the heads of wiesels onto the bodies of the french and german government. photoshop has no place in news gathering.
  • by divide overflow ( 599608 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @04:03PM (#5646660)

    Yes, the modifications were mostly compositional, but there is a *very good reason* for the L.A. Times banning the alteration of photos: because once you do it, the only difference between minor compositional alterations and ones that change the content in more significant ways is *just a matter of degree*. In other words, once you cross that threshold, the amount of alteration or significance of the alteration that is permissible is only a matter of judgement, a moving line in the sand. Banning such alteration of photographs outright shows good judgement by the publisher and demonstrates their commitment against the falsification of photographic evidence.

    Of course, this does nothing to prevent completely staged photographs, but at least it's something.
  • Impermissible (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mtcrowe ( 86952 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @04:03PM (#5646667)
    I think the real problem with the unannounced altering of photos is that it has the ability to alter the meaning of a situation. I'm somewhat amazed at any discussion that argues that this is alright to do in any way, such as when the alteration does not change the fundamental nature of the shot.

    The danger in allowing such discussion to breed is that it opens photographs to subjectivity. The editors alter photos to make them more dramatic, create more of an impact. But they are forging an image that did not exist in reality!

    Altering photographs without providing a notice to the viewers allows the editors to become part of the story, enhancing and molding it, providing their own subliminal opinion, rather than reporting on it and allowing the reader to make up their own judgement. It's my opinion that media opinion and prejudice is already pervasive in news reporting worldwide, not just in the U.S. media.

    We do not need any more opinions in our news, especially when those opinions are disguised as fact. If the situation wasn't dramatic enough, then it doesn't deserve to be 'pumped up' for our modern senses.
  • Touched up photos (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Restil ( 31903 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @04:05PM (#5646685) Homepage
    Almost all commercial photography is touched up in some way. Almost any stripmall photography place will touch up photographs to remove skin blemishes and artifacts in the picture, for a price. However, there is a big difference between altering a model pose where you're buying the perfect look, and a news photo where you're buying (supposively) unbiased fact.

    A local newspaper had a similar problem with this a few years back. They were doing a story on teenage drug use in schools and used as a picture, the photograph of a girl bent over into her locker, snorting something. The photograph was a posed one, and was identified as such in the fine print of the article, but enough people got outraged, thinking that it was so prevalant that a roving news crew was able to catch such an event, taking place so casually. This gave the impression of the problem seeming worse than it actually was.

    However, for news organizations, if they're going to modify images, make it obvious. Nobody gets upset about a collage mix of multiple images to represent a theme. But if the resulting image is represented as a single snapshot in time, you start to cross ethical boundaries.

    -Restil
  • by Chibi ( 232518 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @04:11PM (#5646749) Journal

    Wait, if this is fake, then is it possible that Bert is not evil [bertisevil.tv]?!

  • by spun ( 1352 ) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {yranoituloverevol}> on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @04:12PM (#5646759) Journal
    This happens more often than you think. Hopefully not for journalistic photos, mind you. But advertisers modify pictures all the time. Or did you really think that models always have perfect skin? Thank you, smudge tool!

    I recently did some work for a friend who is putting on a play (shameless plug, if you live in San Francisco, go see "Shirley Mental") and she had taken some publicity photos. Unfortunately, none of them were perfect, so she had me combine the background from one with actors in another, and in another case remove a third actor from a shot to more prominently feature two others.

    For journalistic photos, though, it would be unethical. Oddly enough, simply cropping an unacceptable bit out of a photo would probably be considered okay with most papers. Adding things is a definite no-no.

    I can understand how a journalist could forget that though, considering how easy it is to modify photos. In many cases, it wouldn't matter, but a newspaper simply can't afford to be seen as making things up. They can't have people questioning whether what they see in a paper is real or not.
  • by rmdyer ( 267137 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @04:20PM (#5646836)
    Every camera sold can have internal circuitry to take the CCD image and perform an MD5 hash of the pic. The MD5 hash would then be XOR'd with a one-time-pad. The OTP would be burned into the camera at the factory and would be inaccessable from outside the camera CPU. The OTP would then be databased (also inaccessibly) into the grand federal OTP camera registry database. The OTP having been XOR'd with the MD5 hash of the pic, would then be put into the pic filename. Now, whenever someone wants to check to see if the picture has been unaltered they just have to go to the federal camera database website and submit the picture. The backend will then validate the pic.

    Will it be done? Not in your lifetime.

    +2 cents contributed.
  • by DailyGrind ( 456659 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @04:33PM (#5646937) Homepage
    A bank employee was fired for combining his account with that of a customer with a much higher balance.

    When asked about the reason for his actions he simply stated that the combined balanced looked much more dramatic on his bank statements.
  • by pclminion ( 145572 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @04:41PM (#5647004)
    Look at Time magazine from last week (the one with the big "Gulf War II" on the cover). Flip open to somewhere in the middle, where they have a section on various historical events of the 20th century. One of the article sections shows a photograph of a woman sitting in front of a medical tent during the Depression. The woman has her hand near her face, held in a position as if she were holding a cigarette. However, the cigarette is nowhere to be found. It has been removed from the photo.

    If you have a copy of the mag sitting around, please look at the photo and tell me if you agree.

    I find it sickening that a supposedly respectable publication would edit historical photographs for the sake of modern political correctness. We wouldn't want our young kids learning that, way back during the Depression, people smoked cigarettes, would we?

    • by Derek Pomery ( 2028 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @06:04PM (#5647820)
      This sort of thing has an old and "distinguished" history. Not just about modern political correctness.

      Scientific American had a neat article couple of years back on the rising and falling tides of American alcohol consumption that included a picture of George Washington toasting other founding fathers.

      The updated version during the prohibition had removed the bottle from the table, and the glass from Washington's hand. One couldn't have the father of America *drinking*.

  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @05:07PM (#5647279)
    Analog photos can be altered too. One is by setting lighting and degree of focusing. The NY Times Sunday magazine uses portrait photos with harsh lighting- wrinkles, acne scars, blush marks, become pronounced. This the opposite of "air brushing" or softening frequently done in yearbook and wedding photos. I find these harshened portraits interesting.

    The color of photos can be changed too. "Fuji-izing" is brightening hues beyond reality. Home photographers think this makes better pictures. At least one major film vendor builds this into their film.

    An interesting controversy about eight years ago was a NY Times magazine piece on OJ Simpson. Readers complained his cover photo was darker than reality, making look like an African menance.
    • Actually, Fuji Velvia slides are notorious for their extreme saturation of colors, and it makes for incredible landscape photos. It's also the WORST idea for portrait photography.

      Part of the problem with photography is that a picture on film (or nowadays digital) is not the same as what you see. For any photo, the lightness / darkness is partly subjective to the settings on the camera, and greatly subjective to the person handling processing. "Dodging and burning" or darkening and lightening portions of an image to bring out masked detail is a common practice, and most (99.999% I'd say) photographers consider a dodged and burnt image to be unaltered unless it makes the image appear truly different than the scene it was taken from. Color photos are even more confusing, because the human mind compensates for variations in lighting, while film doesn't (except for built-in biases to certain lights per film). Colors also have to be adjusted during printing using a system of filters.

      Photo.net has what I consider an [photo.net] authoritive determination [photo.net] of what is classified as altered, and I suspect for those not familiar with photography, it will give you a bit of an idea about just how subjective a printed image can be, from the type of paper used, to the amount of contrast in the print, to the dodging and burning, and the color compensation... and these are all AFTER exposure considerations. Many more considerations can be made before the exposure!

  • by adzoox ( 615327 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @05:07PM (#5647284) Journal
    There used to a note on the "staff listings" page inside every Cosmoplitan Magazine.

    "Models that appear in this magazine may have certain features enhanced or exagerated. The pictures in this magazine should be construed as fantasy imagery only."

    The layout department for Sports Illustrated was on I think the "Best Damn Sports Show Period" saying that most of the swimsuit models legs are elongated and breast "bubbled" after the shoot with PowerBook G4s on spot and then further at headquarters. He made a joke saying that Niki Taylor was so short and they wanted her on a two page wide spread. So, they lengthened her legs. If she were real, she'd me Yao Ming's sister!

  • by AndroidCat ( 229562 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @05:16PM (#5647343) Homepage
    Granted it certainly was "journalism", but remember the infamous Scientology event [lermanet.com] were they released photos which had been clumsily doctored to make the crowd look larger. This is the one where they grew hair on a bald guy, and had an appearance of the Man With No Head.

    Scientology has been caught retro-doctoring photos Stalin style to remove people after they've fallen out of favour, like Reed Slatkin [slatkinfraud.com] who's in big trouble for a long-running investment ponzi scam.

    I hope the press has better ethics than Scientology.

  • by DeusExLibris ( 247137 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @05:44PM (#5647587)
    Having worked for both USA Today and washingtonpost.com, I can tell you that know responsible news organization would tolerate this kind of behavior. Most have very explicit standing policies against digitally altering photos for publication with severe consequences (including termination) for violation of the policy.

    While this seems a pretty clear cut violation, there is also some room for debate as to the proper role of Photoshop. Is cropping for presentation acceptable? Color correction? Graphical overlays (to point out characteristics of the photo or enhance the nformation value)? How about masking out someone who's permission you couldn't get for the photo?

    Remember that the key asset of any news organization is the public's trust that they are reporting the "facts". While there is no real expectation of complete objectivity, altering the truth the fit your perspective will always be unacceptable. When you alter a photograph with the intent of changing it's meaning (even if it supports the other facts in the story), it erodes that trust.
  • by callipygian-showsyst ( 631222 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @11:35PM (#5650086) Homepage
    Clearly, the moral here is that Photoshop (and similar programs) should be made ILLEGAL.

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