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5.1.6 - Photo editing software misuse

Revision Points:
Candidates are expected to be able to:
  • describe the use of photo editing software to distort reality;

Distorting reality

Photo-editing software makes it very easy for anyone with the right software to alter digital images.  Images can easily be stretched or compressed as well as altered to make skin blemishes disappear for example.  With care it is even possible to combine parts from several images to create something that never existed.

An image of a newsreader, originally released in May by the news channel was slimmed down for reuse.

The left photo is the official first picture released.

The doctored photo on the right appeared in a later magazine, owned by the news channel.

The original 2 images and the composite image The image on the left is a fake of a British soldier in Basra, gesturing to Iraqi civilians urging them to seek cover.  It was published on the front page of the Los Angeles Times shortly after the invasion of Iraq.

A staff photographer for the Los Angeles Times was fired after his editors discovered that he had combined two of his photographs to "improve" the composition.

How to Spot Photo Fakes

  • All shadows—even the ones under noses and eyes—should fall in the same direction. The lack of shadow can also be a clue.
  • Sometimes a piece of background tags along when an image has been cut and pasted between photos. Look closely for “scraps” around edges.
  • Repetition in nature is rare. If a photo has two or three identical objects, it’s likely they’re copies.
  • Could the scene in the photo really have happened? If the answer is no, the photo is probably a fake.

 An impossible image easily created with digital editing software

Home-made examples

The Languages tower block


The Renishaw block before the staircase


The Renishaw block after the flood


The front of the school


The school pond and greenhouse


Inside the Stan Sims mathematics block








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