Thursday, May 8, 2014

Image Manipulation: Obscuring the Truth

      Media can be found everywhere - for example, newspapers, magazines, and TV. But how much of what we see everyday is real? Many magazines and advertisements are infamous for using image manipulation, also often referred to as “Photoshopping.” A pro of image manipulation is that photos can be digitally enhanced by removing red-eyes, adjusting the exposure to give the image a more realistic look, and even removing a green screen to give the viewer the impression that the subject of the photo is in a different place. However, the overwhelming con is much easier to see and is usually what is thought of when someone says “Photoshop." It is common knowledge that these methods are used on magazine covers, advertisements, and many other forms of media. When Photoshop is used to make an image as a whole look better, its use is acceptable. On the contrary, when Photoshop is used to make the subject of an image look better, it is extremely distasteful. The ethics of image manipulation can sometimes be confusing and difficult to understand - however, there is a clear difference between changing an image's size, exposure, or saturation, and making a model thinner or more "aesthetically pleasing."

      Side by side, it’s usually really easy to detect image manipulation, but when we only view the published content, it’s not always as evident. An article called “The Ethics of Digital Manipulation,” explains the author’s opinion of the right and wrong times to use image manipulation. Image manipulation is used wrongly on popular magazine covers to make many female models appear slimmer or taller.
Image: Beauty Redefined
      This can cause women to feel like what they’re seeing in front of them is unattainable. For example, a survey featured in The Huffington Post in an article titled “Survey Proves We Still Really Need to Talk About Photoshop,” explains that 33% of women aged 18-65 feel as if their “dream body” is an impossible goal. I agree that unnatural and unreasonable bodies are portrayed in the media could be contributing to this. Being a teenage girl, I often feel pressured to look like models showed on magazines. Author Cheri K. Erdman’s message to young women is that “even the models we see in magazines wish they could look like their own images.” One of the problems is that it's so easy for magazines to totally transform a model. A short film made by Dove in 2006 is a great example of this.

                                                                      Video: doveunitedstates on YouTube
Although not intentional, these images can cause some young women to engage in disordered eating to alter their appearance. For example, as outlined in a Huffington Post article named “Is Photoshop Destroying America’s Body Image?” the American Medical Association has “announced it was taking a stand against image manipulation in advertising, stating that alterations made through processes like Photoshop can contribute to unrealistic body image expectations, eating disorders and other emotional problems.” I am glad that the AMA took a stand, because it’s very concerning that this issue is affecting so many people. Because digitally manipulated images are seen by many Americans every day, many women still feel as if they should aspire to look like these nonexistent women.

      Some artists use image manipulation to their advantage - by using it to create impossible things, not people. For example, Filip Dujardin, who was featured in an article on Slate called "The Met Embraces Fakes," uses Photoshop to "build" architecture that, if you tried to build it in real life, it wouldn't actually stand. This allows him to make really interesting pictures.
Image: Filip Dujardin
Without image manipulation, artists such as Dujardin wouldn't be able to make art as they do. This is one of the pros of Photoshop. I am certain that this is an ethical way to manipulate photos digitally, as it is not deceitful to the audience because they know that he is using Photoshop. I'm happy that artists like him are able to have a career doing something definitely creative. Dujardin uses image manipulation in a friendly and creative way.

      On the other hand, image manipulation can sometimes be unethical, but it's occasionally difficult to tell when it is. Jerry Lodriguss, a photographer, says that image manipulation “only becomes a problem, and a question of ethics, when the artist or photographer lies about his motivations, methods, and conclusions, and presents images with the purpose to intentionally deceive.” The misportrayal of models, and even news stories, does not help the consumer in any way. The only reason that tabloid magazines include Photoshopped images is to lead someone into believing that a certain event occurred, when really it could be two images stitched into one, like this image of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
Image: Fourandsix

     Instead of being “caught together,” this is actually two pictures, of Pitt and Jolie individually, stitched into one, so it appears that they are together. Things like this can be easily achieved using image manipulation. Editors at Fourandsix state in an article called “Photo Tampering throughout History” that “the picture of Pitt was taken in Anguilla, a Caribbean island, in January 2005. The picture of Jolie was taken in Virginia some time in 2004.” There was a small note to tell the reader that it was a composite image within the magazine, but I think that using the composite image in general is unethical. Although this is most likely for the sole purpose of increasing sales, the reader is not properly informed of the manipulation of the image. It is possible that people who manipulate images are aiming to mislead the public. Also, as previously mentioned, many people can feel as if what they are seeing every day and being pressured to appear as is humanly impossible. Many producers of media misuse image manipulation. Although there are certainly benefits to the use of digital image manipulation, many of which are often overlooked, many magazines apply it incorrectly and use it to make female models unattainably flawless.

      Image manipulation is most widely known as being used for two general purposes in today’s society - to fix images through methods such as cropping and adjusting saturation, and adjusting photos of models digitally before they are published in the media. Most people, including myself, agree that the first purpose is morally acceptable while the latter is not. Making models appear thinner can have serious effects on consumers, such as low self-esteem and eating disorders. Also, it is not professional for major magazine companies to misinform their readers on a regular basis. I believe that magazines should not use digitally altered images on their covers, as it is untruthful. Hopefully, magazines and the general public will be able to find a happy medium between misreporting and not being able to alter images digitally whatsoever.

Bibliography


Conclusion, updated 5/28/14

      After completing my blog and reading and replying to the comments of others, I can definitely say that I've learned a lot. On the topic of image manipulation, I learned numerous ways to combat unjust use of it. On blogging in general, others' comments have helped me learn how you constructive criticism and giving other people different points of view to consider can be so helpful. The argument that I constructed at the beginning of my research - that image manipulation is okay to use when it is correcting photography mistakes such as red-eye, cropping, etc., but immoral when it is used, for example, to make a model thinner - did not change throughout the rest of my research and writing. However, hearing other opinions did help me gain a better feel of how others felt about my topic. In my opinion, my argument was thorough enough to engage my readers. Also, it was deep enough so that I was able to expand on it a lot. I believe that my topic is related to digital citizenship because it relates to what is right and what is wrong when it comes to using a program such as Photoshop to alter an image. After I posted my article, two readers replied with additional articles to read. In order to reply to Reading them allowed me to realize how much sharing your opinion with others can help them accumulate more evidence as to why they feel the way they do, but they did not change my opinion on my topic. One of the comments that I mentioned earlier in my conclusion about ways to discourage magazines from using Photoshopped pictures in their publications, gave me a clearer perspective on my topic because it made me realize that our society can help make a change to large corporations. In addition to this, it allows for people to gain a better perspective and not be so judgmental towards differing opinions.

14 comments:

  1. Very interesting discussion of the ethics of photoshopping, Kate! It prompted me to do a quick Google search using terms "fake photos news photoshopping" that brought up a list of fakes ranging from Hurricane Sandy (photos from other disasters or movie sets), Kim Kardashian's wedding dress, and an Iranian super fighter plane (taken from a museum and superimposed on a stock photo of a mountain). While some are actually funny (like the Iranian jet), the implications for the quality and truthfulness of news stories is pretty scary. Even some generally reliable news sources like Reuters have been caught publishing photoshopped images of war zones.. Thank you for a thought-provoking article.--Ms. Riches

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    1. Thank you, Ms. Riches! I'm glad you found it interesting. I agree that some instances of image manipulation can be used for humor. Thanks for the additional article. It's crazy that a picture that was so obviously edited was still published.

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  2. I found this blog interesting because it stated both the pros and cons clearly. It's crazy to see how the tool of image manipulation can help create beautiful art and then turn around and make a model on a cover ridiculously thinner or taller than in real life. Overall, I feel image manipulation or photo shopping is a useful tool when creating design or art work. However, I don't agree with how editors use the tool to change a model's appearance. It has such a negative impact on both girls and boys. The good thing is that we, teenagers are become more savvy and know when a picture has been altered. Regardless, there will still be someone out there that is negatively effected and the editors should be more responsible with their actions.

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    1. Hi Riley! Thank you. I also agree with your opinion. Do you think that the editors that manipulate these pictures feel that it's unethical?

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  3. I really how you took two different uses of photo manipulation and expounded on them, highlighting the intentional and unintentional consequences of both. The ethics of photo manipulation for misleading or misinforming consumers is an important question, and unfortunately, not one widely addressed by society or companies. There are still racks of magazines with Photoshop'ed and altered photos. We all know it is not in a company's typical interest to change their approach, because profits and shareholder happiness is on the line. However, some companies, like Dove and Aerie/American Eagle, are now using 'normal' people to catch attention. As a society, we are so used to Photoshop'ed images than now normal people, untouched, catch our attention. What a bizarre world we live in!

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    1. Thanks for you comment, EdChenable! I agree with your opinion that it's strange how unedited images are now shocking. It just goes to show that we as a society are so accustomed to seeing "perfect" models in media.

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  4. Thank you for this post, Kate. I like how you explain when digital manipulation is ethical and when it is not. I agree that the media should not alter their photos as it is damaging to the people who see it. It is unfortunate that the media will go to the extremes just to make more money. The example of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie being "caught together" was especially frightening for me. The photos were taken a year apart in completely different areas. Is it mostly women who are Photoshopped or are men Photoshopped just as much? What are the effects of these digitally altered images on men?

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    1. Hi Andrew, thanks for the reply. As shown on this article (http://www.cosmopolitan.com/celebrity/exclusive/male-celebs-photoshopped#slide-1), many male celebrities are Photoshopped and have images which are digitally manipulated. Also, another site (https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/get-facts-eating-disorders) states that "In the United States... 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life..." This ten million is not low compared to the female statistic of 20 million. Although many people focus heavily on how women are affected by image manipulation, it is also notable that men are as well.

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  5. Kate, you might want to follow what's happening in our Congress right now. There is a House Resolution to address truth in advertising. FINALLY! And even though you aren't old enough to vote yet, you have a voice via social media that can affect change. Use the hashtag #TruthinAds to call out false advertising, or join Miss Representation's #NotBuyingIt movement. Consumers can put very direct pressure on advertisers to stop using photoshopped images.

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    1. Hi Ms. Gerla! Thanks for commenting. I'm really happy to see that petition! The fact that it's reached so many signatures is great. Thank you for all these helpful methods to help fight unjust image manipulation. I'll definitely look into them.

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  6. Great article Kate! I think it is very true that females feel that their dream body is unattainable. I think this is because the dream body they have in mind is of something fake. Many females aspire to look like models in magazines when the model in the magazine doesn't even look like that. How is it possible that models wish that they looked like themselves in magazines but don't look that way in real life. Photoshop is useful to make really cool images, but it can also be used to deceive people like in the picture with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. I guess it just comes down to the character of the person using photoshop.
    - VTP

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    1. Hi VTP, thanks! I completely agree with what you said in your comment. It should be more known to the public that it's just not the high-pressure industry of being a model that contributes to their eating disorders - it's also witnessing people take pounds off of you before your latest cover reaches stands. Do you think graphic artists realize the affect their work can have on people?

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  7. Hey Kate, I thought your blog was very interesting on the manipulation of bodies on Photoshop which leads to a completely different look to the person rather than reality. You clearly stated the pros and cons of Photoshop and how it is used on people. With the manipulation of the product comes more buyers, however it can make the public or person photo shopped angry. So I believe that the usage of Photoshop should be allowed, but only with the permission of the model. I really liked how you voiced your opinion in this article. Do you also believe that Photoshop is wrong, and if so what ca you do to help stop the lies that media is feeding to the public?

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    1. Hi Cassy, thanks so much for replying. I like your idea about getting permission from the model before retouching their images. If every magazine company was required to do this, I'm sure most images would not be manipulated! As stated in my post, I only think that the use of Photoshop is wrong when it's used to make a model appear thinner or generally different than they do in person. To help stop the media from lying to their consumers, we can boycott magazines that very obviously Photoshop their models.

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