Monday, March 19, 2007

Adobe Lie Detector

From Wired News:
A suite of photo-authentication tools under development by Adobe Systems could make it possible to match a digital photo to the camera that shot it, and to detect some improper manipulation of images, Wired News has learned.

Adobe plans to start rolling out the technology in a number of photo-authentication plug-ins for its Photoshop product beginning as early as 2008. The company is working with a leading digital forgery specialist at Dartmouth College, who met with the Associated Press last month.

The push follows a media scandal over a doctored war photograph published by Reuters last year. The news agency has since announced that it's working with both Adobe and Canon to come up with ways to prevent a recurrence of the incident.

"Fundamentally, our values as a company requires us to build tools to detect tampering, not just create tampering," said Dave Story, vice president of product engineering at Adobe.

There's no doubt that the invention of PhotoShop makes photo manipulation easier than in the past. But it's certainly nothing new, and as with all things, the "cheaters" will find another way around it. I have NEVER manipulated a photograph and have never even considered doing so. Last year an intern working in the field alongside another studio photographer was asked why she wasnt taking any of the photographs he was setting up. She responded that it is unethical, to which he replied that she'll soon learn that most photojournalists set up photos. I was proud of a young journalist taking a stand, but I wish I had been there to help defend the profession. At The Times "setting up" photos is the number one no-no and grounds for termination. It will not nor should it ever be tolerated. We work hard to capture "real" moments and time and time again we have to reschedule assignments or shoot portraits because subjects sometimes don't understand the importance of authenticity. All too often we hear, "We can just ACT like we're doing" this or that.

I'm sure this rollout has much to do with the recent debacle concerning an image that was doctored using the Clone Tool in PS. Reuters photog Adnan Hajj added plumes of smoke to an image of an IDF attack on Beirut.I'm not certain how this software would work, but I hope using the Clone Tool wouldnt flag an image, as I often use the tool to take out dust on my images with a lot of depth of field. (Nothing like an image with a lot of blue sky to show how dirty your gear really is!)

Unfortunately, actions of the few leave a sour taste in the mouths of readers when it comes to journalism. People are constatly doubting the authenticity of photos and in many instances see something that isnt even there (one reader called to assure us that an image I shot of some local hip hop artists contained gang signs and that I should be ashamed!...I assure you, there were no gang signs.)

Read the whole Wired News article here.

Read more about the Adnan Hajj controversy here.

Click here to see some famous doctored photographs.


Kathryn Usher 3/24/2007 3:22 PM  

I've been thinking about this post. I understand why you wouldn't want to manipulate a photo but could cropping be considered manipulating?

In light of what can be done with software, I would assume the answer, at first would be no, but then looking at Adnan's digitally altered photo, couldn't cropping and digitally altering a picture both be argued for if they are used to get a photo to "tell a better story?"

Greg Pearson 3/25/2007 7:32 PM  

Cropping is not necesarily manipulating a photo. I'm not changing what was actually happening at the time. Yes it's subjective, but everything we do is in some way subjective...what I choose to photograph, ho I frame it, who I include, and so on. Adnan Hajj added something that wasn't there to begin with. He CHANGED the story for his own benefit. I suppose you could go back and forth on this issue, but cropping is a widely accepted practice. My job is to tell the story as it unfolds, not a to try and create "BETTER" one. Many times on assignment I may hope that things would unfold in a certain way, but if and when they dont, I can't manipulate the photos or the situation to get what I want.

shanebevel 3/30/2007 12:17 AM  

kathryn, the point is really that we shouldn't tell a story that isn't there. Its often been said cropping can indeed change the meaning of a photo, or alter the scene enough to change the truth of the story.

In those instances, cropping used intentionally to misrepresent a truth can be viewed in the same light as manipulating a photo digitally. Its a thin line we walk. But the bottom line is that we strive to document the truth with our images and we need the trust of the reader to do so. If we add things that are not there, or take things away that are through digital manipulation, then we quickly lose that trust.

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