Doctoring Photos Can Lead to Trouble

August 8, 2006

If you’ve been following the news lately, there was a photo of the war in Beirut that was blatantly manipulated using image editing software. If you want to see detailed evidence, here is a very good explanation.

As someone who often teaches people to doctor photos, this is a perfect example of a situation where only minimal editing should be done. By minimal, I’m talking about adjusting brightness and contrast. Graphic designers definitely shouldn’t change reality when photos are being used for journalistic purposes. It is also a good example of someone who needed more software training as they did such a bad editing job that the changes were very obvious.

There is also something else in this story that just annoys the heck out of me. The word “photoshop” is being used as a verb. Most every image editor on the market has a clone tool. And in the right hands, they will all do a better job of cloning than what was displayed in this altered photo. I can’t say for sure what software was used by this particular photographer, but even if he did use Adobe Photoshop, it shouldn’t be a verb. The tool he used was the clone tool. Every program I’ve seen calls it the clone tool. So he “cloned” parts of the image. Then again, maybe using it as a verb isn’t such a bad thing because it is insulting to Photoshop that he did such a poor job. As I’ve always said, software does not make you a professional even if you pay a high price. Your skills make you a professional.

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Foster D. Coburn III is author of 13 best-selling books on CorelDRAW and has been a contributor to numerous technology and graphics-related magazines. Foster has taken many projects, including this Web site, from the early design stage through to a finished piece. He has been a featured speaker at many graphics conferences. His first Web site was built in 1995 and he has been working exclusively in WordPress since 2013.

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