Is What You See Really What You Get?

Being a photographer myself, I have become more and more interested in photojournalism. As technology has become such a huge impact on communications and the media, it becomes much easier to use computers to aid in communicating, and also to bring out the bad in journalism and photojournalism. This isn’t a topic we discussed in class, but photo manipulation is becoming a greater issue than in the past. Technology makes it so much easier to smooth out a blemish, or create a new human being from an existing photo.

Many times manipulation is used to make people look better, for example Oprah’s head on Ann- Margret’s body of this 1989 TV Guide cover. Oprah probably didn’t mind too much I’m guessing.

But what about when photo manipulation is meant to defame someone. Images that have been tampered with have the potential to yield the same ramifications that libel or slander does to a reputation. It tricks the public into believing something unreal, or even to question the authenticity of all news that is read. This idea is kind of scary to me. Can we rely on the media to give us the truth 24/7?

I’m just curious on people’s opinions of when it’s okay to manipulate a photo and where should the line be drawn? To what point can photo manipulation be pushed to where the photo’s integrity is still maintained?


4 thoughts on “Is What You See Really What You Get?

  1. I think a certain amount of manipulation is expected with celebrity photographs – or anyone in the public eye, really. The general public, the average Joe and Mary, enjoy spending money to watch these people they place of a pedestal for their beauty as much as their talent. They don’t want their own cellulite or muffin top or beer belly to be placed on their idols; it would bring them down to earth and remind us that they’re human.

    There are a few actresses (Kate Winslet comes to mind) who have been outspoken about Hollywood’s need to make everyone the same size-2 model, and the entertainment industry is undergoing more and more criticism everyday about the blatant use of Photoshop. but it doesn’t stop them from using a digital knife because it’s what the general public has come to expect.

  2. First, the media. You can in no way accept anything the media presents without a few buckets of salt. You can’t rely on them giving you the truth because they’re not legally bound to do so. Are they ethically bound? Yes, but that hasn’t stopped Fox News or MSNBC.

    The level of manipulation that’s acceptable depends on the use of the photo. For posed photos, it’s accepted that it will be altered in some way. In face, when it’s not altered, some people will cry foul (recall Sarah Palin’s ugly mug and the Republican response).

    As a photojournalist, however, it’s important that you show the whole picture in its unaltered state. Not only that, it’s important how the photo is composed and presented.

  3. I agree with the previous two posts. I think that photo manipulation comes in two ways… news and fashion/glamor photos.

    Another thing that I do not think was identified yet is that it also depends on how much the photo has been altered. If it has been clearly altered or labeled in the caption as altered, the audience is aware and it does not seem ethical. The reason that news photos are a horse of a different color is because those photo manipulations are generally done in secret and are done to add emphasis or better composure to the photo.

    This Oprah photo is clearly photo shopped (or whatever program) so I don’t really see an ethical problem. But, yes, overall this is in bad taste and it is especially unethical in news sources.

  4. This article reminds me of a case involving Ralph Lauren not that long ago. One of the label’s leading models, Filippa Hamilton, was severely photoshopped to the point where her head was larger than her waist. The photoshopping incident caused such negative publicity to the Ralph Lauren label and people spoke out on how damaging it was to Hamilton’s image. Later, they fired her with the excuse “that she couldn’t fit into their clothes anymore.” Mind you, she is 5’10”, 120 pounds. I think this proves a point that, yes, people want to see skinny, attractive models in their magazines and on billboards, but there’s a line that can’t be crossed and people expectations aren’t THAT high.

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