Saturday, September 30, 2006

Heroin Chic and the Power of Photo Imagery Manipulation

by T. Michael Testi ( , PhotographyToday, ATAEE)

In my last column I said that within the realm of digital photography there is a lot of room for cheating. Sometimes it is all right to manipulate photographs and sometimes it is not. In the area of marketing and advertisement, most, if not all companies remodel product photos to make them more saleable. The question is how much is too much and what are the implications to the individual as well as to society?

Obviously, sex sells. We all know that. But when we manipulate to our perception of what other people want, we begin to define what they want through our manipulation. It is kind of like me standing up and saying day in and day out that I like warm beer. At some point I will find someone who will agree with me — then another and another, until I gain enough momentum that you feel you have to agree with me because your perception is that everyone else does.

Think about the phrases and trends that have twisted our culture over the last 40 years. “Blondes have more fun” made our culture feel that other hair colors were inferior. The Heroin chic craze has generated more eating disorders than botulism ever could.

That being said, what is the problem with manipulation for the sake selling of things? I found a good example of the kind of subtle manipulation that can be done to tweak your thinking without you ever realizing it. It is this kind of manipulation that can be the most detrimental. It is a form of subliminal mind shrink.

The Girl Power site shows a picture of a fourteen year old girl standing in a shirt and blue jeans. The site then uses Photoshop manipulation to create a magazine cover of the girl to sell the magazine.

This is the same kind of manipulation that is done in every magazine, every brochure, and every product packaging label around the world. To view the process, open the page, select the magazine cover on the left, and click on the “Unveil the Fraud” button on the page.

A few things struck me. The first was that the girl looked fine to me in the original picture. It wasn’t that she was sixty-five and had been lying in the sun for the last 40 years. She was fourteen. She did not need to be “fixed up.” Second was how many things had been manipulated — her eyes, lips, breasts, waist, nose, jawbone, and shirt color. Finally, and most disturbingly, was the fact that I understood why they would make all these changes. If I had been in their shoes, I would have probably approved the changes myself.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong in using a package such as Photoshop to manipulate photos. I do it all the time. Where I have a problem is when you try to sell something that is fabrication as something that is real. It distorts the collective mentality of society in general and usually not for the good.

This is no different than a major manufacturer of soft drinks buying time in the latest action movie to insert messages like “Buy my product now” every hundredth frame. You see the finished picture and you are not aware of the changes that have been made. On a subliminal level, you find the changes appealing. This changes your tastes.

Suddenly blondes have more fun and you feel the urge to purge

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Can you tell the difference?

by T. Michael Testi ( , PhotographyToday, ATAEE)

In the world of digital photography there is a lot of room for cheating. There was also a lot of room in the world of film photography as well; just look at all the fake flying saucers, sea monsters etc, But in the world of digital there is just so much more opportunity for the average person to fake the images that they are trying to project.

Is this wrong? That depends on the intent of the person and the goal that is set for the deception. For the person that is trying to portray a real world event and trying to sell their image as a real world event, manipulation is dishonest, wrong and possibly immoral.

For the artist who is trying to portray a vision of the world as they see or would like to see it, it would be acceptable. My personal view is that they should have a disclaimer stating that the image has been manipulated would be the best method. This way no one feels offended when they view your image.

I think that it is all right if the photographer is just trying to clean-up and sharpen a photograph with no real attempt of deception. When you try to remove items just so that you don't have to get that better shot or you don't want to come back when the lighting is better or the weather is different, then I think you need to be upfront and honest with your viewers.

Some people feel that they can pick out hoaxes and images manipulated in PhotoShop. Do you think you can?

Try your luck at the “Museum of Hoaxes” Hoax photo test or stop by PhotographyToday.Net and check out the Photography Hot Links section to try your luck.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

The early history of Photography

by T. Michael Testi ( , PhotographyToday, ATAEE)

It has been over the course of the last five years that the explosion of digital cameras has all but put the film camera industry out of business. But before you film fanatics start bashing me about all the benefits of film over digital, you have to know that I started with film over 30 years ago so to a point I agree. But as they say, facts is facts and to quote Stephen King "the world has moved on...". The film industry will not return to the golden years again.

Digital will continue to grow and get more and more refined. The state of the art will continue to over take and surpass the film camera. In my opinion, this is both a good thing and a bad thing. It makes everyone a photographer whether you have talent or not. It builds galleries all over the web regardless of your abilities. Bottom line, it dilutes everything. On the other hand, many other talented people, especially those in the inner city as well as those in rural, non-cosmopolitan areas are given much more opportunities than in years past. This is something that we will have to see what happens.

I am sure that when Kodak Brownie camera became available in 1901 many of the die hard Daguerreotype loyalists where complaining about quality and how this is going to ruin the industry. As history shows, Ansel Adams first camera was a Brownie. Now one hundred years later, somewhere out there the next Ansel Adams is wandering around with a Canon Digital Rebel 8 mega pixel camera. And again I quote Stephen King, "the world has moved on"

If you are interested in the early history of photography you should read the fine article by Scott Michaels at PhotographyToday.Net. The technology of photography in the middle 1800's was much more complicated than it is today. In fact I suspect that in the turn to the 20th century, many people looked at new techniques of film like we look at digital as a whole new world.

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