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May 6th, 2014

New Free Web Service Claims to Offer Solution to Runaway Image Fakery

San Jose-based Fourandsix Technologies has announced plans to capitalize on “a growing distrust of manipulated images” with the launch of new forensic tool “to prove that hosted photos have not been modified with Photoshop or other tools,” according to a press release.

The tool is available for free to individual users at izitru.com. A developer API making it possible to integrate the photo authentication software into any website is available to third parties for a fee.

“Viewers are unsure of what to trust, whether they’re looking at a selfie on Facebook, an item for sale on eBay, or a dramatic storm cloud photo on Twitter,” the company says in its announcement.

The izitru.com website prompts users to upload their JPEG images, which are then subjected to six different forensic tests to distinguish original camera files from “subsequent derivations”–ie, files altered with Photoshop or other tools.  “Images that pass all six of these tests get the highest trust rating,” the company says in its announcement.

One of our first questions was, Can this tool be used to determine the authenticity of images already posted online–such as winners of major awards in photojournalism contests, or any other news images, for that matter? (more…)

January 27th, 2014

Photographer Fired by AP Says Decision Was Fair, But Process Wasn’t

Courtesy of AP Photos

Courtesy of AP Photos

Freelancer Narciso Contreras, a talented war photographer who was cut off by Associated Press last week after he admitted he had Photoshopped a news photo, told PDN in an e-mail interview that he accepts his punishment, but said, “I’m critical when it comes to how the Industry handles the situation with individual photographers, especially when you are a freelancer.”

AP cut ties with Contreras publicly after the photographer informed the wire service that he had removed a video camera from a corner of an image of a Syrian rebel soldier taking cover during a fire fight. Contreras says he knew it could end his relationship with AP, but that he didn’t expect to be shut out of the process.

“I would have preferred to discuss with the editors the whole situation personally, [but] they went behind locked doors and made their decision.” He added, “As a photographer you should have the right to be included in the process.”

Contreras said he thinks AP also went too far in making its decision so public. “The public punishment seems more like an exhibit of power in order to protect [AP's] own interests,” he said.

Following is an edited transcript of PDN’s e-mail interview with Contreras.

Q: How did AP find out you had altered the photo? Did you tell them after they confronted you about it? Or did you voluntarily turn yourself in? And if so, what led you to do that?

A: I told one of the AP photo editors about the picture when we were working on selecting images for the [World Press and other photo] contests some weeks ago. I told the photo editor immediately when I saw the image on the screen. I didn’t hesitate in telling him, it just came up.

Q: If your own ethical principles required you to correct the mistake, why didn’t you tell AP sooner?

A. I was thinking all the time [about] that picture and I found the moment to explain [it] to the AP photo editor. Why not before? [For] the same reason that I submitted the altered picture, it was my wrong decision.

Q. Why were you retouching the image in the first place? Do you typically make the types of adjustments to your image files that AP permits, and if so, what are your usual adjustments?

A: I was conscious about the camera [in the original image] from the beginning. I couldn’t get the camera out of the frame when we were at the top of the hill and running down, away from the [gunfire]. I used a wide angle lens [because] the rebel [ie, the subject of the photo] was so close. [It was] difficult to work, under [fire]. So, when I got back to our base and tried to find a picture to describe the situation, I found this frame, but with the camera in the corner. It took me time to make the decision to remove it from the frame, but I did it.

I usually develop my images using the base process, RAW files toned and desaturated. The photo with the rebel ducking is my exception. I gave all my archives to the AP, almost 500 pictures, and they could see for themselves that this was a singe case.

Q. Do you know what caused your lapse in judgment? I am trying to understand: What caused you to cross the line this time–but not other times?

A: It took me time before I decided to take it [the camera] out. I recognize and assume the rules of photojournalism as the basis of my work, but I was weak at this point. There is no other reason, I broke my own rules. My fault was that I din’t contact my editors to ask for advice or try to get feedback from my very experienced colleague, who was with me.

I’m not trying to excuse myself, but it is not easy to be at a place where you are facing death every single moment, your mind and feelings are moved to another reality, far away from the one you are used to, [and] you perform like a different person. You can support long working days under tough conditions, your mind is set up to survive, and obsessively in the perfection of your work. This is the problem. We are obsessed about getting the perfect shot, that means you want to get the perfect shot under hazardous conditions. It is not worth [it] as a photographer, to come back with nothing if you risk your life [covering a story]. This obsession made the difference, and affected my decision to alter the picture. But I recognize that I made a mistake, a severe one, and a wish I could undo it.

Q. Did you understand when you made the alteration what the consequences might be if you were caught? In other words, were you aware of AP’s ethics policy, and the consequences of violating it?

A: I did know the consequences to alter a picture, and I did know when I told the AP photo editor about this as well, but at the time I told the AP editor I was looking to be honest for what I had done, and I feel this time I took the correct decision to try to repair my mistake.

Q. What do you think of [AP's] ethics policy?

A: That policy means to respect the credibility of the profession and the credibility of the service that all journalists and photographers are doing. So, this is the basis of our work.

Q. Do you think the punishment was fair? If not, why not? And what action by AP would have been more fair?

A: As I mentioned before, the credibility of our work is on the table when a single mistake is [made]. So, to prevent this kind of situation [from] happening again, and to protect the credibility of our profession I have to assume the consequences. But all situations and cases are unique and should be treated as such.

I would have preferred to discuss with the editors the whole situation personally, before they took their decision, but I have not had the chance to talk to anyone. They went behind locked doors and made their decision. This is a very critical situation, and accordingly it has to be analyzed and talked through with whom committed the fault. We are not disposable. They have to analyze every single case according to its unique nature.

Q. Our readers are divided about AP’s reaction to what you did. Some think AP was too harsh. Others expressed zero tolerance for altering news images, and think your punishment was justified. What would you say to them?

A: Zero tolerance is justified when it comes to altering news images. We must all play by the rules. But I’m critical when it comes to how the Industry handles the situation with individual photographers, especially when you are a freelance[r]. [For] editors it is not always easy to handle mistakes, but as a photographer you should have the right to be included in the process. Every single case is unique and that has to be taken in to consideration as well.

Q. What would you have said to AP? Is there an argument you wanted to make to them, to prevent them from ending their relationship with you?

A: They have the right to cut ties if you break the rules, but they should not have the exclusive right to manage the consequences of a photographer’s fault. Dialogue is the base to solve any single problem. If you are not allowed to talk when you are being judged by a company, there is something that is not working properly.

I do accept to break up the working relationship between them and me if I broke the rules, but the public punishment seems more like an exhibit of power in order to protect its own interests.

Q. What effect do you think this incident will have on your career? Do you expect to continue working as a photojournalist? If so, for whom?

A:  This incident affected my working relationship with the AP, and probably with some other media outlets, but nothing has changed for me in terms of what I assume as my duty in life, as a person and as photographer, to document what I perceive as the breaking moments for our history. I’m still the same person that I was when I got recognition for what I’ve done in Syria or anywhere else. I’m still in the same place where I was when I started collaborating with the AP.

I made a mistake, but it does not mean that the whole body of my work is lost. I have to restore my credibility, firstly by assuming that I made a mistake and sincerely apologizing for this, secondly by reinforcing the working relationship with the media outlets I work with.

As far as I can, I would keep on doing photography. This incident affects my way temporarily, not permanently. I believe in what I do in my life, this is my engagement and this is beyond photography.

Related:
AP Cuts Ties with Photographer Narciso Contreras Over Photoshopped Image

January 23rd, 2014

AP Severs Ties with Photographer Narciso Contreras Over Photoshopped Image

Courtesy of AP Photos

Courtesy of AP Photos

Associated Press (AP) has severed ties with freelance photographer Narciso Contreras for altering a news photograph he shot in Syria, the wire service has announced. Contreras was part of a team of AP photographers that shared the Pulitzer Prize last year for coverage of the Syrian civil war.

AP reports that Contreras “recently told its editors that he manipulated a digital picture of a Syrian rebel fighter taken last September.” The image shows the rebel fighter taking cover in a rugged landscape. Contreras altered the image by removing from the scene a video camera sitting on the ground near the soldier.

Santiago Lyon, AP’s director of photography, said the alteration “involved a corner of the image with little news importance,” but it was nevertheless a breach of AP’s standards. “Deliberately removing elements from our photographs is completely unacceptable,” Lyon said.

AP says the altered image was not part of AP’s Pulitzer Prize-winning portfolio.

Contreras said he removed the video camera from the image in question because he thought it would distract viewers, according to the AP report.

“I took the wrong decision when I removed the camera … I feel ashamed about that,” he said. “You can go through my archives and you can find that this is a single case that happened probably at one very stressed moment, at one very difficult situation, but yeah, it happened to me, so I have to assume the consequences.”

Contreras, who is 38, began his career freelancing for newspapers in Mexico, but made his reputation with his coverage of the war in Syria. Time Lightbox showcased his work in December, 2012.

“[Contreras] has managed to illuminate and distill the horrors of the…war — more consistently than any of his often more-experienced peers,” Time senior photo editor Phil Bicker wrote in a story that accompanies the 44-image gallery. “What makes Contreras’s work in Syria even more astonishing is the fact that he has, in a sense, come out of nowhere to emerge as the one photographer whose work will likely be seen as the photographic record of the conflict.”

AP says it has removed all of Contreras’s images from its archives. There were about 500 in all. AP says it has compared as many as it could to Contreras’s original image files, and found no other instances of alteration.

January 7th, 2014

Kelby Training and National Association of Photoshop Professionals Join Forces to Launch KelbyOne

Scott-KelbyHere’s an interesting pro photography announcement to come out during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas (though it does not seem to be directly related to the show): Kelby Training and the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) have merged to create a new company called KelbyOne.

Scott Kelby, who started both Kelby Training (an online photography educational site) and the NAPP, said the decision to combine the two came from members of both groups.

“For years Kelby Training members and NAPP members have wanted access to the benefits and courses offered by both organizations,” Kelby, who is president of NAPP and CEO of the Kelby Media Group, said in a news release. “The message was clear — members of both communities wanted to have it all.  Now all members of both organizations will have access to the best of both worlds with some exciting new added benefits under the new KelbyOne.”

Members of both groups now have access to over 10,000 online training videos in photography, Photoshop and Lightroom on the new KelbyOne website. Current Kelby Training and NAAP are automatically enrolled in KelbyOne, effective today, and have been grandfathered in to the new memberships at the previous rates. New memberships for KelbyOne will cost $249 for the year, or $25 per month.

There’s more info at a KelbyOne FAQ page and in the below video and press release.

(more…)

September 10th, 2013

onOne Software Announces Perfect Photo Suite 8

onOne Software has announced version 8 of its Perfect Photo Suite program, available as a standalone version as well as for Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, Elements and Apple Aperture. The software will be available on November 26 but can be pre-ordered now. If you want to be one of the first to go hands-on with version 8, a free beta program is being launched in October.

To get more details about the new features and pricing, visit the Tech Tuesday blog on our sister site, www.rangefinderonline.com.

 

August 22nd, 2013

Corel Announces PaintShop Pro X6

COREL PSPX6ULTEN_Left jpegCorel just announced the latest versions of its image-editing software, PaintShop Pro X6 and PaintShop Pro X6 Ultimate, as well as Photo & Video Suite X6. Don’t go rushing to the Corel site yet. It’s a two-stage release: Today’s release is available to current users only; everyone else will have to wait for the global launch on September 4 to purchase or download updated versions or a free trial.

Based on the results of a major research study–the largest the company ever conducted in the history of product which is now in its 16th iteration–Corel concentrated on several aspects of the software. While the previous updates for X5, focused on social media and creative effects, the big news for X6 revolves around performance. PaintShop Pro X6 has been completely re-architected  as a 64-bit product with much faster performance (a 32-bit version is available and, if necessary, can be installed along with the 64-bit version). Some of the benefits of 64-bit include 10% faster launch speed, the ability to access more than 4GB RAM, better handling and processing of  large files (e.g., 400MB) and opening and batch processing of upward of 50 RAW files. Corel estimates that batch converting 50 RAW files to PNG, for example, works 57% faster than in X5.

Specific tools and tasks such as the Smart Carver and HDR are direct beneficiaries of the 64-bit processing with faster, smoother performance and Corel has added two new selection brushes, auto grouping of sequential images, searching by IPTC data, to name just a few of X6′s enhancements. Other major improvements revolve around a refined user interface, which simplifies the application’s visual look and feel as well as the workflow with easier access to resources, the ability to drag and drop an image to the layers palette to automatically create a new layer and more.

Like PSP X5, the new software is available in a standard version, Ultimate and as part of a photo/video suite. X6 Ultimate is only $20 more than the standard version but offers extras like a full version of Athentech’s Perfectly Clear, portrait enhancement software Face Filter 3 and a creative collections of brushes and picture frames.

Interestingly, the research study conduced by Corel took place before Adobe’s Creative Cloud was introduced but Corel was thinking along the same subscription-based line. As part of the study, Corel asked its users what they thought about a subscription-based delivery model for PaintShop Pro. The response was very clear: users wanted PaintShop Pro to remain a perpetual license product. And, Corel listened, so you can purchase the software outright with no subscription required.

Corel did, however, introduce a standard membership program, which is free with the purchase of a perpetual license product. Membership takes the place of registration, although members will have to register on an annual basis. According to Corel, the company wanted to “connect with the customer on a different level. It’s not just about buying the product and never hearing from each other. It’s a way for us to keep in touch, provide more value and find out what’s valuable to them. An annual membership makes it more organic.” Some of the benefits of membership include the Kai’s Power Tools collection (KPT, for those of you who remember this amazing batch of effects plug-ins), a scripting guide and members-only webinars, among other options.

Mac users are out of luck, though. PaintShop Pro is a Windows-only program but it’s compatible with Windows XP (32-bit and 64-bit), Vista, 7 and 8. Be sure to visit the Corel website on September 4th for more details.

Price:

PaintShop Pro X6: $80 (new); $60 (upgrade)

PaintShop Pro X6 Ultimate: $100 (new); $80 (upgrade)

PSP Photo & Video Suite: $129

–Theano Nikitas

 

 

May 20th, 2013

NY Times Public Editor Questions T Magazine Photoshopping Policy

In an editorial published yesterday in The New York Times, the newspaper’s public editor, Margaret Sullivan, questioned the rules regarding Photoshopping at T, the monthly style magazine published by the Times, and suggested that readers should be notified when fashion images have been digitally manipulated. She also pointed out that editors shouldn’t assume that readers understand the difference between the standards for a news photograph and a fashion photograph.

Responding to comments last week from readers that a T cover model was too skinny, T editor Deborah Needleman told Sullivan that T editors had considered “adding fat” to the model using Photoshop.

Another Times reporter called the comment “jaw-dropping” because journalistic standards would never allow for photography manipulation.

Drawing on comments from other Times picture editors including Michelle McNally of The Times and Kathy Ryan of The New York Times Magazine, Sullivan affirmed the Times’ photography standards: “The Times does not stage news photographs, or alter them digitally.” Except, Sullivan noted, in T‘s case, where it’s deemed acceptable to alter fashion and glamour photography. The assumption being that readers are aware that fashion and glamour is a “different genre of photography,” and therefore the Times’ obligation to those readers is different.

“It would be best if all the photography produced by the Times newsroom could be held to the same standard,” Sullivan wrote. But, she said, if fashion photography must exist as its own world of assumed fantasy, there should be a disclaimer for readers.

Is it realistic to expect that the Times could hold fashion photography to the same standards as news photography? Do readers need to be told that fashion images aren’t “real?”

May 15th, 2013

No Sense of Irony In Hansen “Fake” Journalism Accusation

Let’s review: On Monday Paul Hansen, a veteran photojournalist and two-time newspaper photographer of the year award winner was accused of “faking” his World Press Photo award winning image. An analysis by independent experts recruited by the World Press Photo organization has since cleared Hansen of the charge.

The accusation was leveled by a tech blogger over at ExtremeTech, citing a single source: a computer scientist, Dr. Neal Krawetz, who wrote about the photograph on the blog for his company The Hacker Factor, a computer security consultancy.  Talking about Hansen’s photo, which shows a group of mourners in Gaza City carrying children killed in an Israeli air strike, Krawetz stated that in his “opinion, [Hansen's photo] has been significantly altered.” Krawetz provided his analysis and concluded that the image was “a digital composite.”

The ExtremeTech blogger got hold of Krawetz’s post, rehashed it, and tacked on this headline: “How the 2013 World Press Photo of the Year was faked with Photoshop.”

As of this morning the blog post had been shared on various social media platforms by roughly 25,000 people, and had received 271 comments. (Which, by the way, is about 24,450 more shares than a typical ExtremeTech blog post gets, so mission accomplished, right?). Sadly, many of the people sharing the accusation were members of the professional photography community. (more…)

March 25th, 2013

Google Deeply Cuts Price for Nik Plug-in Suite

nik_silverefx

Nik’s Silver EFEX plug-in is part of the newly priced bundle.

Perhaps making up for the controversy it created when it discontinued the Snapseed Desktop app, Google today announced a significant price cut for the Nik plug-in suite. The Nik plug-ins have long been popular with photographers looking to expand the power of Photoshop, Aperture or Lightroom. Previously these plug-ins were in the $100-200 range with full six plug-in suites running $300 for Aperture/Lightroom and $500 for Photoshop/Elements.

However, today’s announcement reduces that price to $130 for the “Nik Collection by Google” and includes the Color Efex Pro 4, Dfine 2, HDR Efex Pro 2, Sharpener Pro 3, Silver Efex Pro 2 and Viveza 2 plugins. Perhaps even more exciting is the fact that, according to the announcement, if you have bought any of the Nik plug-ins in the past, Google will be contacting you and offering you the ability to upgrade to the entire suite for free. If you have never tried the Nik plug-ins, you can visit niksoftware.com for a 15-day free trial of the Collection.

See the Nik Plug-in announcement on Google+ here.

March 4th, 2013

Photog Prevails in Copyright Case Over ‘Mr. Brainwash’

©Dennis Morris

©Dennis Morris

Photographer Dennis Morris has won his lawsuit against the appropriation artist known as Mr. Brainwash for unauthorized use of a decades-old image (shown at right) of deceased punk rocker Sid Vicious.

A federal district court judge in Los Angeles recently granted Morris’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of copyright infringement. At the same time, the judge rejected a motion by defendant Thierry Guetta–aka Mr. Brainwash–for summary judgment on the grounds of fair use.

“To permit one artist the right to use without consequence the original creative and copyright work of another artist simply because that artist wished to create an alternate work would eviscerate any protection by the Copyright Act,” the judge wrote in his ruling, citing another ruling against Guetta from 2011 in a similar case.

The ruling for Morris added to a growing body of case law against appropriation artists who use the works of other artists as nothing more than raw material for their own works. The message from federal courts is that appropriation artists cannot claim fair use unless they parody the original work, or in some other way critique or comment upon them directly.

Morris had sued Guetta for infringement over unauthorized use of a 1977 photograph of Sid Vicious. The original image shows the punk rocker tilting his head and winking at the camera. Guetta, who is know for appropriating images of celebrities and modifying them, created seven image based on the Morris photograph. Some featured higher black and white contrast, some have less contrast, and some include added elements such as splashes of brightly colored paint, according to the court ruling.

There was no dispute that Guetta had copied Morris’s photographs, District Judge John A. Kronstadt wrote in his ruling. The issue before the court was whether Guetta’s uses of the image met the legal standard for fair use.

Courts apply a four-pronged test to weigh a fair use defense. Judges consider the purpose and character of the unauthorized use; the nature of the copyright work; the amount and substantiality of the portion of the original work that is used; and the market effect of the unauthorized work(s) on the original.

In this case, the first three factors weighed in Morris’s favor. The fourth (market effect) was inconclusive.

Most importantly, in considering the first factor, the court concluded that Guetta’s uses of the Morris photograph were not sufficiently transformative. In other words, they did not give the Morris photograph enough new expression, meaning or message, District Kronstadt explained in his ruling.

“The [original] photograph is a picture of Sid Vicious making a distinct facial expression. [Guetta's] works are of Sid Vicious making that same expression. Most of defendant’s works add certain new elements, but the overall effect of each is not transformative; defendant’s work remain at their core pictures of Sid Vicious,” the judge wrote.

Guetta had argued that his works were intended to comment on the persona of Sid Vicious in particular, and on the nature of celebrity in general. But the judge didn’t buy it, saying Guetta was effectively arguing that any use of copyrighted material in appropriation art is fair use. “But this is the precise argument that the Cariou court rejected,” referring to a district court ruling in New York in the case of Patrick Cariou v. Richard Prince.

In that case, the court ruled that appropriation artist Richard Prince violated photographer Patrick Cariou’s copyright by using some of his photographs as raw material for his own works, without commenting upon the original works or otherwise transforming their meaning. An appeal of that ruling is pending.

For an appropriation to qualify as a fair use, Judge Kronstadt explained, “There must be some showing that a challenged work is a commentary on the copyrighted one, or that the person who created the challenged work had a justification for using the protected work as a means of making an artistic statement.”

Considering the second factor–the nature of the copyrighted work–Judge Kronstadt concluded that the Morris photograph was at least a marginally creative portrait, not just a “recitation” of a fact. That weighted “at least slightly against a finding of fair use,” the judge wrote.

Considering the third factor–the amount and substantiality of the portion of the original work that was used–Judge Kronstadt concluded the Guetta used most of Morris’s photograph, including the central copyrightable elements. That also weighed against a finding of fair use.

Finally, the court considered what effect the Guetta images had on the market for Morris’s image, and concluded that the market effect was subject to dispute. But Judge Kronstadt went on to say that the issue was immaterial “because a lack of harm [to Morris's market for his image] would not change the determination of an unjustified use under the first factor.”

That first factor, to recap, was a consideration of whether Guetta’s images transformed the meaning of Morris’s image.

Related:
Judge Rules for Photog in Copyright Over RUN DMC Photo
Appropriation Artist Richard Prince Liable for Infringement, Court Rules