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June 29th, 2012

Wedding Photog Might Sue for Copyright Infringement Over Anti-Gay Attack Ad

Wedding photographer Kristina Hill says she’s contemplating legal action for copyright infringement against a Virginia-based group that has ripped off one of her images of a same-sex couple, and used it to create a political attack ad.

The group, called Public Advocate of the United States, used an engagement photo of Hill’s showing her clients kissing. The group used the image in a political ad attacking Colorado State Senator Jean White, who has voted in favor of allowing civil unions in Colorado.

Public Advocate, which is designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.  cropped Hill’s image, stripped away the background of the New York skyline, and replaced it with a background of a Colorado landscape in winter. The group also superimposed text that read: “State Senator Jean White’s idea of ‘family values?'”

©Kristina Hill

The ad was created for a conservative anti-gay opponent vying for White’s senate seat. White was defeated in that race.

One of the men in Hill’s photograph, Brian Edwards, was notified by a friend about the ad. Edwards minced no words about it on his blog called The Gay Wedding Experience: “How do I feel? I’m in shock and I’m angry and I’m hurt and I’m flabbergasted and I’m livid.”

According to The Denver Post, Edwards and his partner have hired a lawyer.

Hill also wrote about the theft on her blog. “To see an image, taken with that intent being used in the way it was used is heart-breaking for me,” she said. (Hill was a PDN Top Knots contest winner in 2010.)

In The Denver Post story about the ad, Public Advocate defended its unauthorized use of the image on the grounds that others “make fair use of our materials.” (Public Advocate’s web site says it is “fighting Liberals Tyrants Elitists Homosexuals Barack Obama pornography gay marriage same-sex marriage high taxes over-regulation.”)

In an interview with PDN, Hill said of Public Advocate’s use of her image, “It’s obviously copyright infringement, and I plan to pursue it.”

She’s just not certain she has the resources–or the stomach–for a protracted court fight. “There’s not going to be monetary gain in my lawsuit. I don’t care. I would be looking for justice. But it could drag on for years, and rack up a lot legal fees for me, and I don’t have a ton of money.”

She adds, “They’re a powerful organization that did this. I’m one tiny photographer. It’s scary. It could be a lot of tearing me apart. It could get ugly.”

May 30th, 2012

Tools for Detecting Image Manipulation: Coming Soon

Imagine if there were a reliable tool for detecting manipulation and Photoshopping in photos that every photo desk or photo contest juror could use.  Manipulated photos could be screened from photojournalism contests before they cause a scandal, news photographers might be deterred from trying to punch up their images, and PDN Pulse might have fewer image manipulation stories to report. reports that Kevin Connor, former Adobe product manager for Photoshop, has teamed up with Hany Farid, professor of computer science at Dartmouth College and a noted forensic expert on digital images, to create a suite of software tools designed to detect the alteration of digital images. The company they’ve formed, Fourandsix, has produced a beta version of one of the tools in the planned suite, according to Connor, and they hope to test it soon. The suite of tools will eventually be targeted to law enforcement agencies and news organizations who want to detect whether or not images have been manipulated.

Connor tells Poynter that customers should not expect the tools to provide a “magic bullet” or easy, push-button solution. The suite offers “not one but a series of technologies.” He says, “What you have to do is approach it as a detective and examine all the various clues in the image itself and the file that contains the image.”

© Korean Central News Agency

The suite should make more widely available several of the forensic methods that Farid currently uses to analyze images –from precisely measuring the angles of shadows to comparing pixels. In December, Farid was asked by The New York Times to use his techniques to analyze an official photo from North Korea’s news agency (see right); as the Lens blog reported, Farid determined that a portion of the image had been cloned to erase individuals on the sidelines of the Kim Jung-Il funeral procession.

Farid explains many of his forensic methods on the blog.

Related articles:
Photo Manipulation Scandal Follows Same Old Script

Official News Agency of a Totalitarian Regime Doctored a News Photo. Imagine That.

February 23rd, 2012

Arizona Considers Anti-Photoshop Law

An Arizona legislator has introduced a bill to make it illegal to run print ads in the state that have been Photoshopped, unless viewers are notified that the image has been altered.

The bill’s sponsor, state representative Katie Hobbs of Phoenix, told the Arizona Republic that she introduced the bill at the urging of the Maricopa County YWCA. The YWCA pushed for the bill out of its concern over the influence of media images on young women. The bill is reportedly modeled after similar laws in Britain.

Arizona House Bill 2739 specifies that “an advertiser shall not use postproduction techniques to alter or enhance printed media advertisements” that are displayed in the state, unless they carry a disclaimer.

The disclaimer proposed by the bill would have to say: “Postproduction techniques were made to alter the appearance in this advertisement.  When using this product, similar results may not be achieved.” Under the current language of the bill, the disclaimer would have to be “clearly and legibly stated in the advertisement.”

The bill, which is one of the first of its kind in the country, has little chance of passing. And Hobbs is on the defensive, because some of her constituents have suggested she focus on more important issues.

In a letter published by the Arizona Republic, she defended the bill by explaining:

“Girls see an average of 400 images a day of what it means to be beautiful in our culture. Many of these images are unattainable because they are not real.

“Depression among women and girls has doubled in the past 10 years, and 65 percent of American women and girls have an eating disorder.

“There are links between these serious health issues and advertising’s attempts to sell women and girls the myth that they can and should achieve physical perfection to have value in our culture.

I know my bill won’t solve this problem, but I’m glad that it helped start the discussion.”

February 16th, 2012

More Ads Banned in Britain! This Time, Due to Sexism

© Ryannair

What would we do without our busy friends at the British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)?  Every few months, this regulatory body bans an ad it deems unacceptable. In the past year, ASA has banned fashion and cosmetics ads for being overly Photoshopped and misleading, for fostering anorexia, and for encouraging young girls to sit on railroad tracks. Each ban generates lots of chatter across the Web, and provides PDN Pulse some handy blog fodder.

The latest campaign to get the ax from ASA is a grotesquely tacky campaign for discount Ryannair that shows female flight attendants in lingerie, in poses worthy of the old Snap-on Tool calendars. And thanks to ASA, the ads are now getting loads of free publicity.

ASA calls the ads “sexist” and “demeaning.” notes that the ads are old fashioned. We agree. We’d also note that the campaign features Photoshopping so ham-handed, it hurts our eyes. Maybe the retoucher was hoping the ASA would take notice?

Ryannair, the low-fare airline that has made weekends in Corfu, Palma, Dusseldorf and Ibiza affordable for drunken bachelors all over Europe, has responded to the ban by calling the ASA a “bunch of unelected self-appointed dimwits.”

Oh c’mon, Ryannair. Don’t you want to thank those dimwits for the free media they handed you?

Related articles

“Irresponsible” Miu Miu Ads Shot By Bruce Weber Banned in Britain
Ad Banned in UK for Super Skinny Model
Photoshopped Ads Banned in Britain!

February 6th, 2012

Photo Manipulation Scandal Follows Same Old Script

The Sacramento Bee image at the center of the latest doctored news image scandal.

Surely we all know the script by now: A newspaper photographer gets caught manipulating a photo, the paper runs an apology with a statement about the newspaper’s zero-tolerance policy and a notice that the photographer has been fired; a trade organization villifies the photographer to warn others and keep the whole profession from going down a slippery slope to perdition. Along the way, a contrarian pundit may or may not weigh in.

So let’s fill in the blanks. The newspaper this time is The Sacramento Bee. The photographer is Bryan Patrick. The offending image showed a snowy egret gobbling a frog it had just snatched from a great egret. It was created from two images of the scene, one of which was the decisive moment of the theft, and the other of which had the better view of the frog in the snowy egret’s bill.

The paper published all three images an online correction and apology Feb 1, with reference to policy against photo manipulation, followed by a “to our readers” notice on Feb 4 announcing Patrick had been fired for violating the paper’s ethics policy. The note concluded with a recitation of the paper’s policy against the manipulation of photographs.

The president of NPPA called Patrick’s action a “betrayal” (in a story published by Poynter): “If this photographer in Sacramento can diddle around with a photograph of an egret, how can I know that any photograph I look at is trustworthy?” he asked.

The contrarian this time is On the Media host Bob Garfield, writing for The Guardian. He satirizes Patrick as “the Great Satan” and says “let him suffer the fate of the frog!” He then raises that pesky question: “Don’t all journalists alter reality?” Finally, he asks this rhetorical humdinger: “[d]id he [Patrick] misrepresent the story, or did he perhaps just make it clearer?”

But wait. The ritual isn’t over until Patrick’s peers pile on, either for him or against him. Readers?

December 29th, 2011

Official News Agency of a Totalitarian Regime Doctored a News Photo. Imagine That.

© Korea Central News Agency

The photo of the funeral of Kim Jung-Il distributed by the Korean Central News Agency, the official news agency of North Korea, was stunning: Limousines driving in formation behind a giant portrait of the Supreme Leader, rows of mourners lining their route, snow whitening the ground, a giant North Korean flag billowing majestically at the top of the frame. It was picture perfect. Too perfect, apparently.

Today The New York Times Lens Blog compares the image from the official news agency with one taken at almost the same moment by a photographer with Kyodo News of Japan, and distributed by AP. Working with digital forensics expert Hany Farid of Dartmouth, they show that the image from Korean Central was Photoshopped. The Lens blog goes into lots of detail, showing (with several close ups) that some men standing on the sidelines with a camera were erased, replaced with cloned snow. (Read more about their analytical methods and see the photos here.)

Lens reports that the doctored photo had been distributed by European Pressphoto Agency, Reuters and Agence-France Presse (AFP) before the retouching was discovered by The New York Times (which had also, briefly, run the image on its Web site). Once Lens reported

Undoctored photo, © Kyodo News

that the photo was doctored, the three agencies issued kill notices, Lens reports. “This photo was altered from the source and not by AFP,” the agency noted.

Gee, if you can’t trust an official news photo from the government of a secretive nation with a history of repressing journalism, who can you trust?

Maybe the agencies can be excused for not anticipating that such a stage-managed spectacle would be doctored. The retouching doesn’t seem politically motivated, as in all those airbrushed photos from Stalinist Russia. Why would a North Korean photo editor go to the trouble of Photoshopping out a few anonymous figures?

The Lens blog offers one explanation: “totalitarian esthetics.”

“With the men straggling around the sidelines, a certain martial perfection is lost. Without the men, the tight black bands of the crowd on either side look railroad straight.” When it comes to stage-managed spectacle, symmetry is all.

November 16th, 2011

Benetton Campaign Uses Digital Manipulation to Stir Controversy (Again)

A digital manipulation of Obama kissing Hugo Chavez for Benetton's new "unhate" campaign.

File this under Marketers Who Will Do Anything to Sell Product: Benetton has unveiled a new ad campaign that includes an image of Barack Obama in a lip lock with Chinese leader Hu Jintao, another image of Obama kissing Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, and several other images of different world leaders kissing each other on the lips.

The images are part of the clothing brand’s new “Unhate” campaign, which it unveiled today in Paris and other cities.

Alessandro Benetton, who is the company’s executive deputy chairman, says Benetton means no disrespect to the world leaders, whose passionate kisses are obviously the handiwork of digital retouchers.

“We consider [the leaders] ‘conception figures’ making a statement of brotherhood with a kiss,” he said in an interview, according to the Times of India.

Yeah, yeah. Whatever.

Back in the 90s, Benetton created ad campaigns with controversial images– including a photograph of a nun kissing a priest–to attract attention by whipping up social controversy.

November 11th, 2011

Ad Banned in UK for Showing Super Skinny Model

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in Britain has banned a fashion ad that shows a model who appears to be painfully underweight. Ironically, the model, whose upper arm circumference makes us think about malnutrition, appears in an ad for a clothing company called “Drop Dead.”

The British advertising publication Campaign reports that the ASA said the Drop Dead ads declared the ads “socially irresponsible” for showing a model with prominent ribs, hips and collar bones in a bikini.

The ASA is the same agency that earlier this year ordered L’Oreal to pull print ads featuring images of Christy Turlington and Julia Roberts that were so heavily Photoshopped, they were misleading. (See PDN Pulse story.)

Whether any manipulation – in posing, styling or post production– went into the creation of the Drop Dead model’s twig-like arms, jutting hipbones and globular breasts, we leave to our eagle-eyed readers to decide.

Related story

Photoshopped Ads Banned in Britain!

September 16th, 2011

Q&A: Zombie Engagement Photographer Speaks!

©Amanda Rynda

Photographer Amanda Rynda’s “zombie engagement photos” were an Internet sensation this past week, ending up on blogs and websites all over the world.

We caught up with the Los Angeles-based Rynda and asked her a few questions about how it felt to “go viral” and whether she thinks her ghoulishly good photos might start a new trend in wedding photography.

See the full zombie sequence and Rynda’s other work here.

PDNPulse: Please give us some background on you and your photo business.
Amanda Rynda: I’m a color stylist for Disney by day and took up photography this year in my spare time to have a new creative outlet. I’ve been working as an associate photographer with LA-based wedding photographers, Jen Harris and Charise Proctor on the weekends.

PDNPulse: How did the idea come up to do the zombie engagement shoot?
Amanda Rynda: Juliana and Ben asked me to shoot their engagement session but they weren’t into a soft, PDA filled engagement session. They wanted something fun and quirky to show off their fun-loving and creative personalities. Juliana came to me and said, “Ben and I want to survive a zombie attack and then hug because we’re in love.” It was such a fun idea, I knew right away we’d have a great time making it happen.

PDNPulse: Had you ever done anything like this before?
Amanda Rynda: No, I’ve never shot anything like this before. I’m pretty new to photography so I haven’t worked with too many clients of my own yet. I’m just so happy to have been given the opportunity to work with people as fun, creative and eager to open up as much as Ben and Juliana did for this e-session. I hope that trend continues.

August 8th, 2011

Photoshopped Ads Banned in Britain!

©Mario Testino--Photoshop shocker: UK authorities consider this image of Julia Roberts misleading.

Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ordered cosmetic maker L’Oréal to pull two heavily retouched ads–one of actress Julia Roberts and the other of model Christy Turlington–on the grounds that the ads are misleading, according to press reports.

Of an ad for L’Oréal’s Lancôme brand featuring Roberts, the ASA said, “we could not conclude that the ad image accurately illustrated what effect the product could achieve, and that the image had not been exaggerated by digital post production techniques.”

L’Oréal defended itself by describing the ad to the ASA as an “aspirational picture of what could be achieved by using the product.”

The ad featuring Turlington promoted a cosmetic foundation from L’Oréal’s Maybelline line. The ASA concluded that the ad “was likely to mislead” because some wrinkles in Turlington’s faced had been removed digitally after the product had been applied.

Both ads were challenged by Member of Parliament Jo Swinson, who has spearheaded a campaign to halt unrealistic advertising images of models for several years.

Truth-in-advertising laws also apply in the US under the Federal Trade Commission Act. Advertising “must be truthful and non-deceptive,” the FTC says, and advertisers “must have evidence to back up their claims.”

That raises a question: Should US regulators be more vigilant about the use of digital manipulation in beauty ads?

According to the FTC web site, the agency focuses its enforcement attention on ads that make claims about health and safety. “Ads that make subjective claims or claims that consumers can judge for themselves receive less attention from the FTC,” the agency explains. So it’s a question of scarce resource allocation. But it’s also a question of politics. So far, nobody in Congress has taken up arms against the depiction of impossibly young, thin and beautiful models in fashion and beauty ads.