Have you been photoshopped?

Have you been photoshopped?

In the second week of July, nearly 50 students in Tamil Nadu were caught submitting bogus marksheets for college admissions, blowing the lid off a coordinated, state-wide fake marksheet scam. The modus operandi of the forgers, it was discovered, involved the simple use of blank marksheets pilfered from university offices, desktop scanners and a piece of software called Adobe Photoshop. A week later, halfway across the world, energy company BP Plc admitted after an online firestorm that it had digitally altered or “photoshopped" some of the images released to show the company’s response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The landmark image editing program celebrates 20 years since its first release in June 1990, and its appearance in recent news is perhaps unfair to its legacy and importance in the world of photography and digital design. It’s among the few hallowed pieces of technology to have its own verb, and it has democratized professional photo-editing on the Internet (bloggers spotted BP’s Photoshop faux pas, not image analysis experts). Its ubiquity, however, has led us to an interesting question: Where does one draw the line between digital “improvement" and “manipulation"? “When I look at a picture I like to ask myself the question, is that real? If I can’t tell, then the person either took a phenomenal photo or did a fantastic job in Photoshop," says Terry White, worldwide evangelist for Photoshop developers Adobe.

“Using Photoshop is part and parcel of photography now, but the constructive use of it is a carefully applied skill," says Mumbai-based photographer Vishal Bhende, who conducts training workshops on the use of Photoshop. Most of the questions he fields at these sessions, he says, involve flamboyant things— replacing backgrounds, airbrushing elements out of a photo, or removing blemishes. The over-eager use of the tool has seen many contortion-bending magazine covers (and appalling instances of “whitewashing", or lightening of skin tones), most of which are lovingly chronicled by blogs such as Photoshop Disasters (http://photoshopdisasters.blogspot.com). We look at five famous Photoshop gaffes over the years:

2001—the 9/11 tourist

2005—Shark Helicopter

2010—BP’s crisis response

On 20 July, blogger John Aravosis spotted something strange on BP’s website. The company had uploaded a

BP Plc

“I guess if you’re doing fake crisis response, you might as well fake a photo of the crisis response center," he wrote in a scathing blog post. A day later, BP owned up, admitting that three images from the set were “digitally altered".

2008—Iran’s cloned missile

In July 2008, Sepah News, the media arm of Iran’s

AFP

2008—the Tibetan rail

krish.r@livemint.com

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