Diamond Discussion: Photo Manipulation

Amber Leto, one of our senior Designers, touches on some of the facts of photo manipulation and how even those of us with the most observant eyes can easily be fooled. This Diamond Discussion was dedicated to her Mom, who believes everything she sees on Facebook is real 🙂

Do you believe everything you see online is real? Susie shared it, so it must be true, right? Wrong! Amid this fakery and our obsession these days with “fake news,” just how good are we at separating fact from fiction when it comes to photos? 

The public seems to have an ever-increasing hunger for fake news and fake images. And to top it off, with all the easy-to-use tools available that can be used to manipulate photos, our technology cannot even keep up with detecting what’s real and what’s fake. Multi-billion-dollar companies, like Photoshop, work tirelessly to increase easy-to-use modification tools for photo enthusiasts. But telling the difference between real and fake becomes much more complex as these new tools are created.

We started off by looking at a few photographs to determine if we think they are real or fake.

First up, a photo of a shark swimming on a flooded highway, it looks legit right down to the movement patterns in the water. Many of you Florida residents have probably seen this one circulate through the years during a hurricane season or two. Unfortunately, THIS ONE IS ABSOLUTELY FAKE! Although, personally, I believe it could happen to any Coastal area, especially here in Florida where we have major tropical hurricanes, but this one is FAKE NEWS.

The internet has always been filled with hoaxes, fakes, liars, and cheats, long before the term “fake news” became a household phrase. But no matter how many times a fake image of a shark swimming on a flooded highway shows up, the internet continues to fall for it. There are also some Photoshop scam artists who create misleading photos just to post over social media to gain more likes and shares. 

Instead of using the word ‘fake’, let’s call this what it is, Photo manipulation.

Some photos look real, unique, and sometimes weird to believe. They remove the imperfections and it is difficult to distinguish a real photo from a fake. So, how can we tell if a photo has been manipulated?  

1. Check the background. The background of an image can easily tell you if the image is manipulated or not, because if you observe carefully, the photo will not really add up completely with the background.

2. Check Lighting and shadows
When someone tries to create a manipulated photo then there are high chances that they do not pay attention to the lighting and shadows forming due to the light, especially when an object is added or removed from the original image. The direction of the shadow, reflections or highlights can help you to check if the image is real or not. 

3. Minor errors
The photo manipulator usually leaves behind some mistakes which let other people to easily get that the image is photoshopped. Especially in the case of magazines and ads, there have been big photoshop fails. 

However, let’s not forget that there are many incredible Manipulation Artists that create highly unique ads that have been created with advanced photo manipulation and creativity and if I called them fake, I would be insulting the artist!

Lastly, for my Diamond Discussion, I shared my very own LIVE Photoshop tutorial of photo manipulation starring Ben Tomlin and Bryan Whelan. Turning Photo Manipulation into an ad!

Amber Leto is Senior Graphic Designer for Diamond Media Solutions.

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