Oh, pretty pictures. Really?
June 14, 2006 8:12 PM   Subscribe

Brian Dilg Photography Long after Jamie Lee Curtis bared all to show the world she's no longer Perfect are we still being fooled by the seeming perfection of photos being presented to us in the media? [note: Feron and Apodaca featured previously on Mefi]
posted by FlamingBore (41 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
In the photo of Heidi Klum from Project Runway, notice the not-so-subtle digital push up bra she is given.

It's crazy to me the extent of editing that goes into some of these photos, esp. the one with Halle Berry where she still looks fantastic minus the retouching.
posted by Juggermatt at 8:46 PM on June 14, 2006

When flicking through some silly glossy mag or other, um, at the doctor's or something, I am always intrigued by how all the celebs & models have these white glinty reflections in the pupils of their eyes. It's as if they all position themselves in dark rooms facing the only source of light - some small, square window or something, I presume.

When I can remember to do so, I make a point of intently studying people's pupils to see if everybody has this reflection all the time & I just never noticed until the mags told me it should be there.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:48 PM on June 14, 2006

I don't think those reflections are square windows. I think they are studio lights with square diffusers on them.

notice the not-so-subtle digital push up bra she is given.

I noticed they didn't really do anything at all to fix her face. Damn those supermodels — they really are perfect.
posted by smackfu at 8:58 PM on June 14, 2006

Like he said below that image, he did touch up her face a bunch but you can't really notice in that small jpg.

Here's a good example of facial touchups.

posted by splatta at 9:03 PM on June 14, 2006

Uburoivas/Smackfu - those square diffusers are called Soft Boxes and are a primary tool for portrait photography. The "glinty reflections" are completely intentional, and draw attention to the focus of any good portrait - they eyes.
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:11 PM on June 14, 2006

The "glinty reflections" are completely intentional

And, presumably, often retouched or added from scratch? They seem to show up also in candid shots taken at openings & other listworthy events. Actually, they seem to show up in every photo no matter what, as if famous & beautiful people all share the same whacko, slightly alien or reptilian mutation.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:17 PM on June 14, 2006

There's reason to believe that this kind of thing happens in news photography sometimes, too. There was a case from about three years ago of a photographer in Iraq who took a couple of pictures and decided to composite them together to create a more dramatic scene. Both included quite a few Iraqis, and the photographer didn't notice that one of them moved between the first photo and the second. After he was done with his compositing, the same guy was in the resulting picture twice.

Needless to say, with all the sharp eyes watching, after the picture was distributed by one of the major wire services there was quite the uproar, and he was fired.

In that case he was careless. How many manipulated news photographs have we seen which lie to us? Perhaps they weren't really taken when and where we've been told. Maybe what we think we see in them never happened, but was created by compositing and careful use of photoshopping.

We've reached the point now were "seeing" is no longer "believing" unless we're gullible.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:35 PM on June 14, 2006

Who's fooled? Retouching has become ridiculous with the women on magazines like FHM and Maxim looking like they're computer generated. The examples on the site referenced are good ones IMO. None are heavy handed and the work that went into the producing, shooting and then combining the image of Affleck and Damon is pretty incredible.
posted by photoslob at 9:44 PM on June 14, 2006

Steven - hate to burst your bubble but most of the "news" photographers I know aren't proficient enough with PhotoShop to effectively fake photos. Brian Walski's composited image is case-in-point. Furthermore, the still news photographers I know are holier-than-thou to the point of being obnoxious when discussing photo manipulation ethics. Sure there are a few bad apples but I'd say the vast majority of news images we consume on a daily basis are the real deal.
posted by photoslob at 9:55 PM on June 14, 2006

I found a mistake in the top image on the Nike page. The second guy from the right is wearing white in the original and red in the touched up version. Unfortunately, he forgot to change the color of the clothes in the floor reflection of the guy.
posted by Potsy at 10:00 PM on June 14, 2006

All you have to do is look at the unrealities in a Worth1000 Photoshop Contest to see just how easy it is to make a very believable bogus picture.

But then, you don't even need Photoshop... like the story a few months ago of the Congressman trying to show proof that Iraq was "more peaceful" than the news reports said with a picture on his website of a "Baghdad street" that turned out to be taken (if I recall correctly) in Istambul... that was an easy catch. Or that iconic video of the Saddam statue being pulled down while the crowd cheered was carefully framed to show crowd from edge to edge, and pictures that got published MONTHS later showing a much wider angle and empty space around the crowd looked much less impressive. But which picture told the true story?
posted by wendell at 10:08 PM on June 14, 2006

I found a mistake in the top image on the Nike page. The second guy from the right is wearing white in the original and red in the touched up version. Unfortunately, he forgot to change the color of the clothes in the floor reflection of the guy.

Wow, all that attention to detail and he still fucked it up. And I thought that was the most impressive job.
posted by puke & cry at 10:40 PM on June 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

photoslob: I bet Steven is referring to the exact same picture I am thinking of, and there is a good chance that the forgery was FPP'd on MeFi. It was a shot of Saddam's statue being pulled down in Baghdad - the kind of picture that held that promise of iconic status, like raising the red flag on the Reichstag.

Unfortunately, not that many Iraqis turned out to cheer the event for one reason or another. An image of masses of Iraqis celebrating their "freedom" was just the kind of feelgood war justification that was being sought at the time, and so if the crowds didn't show up, well, they just had to be cut-n-pasted.

Um, slight derail.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:49 PM on June 14, 2006

There is no such thing as honest photography. I don't mean that as a slight, or a snark, and I don't think it in any way demeans the art. But all photography is lying with images.
posted by slatternus at 11:26 PM on June 14, 2006

I can't get the weird mouseover image comparison thing to work at all. I think someone's using some bogus JavaScript. For example hen I look at that Nike picture page, I see a guy wearing a white shirt with a reflection of a white shirt.
posted by majick at 11:30 PM on June 14, 2006

So Matt Damon, Wes Craven and Chris Moore all manage to find time in their schedule to take a photo together, but Ben Affleck is just too cool for school?

That Chris Moore guy looks photoshopped in the final picture as well. Maybe it's just that you don't normally see people leaning across the frame like that, so your eye is drawn to the fakeness.

Pretty cool stuff, though, I need this guy to come "fix" a few of the pictures I have around the house.
I wonder if he could make me taller...
posted by madajb at 11:35 PM on June 14, 2006

Maybe it's just the self-conscious young woman in me, but I always find retouched versus original photos fascinating. Specifically the Heidi Klum photo--it's amazing that a woman as beautiful and leggy as Heidi has to be sucked in and augmented for the released photo. I mean, what's wrong with her stomach? Or her breasts? She looks like a normal, sexy woman in the first photo and like a rather creepy unnatural FemBot in the retouched one.

It's all rather depressing, innit?
posted by nonmerci at 1:41 AM on June 15, 2006

It's all rather depressing, innit?

It's just marketing. It's supposed to make self-conscious young woman identify with Heidi and try to look like her , not verbatim, but close enough. Also innovation plays a role and prolonging the shelf-life of the product (yeah, depressing, but her image is a product)

For instance take Nelly Furtado the pop singer and look here in the Fashion shot . The photographer did an horrible, imho, shot in which she look more like an angry fat witch , while in the same category on Entertaiment cover she looks like a mildly depressed , but a lot more lovely girl. Both are approaches to paradigmatic ideals (witch, lovely girl) but some just seems a lot better (or a lot less worse) then others. The strut covers better displays a glimpe of femininity between all the hard angles of her face. The three pictures are certainly retouched, except the Entertainment one in which the nose really comes out like woody woodpecker (maybe was intentional ?)
posted by elpapacito at 2:28 AM on June 15, 2006

When flicking through some silly glossy mag or other, um, at the doctor's or something, I am always intrigued by how all the celebs & models have these white glinty reflections in the pupils of their eyes.

Catch lights. You need them, or else the eyes look dead. Nature photographers even use elaborate flash extenders to throw some catch lights into the eyes of wildlife from afar. Even novice studio portrait shooters will make sure that their subjects' eyes have some catch to them. It's not hard when you're in control of the lighting.

Now, shooting from a suitable angle to a nearby window so that a candid subject has catch lights in her eyes when she eventually turns toward your general direction -- that takes a bit more patience and practice to anticipate in a changing enviroment. It's often the little things that make a photograph work though.

One can fake such details in Photoshop too, but at some point one has to decide whether one is a photographer or a digital painter. On some level, it's all artifice.
posted by DaShiv at 2:48 AM on June 15, 2006

beats paintings on velvet I guess.
posted by hal9k at 4:38 AM on June 15, 2006

Nikki Webster, before and after digital editing done on her pictures for her recent FHM Australia photoshoot.
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:46 AM on June 15, 2006

photoslob: I bet Steven is referring to the exact same picture I am thinking of, and there is a good chance that the forgery was FPP'd on MeFi


/end derail
posted by swordfishtrombones at 5:07 AM on June 15, 2006

When something like the Iraq forgery happens, it's considered a major journalistic scandal. I want the same thing to happen with these fake celebrity and modeling pictures. When one of the newsweeklies was caught running a manipulated cover photo that made O.J. Simpson look darker, that wasn't considered okay, but they run altered cover photos of models all the time.
posted by transona5 at 6:10 AM on June 15, 2006

Jamie Lee Curtis baring all! I thought that finally meant we were going to see her penis.
posted by dontrememberthis at 6:17 AM on June 15, 2006

I don't get the surprise or outrage that photography (especially promotional magazine photography, for god's sake) isn't an actual real literal representation of reality. (It's never been that, not even when Old Man Niépce was lookin' out his back door.) These are graven images, heavily staged and paid for by advertisers, and just because they rely on fairly sophisticated technology doesn't mean there aren't still creative people to point the camera in a specific direction, erase laugh lines, move cleavage up a few inches, insert some gratuitous Affleck into a shot or even just add some happy little trees in the back there.

Of course commercial (or propaganda, for this conversation it's the same diff) photography is not an accurate representation of "reality," whatever that is. I mean, what medium is?
posted by chicobangs at 6:23 AM on June 15, 2006

The thing is, we "retouch" everyone we see through our wacked perceptions. People are more attractive when our hormone levels fluctuate, etc. etc.

One day we'll all be wearing I-glasses (tm) that superimpose the subtle avataristic retouching effects of our choosing over our images, conveyed via bluetooth to other I-glass wearers.
posted by craniac at 6:43 AM on June 15, 2006

I met a guy in the 70's who said he was a photo retoucher for the Pittsburgh Press. I asked him what kind of retouching they did, and he said: "Mainly removing guys with hair too long or girls with skirts too short from shots of politicians."
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:46 AM on June 15, 2006

From the basketball images:
These are fairly complex commercial retouching jobs where nearly everything gets changed... To the layman, it may be shocking that so much work goes into these images, even to the point of changing the clothes on the models, but I'm asked to do this all the time.
It's certainly shocking to this layman. Why is this necessary? Is it really so hard to just have the subjects dress as intended in the first place? Wouldn't that actually be cheaper?

The conventional wisdom (for amateur photography, at least) is: It's almost always faster, easier, and better to fix problems at picture-taking time than later with Photoshop. Yes, you do some miraculous things with it, but moving the camera to exclude some distracting element from the frame, or moving the distracting element itself, may take a few seconds; removing the distraction in Photoshop can take hours.

Maybe the advertising business is immune to the the usual competitive pressure to be efficient, since it's impossible to measure, in any precise detail, how well any aspect of it works anyway.
posted by Western Infidels at 7:05 AM on June 15, 2006

There was an article in the NYT a while back on Pascal Dangin, retoucher to the stars. One example given was of a promo shot for the Sopranos, showing the main cast members sitting around a table. In fact, each of them posed individually, and they were composited into a single image (I almost wrote "photo" there, but that seems wrong) by Dangin. I was surprised at this, but my wife, who is peripherally involved in the ad business, explained that A) the photographer may not be able to get everyone in the same place at the same time, and B) even if he can, he may not get the best portrait of each person all in one shot.

I still have to imagine that you get a different effect when you shoot individually than in a group. Even if the people aren't interacting, there's some kind of unspoken group dynamic at work.

We're going to be seeing a similar effect with movies shot entirely/mostly in front of green screens. I know the first such movie, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, had notoriously flat acting from otherwise good actors, and I have to wonder whether that's at least partly because it is harder to get in character when there's no set.
posted by adamrice at 8:00 AM on June 15, 2006

Mouse over the image to see the unretouched original. This is a pretty extreme example of just how far it's possible to change someone's appearance. This client had lost a great deal of weight in the years since her wedding, and asked me to make her look more like her present self in this image. In fact, I didn't even make her as thin as she is now because it would have been very difficult to make it convincing in the time I had to work on this. I have hidden the eyes since I have no wish to embarrass anyone, but I have to say that to be asked to basically have memories altered in photographic terms is one of the more strange and disturbing requests I've ever had.

Why not just re-shoot the photo?
posted by delmoi at 8:00 AM on June 15, 2006

From one of the pics:

Mouse over the image to see the unretouched original. It's fun to watch people looking at this print. Even when pressed to analyze it, no one has ever noticed that there are long shadows cast by trees that are no longer there.

That's because the shadows are from trees that are out of frame.
posted by delmoi at 8:06 AM on June 15, 2006

I've photographed a lot of lawyers for web sites and I always retouch them, usually taking 5-10 years off. I fill in the bags under their eyes, I take out deep wrinkles on either side of the nose, and I take out forehead wrinkles. Generally I don't do anything a surgeon couldn't do. I often make teeth smaller, make lips a little puffier, narow down necks and remove double chins. No one ever asks for it, but I find it amusing so I always do it.

The funny thing is that no one ever mentions that I have retouched anything (I don't tell), but they always LOVE my photographs.
posted by johngumbo at 8:59 AM on June 15, 2006

I like move in my mouse on and off of this one to watch the girl in the back bob her head in time with the Cheap Trick song I'm currently listening to.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:26 AM on June 15, 2006

Plus the boobs bounce up and down.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:58 AM on June 15, 2006

The interesting thing about this is the way it fuels the demand for "candid" photography--and no, not just bikini shots and "wardrobe malfunction" shots and so forth, but even for the "glamourous" look.

If you browse around internet fan sites and celeb photo sites, what people want to see is always the original photos before the magazines got their hands on them, or straight, unaltered copies of the digital photos taken on the red-carpet or what have you (for events like the Oscars and Golden Globes etc. those start cropping up on the web within minutes of being taken). While retouched magazine shoots do get circulated (and made into wallpapers and so forth) my feeling is that people are turned off by the extreme artificiality of the current norm.
posted by yoink at 10:14 AM on June 15, 2006

There is no such thing as honest photography. I don't mean that as a slight, or a snark, and I don't think it in any way demeans the art. But all photography is lying with images.

Not to derail here, but your standard photo is no more a lie than a history book, a documentary or a memoir. Like most forms of media, photos record the point of view of the people who create them. It's a matter of perception. And perceiving the world in a distinct and specific way is not the same as lying.

Are massively retouched photos like the ones above lies? Maybe. I don't know. But the author of a work of fiction is called a novelist, not a liar. Truth is sometimes beside the point.
posted by TBoneMcCool at 11:03 AM on June 15, 2006

Time magazine enhanced Zaqawi's photo for their cover that equates him to Saddam Hussein and Hitler. They used some of the same image manipulation techniques, cleaning up an a photo of him when he was much younger than he was when he was killed. (Looks like they used the same blood-dripping "X" as on the other covers.)
posted by kirkaracha at 12:28 PM on June 15, 2006

I accept that Heidi and everything else will be altered to sell me a product - fine. I vote with my wallet if I don't like it.

But, photojournalism using the tecniques makes me pale. Does anyone know if pulitzer has a no editing clause for submitted photos?
I was at a summer fair recently, and the local photo contest had a digital section for photos from digital cameras, not necessarily edited but just from digi cameras. I found it odd...

I would like to be a fly on the wall of an editors meeting when they discuss what is acceptable (shading, highlighting, "burning", etc.) version image manipulation to make the point.

Thanks for the links.
posted by fluffycreature at 1:09 PM on June 15, 2006

NPPA's digital code of ethics
posted by photoslob at 3:23 PM on June 15, 2006

Photomanipulation is nothing new - photojournalists used to work with darkroom manipulation when they needed to.
posted by jb at 4:57 PM on June 15, 2006

That's because the shadows are from trees that are out of frame.

Look at the shadow on the roof of the house to see where the sun is. The trees would have to be at the top of the hill.
posted by cillit bang at 7:05 PM on June 15, 2006

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