Unmasking Photo Editing

This post comes from Jessica Thayer who is a senior in Ag Comm with a minor in Art and Design.  Using her knowledge of the topic, Jessica draws attention to the power of photo editing programs in this post.

Editing photographs has been around probably as long as photography itself. With advancing technologies making it easier and cheaper, it has become common for anyone to be able to manipulate an image and it’s important for people to realize this.

Photoshop and other photo editing software are allowing people to create images from scratch and edit original photographs to a point where they’re hardly recognizable. As a senior studying agriculture communication, I have come across many controversies surrounding the ethics behind editing photographs.

I’ve found that editing photographs can be easy and fun, but I’ve also found that there is a line you cross when you edit a photograph too much. However, this line isn’t black and white and is purely determined by a person’s ethics and purpose for editing.

For example, in my art classes I can edit photographs as long as I have a creative, artistic purpose for doing such. The same can’t be said for my journalism classes, where photographs should not be edited to avoid editorializing, a term used to describe when someone shows only the part of an argument that is their opinion.

When editing images for art, I’m not trying to deceive anyone; I am merely expressing my point of view in a creative way. When reading the news, people want facts, not the writer’s point of view. That’s why I think it is unethical to alter a photograph that will be published for a news story.

The Colbert Report from Comedy Central discussed how The Economist magazine unfairly manipulated its cover photo by editing out a woman.  Click on the link below to see Colbert’s report on the issue.

Colbert Video

In its television series, The Colbert Report uses photo editing to get across their message. It’s a comedy television series, so viewers expect to see photo manipulation, where they don’t expect to see it, is from news sources.

Even though it is easy to say photo manipulation should be left out of news stories, the topic isn’t as black and white when it comes to other forms of media. Manipulated photos are published without any warning label, so it’s important that consumers recognize that every image may not be showing the truth.

Did you know that many celebrity’s photographs are edited before being released to the public? The extent of manipulation varies depending on the photo editor, but there’s no boundary as to what can be edited in a photo.

Diet.com published a two part YouTube video investigating celebrity Photoshop makeovers and discusses the negative effects photo manipulation has on girls’ self image.  Click here for part 1 and here for part 2 of more info regarding this topic.

Photo Manipulation is a growing problem in the media. It not only has negative effects on the consumers, but it also negatively affects the media publishers. After coming across many manipulated images, consumers grow untrusting of the sources and the media then loses its creditability.

So everyone out there…be aware of photo manipulation. It’s everywhere and affects everyone.  Remember, consumers should protect themselves from hidden agendas and unrealistic expectations by being aware of photo manipulation and its affects on them and their community.  Also, media producers should stray away from manipulating images in order to keep their credibility and give an accurate representation of the truth. If both parties can accomplish this then the news will be presented by the media and critiqued by the public to effectively share information across all communication channels to help our communities.

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