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Imagery Manipulation 1

The Uses of Imagery Manipulation in the Media

Deborah Mauldin

Art Institute Online

Carla Stout

CC114 Fundamentals of Media Communication

November 3, 2006
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Images are used in the media in order to convey

messages and to evoke responses. Image manipulation has

always been a part of the photographic process, but in the

last decade the ability to manipulate moving images (video)

has achieved great advances in technological development.

Digital imaging technology has brought about a wealth of

new possibilities for artists and media producers in

creating images. It has also brought forth new efforts to

define acceptable practices in regards to representing the

truth in media produced for public view. Understanding the

methods and reasons for image manipulation might contribute

to a more balanced media experience for consumers.

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At no point in the history of mankind have there been

more images created and recorded than now (M. Goldstein,

personal communication, October 29, 2006). Images can be

found almost anywhere in modern society. They are used to

educate, advertise and to entertain, sometimes

accomplishing more than one of these activities at the same


In the last several decades there have been advances

in technology that have enhanced the production of video

and still images. The widespread use of the personal

computer, the development of image processing software, and

the ability to create, process and transmit digital

information at very high rates of speed have all combined

to form the current environment that images are produced in.

These elements have also made it simpler to manipulate

images after they have been captured by the photographer or


Manipulating Digital Video

Jim Mendrala reports in his History of Digital Cinema

(2002) that the 1980s saw the rapid development of

computers for personal use in both power and speed and the

subsequent infiltration into the film business. The early

1990s saw the introduction of computer-based non-linear

editing systems that within a few short years dominated

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post-production. At the same time digital media for sound

recording and processing became the norm. The groundwork

for digital video media production had been laid.

Now that post-production processes have moved over to

the computer, new concepts of editing and manipulating of

digital video images have come about along with the ability

to effect manipulations in what is considered real-time

within the broadcast industries. The beginning of this

phenomenon was seen with the "virtual-insertions" in

professional sports broadcasts (Amato, 2000). These first

digital insertions were of orange first-down stripes laid

down across the gridiron in televised football games.

The company behind this innovation is Princeton Video

Imaging (PVI). PVI created that orange line, stored it in a

computer, and inserted the line into the live feed of the

broadcast of the football game (Amato, 2000). From those

first orange lines, the technology of virtual insertion has


This technology has also been adopted by the

advertising industry. Virtual insertion has become a very

effective means of product placement. Jerry Cobb of MSNBC

reports that this process is called digital brand

integration and it is the newest form of product placement

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Marathon Ventures is the company that has developed

this form of product placement (Cobb, 2006). David Brenner,
president of Marathon Ventures, is quoted by Cobb as saying:

We can place a product, virtually any size, in almost

any location. It really depends on what the program
and the video in each individual episode provides in
terms of a logical or contextual background (2006).

The practice of digital insertion is not limited to

product placement and live broadcasts of sports games. Now,

it is possible to digitally alter video as it is being

recorded to add or remove elements within the video without

the viewer knowing that it has occurred. In other words,

what the viewer is seeing on the television screen is not

what is actually being recorded. And, this can be used in

practically any situation.

On New Year's Eve in 1999, Dan Rather reported from

the CBS Studios at Times Square in New York City, providing

live and on-going coverage of the festivities. Behind him

it was possible to see Times Square. On that New Year's Eve

there was a very large NBC banner spread across Times

Square that was visible from the CBS studios and by the

cameras recording Mr. Rather. However, the viewers at home

didn't see that NBC logo. Instead, they saw the CBS logo in

its place. That CBS logo was digitally created by Princeton

Video Imaging and inserted into the live broadcast

(Handelman, 2000).
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Handelman reports that Dan Rather had concerns about

the use of digitally enhanced images on a news broadcast.

Conversely, the chairman and co-founder of PVI, Brown

Williams, stated that "Illusion is part of television" when

referring to Dan Rathers concerns (2000). Examples of PVI's

services and capabilities can be viewed on their website


Manipulating Digital Photographs

Manipulation has been part of the photographic process

since the birth of photography as we know it today. In fact,

the photographic process cannot happen without the

necessary manipulation of chemicals in order to develop

films and papers for the pictures (Leggat, 2000). There is

much room for flexibility and creativity within the

chemical process and it is necessary for a photographer to

take advantage of this in order to make the photographs


But, as Dr. Hany Farid of Dartmouth University

reports in his website Digital Tampering in the Media,

Politics and Law, Stalin had his enemies "air-brushed" out

of photographs in the 1920's which happened not long after

the camera became commercially available (2006). The

manipulation within the photographic process does not

always only serve to develop the image taken by the camera.

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Today, film cameras, chemicals and darkrooms are being

replaced by high-resolution digital cameras, computers and

image-making software. With this, the manipulation of

digital images is becoming more common (Farid, 2006).

Digital Images and the News

The practice of digital image manipulation has been

addressed by the National Press Photographers Association

with a Statement of Principle adopted by the NPPA Board of

Directors in 1991:

As journalists we believe the guiding principle of our

profession is accuracy; therefore, we believe it is
wrong to alter the content of a photograph in any way
that deceives the public.

As photojournalists, we have the responsibility to

document society and to preserve its images as a
matter of historical record. It is clear that the
emerging electronic technologies provide new
challenges to the integrity of photographic images ...
in light of this, we the National Press Photographers
Association, reaffirm the basis of our ethics:
Accurate representation is the benchmark of our
profession. We believe photojournalistic guidelines
for fair and accurate reporting should be the criteria
for judging what may be done electronically to a
photograph. Altering the editorial content ... is a
breach of the ethical standards recognized by the NPPA.

The extent to which this standard is taken seriously

Within the journalism industry can be illustrated by

several stories of press photographers who have lost their

jobs due to having altered images that they sent in to

their news organizations. One such example is that of

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Brian Walski, former staff photographer for the L.A.


Kenny Irby of PoynterOnline reported that on Monday,

March 31, 2003 the Hartford Courant and the Chicago

Tribune used prominently an image Walski had produced

(2003). A Courant employee noticed what appeared to be

duplication in the image. After an initial examination

under high magnification using Adobe Photoshop, an

investigation was undertaken. When Walski was asked about

this by his editor, Colin Crawford, at the L.A. Times he

acknowledged that he had used his computer to combine

elements of two images to make a third image in an effort

to improve the composition (Irby, 2003).

Figure 1: Image taken by Brian Walski

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Figure 2: Image taken by Brian Walski

Figure 3: Image created by Brian Walski from images in Fig.

1 and Fig. 2 which was run by the Hartford Courant and the
Chicago Tribune before being discovered as a fake image.

Brian Walski was fired from his position at the L.A.

Times on Tuesday, April 1, 2003, one day after this

image was run in national newspapers, before the

manipulation had been detected (Irby, 2003). There was

much reaction within the professional journalism and

photojournalism circles. The majority of the reaction

centered on remembering Brian Walski's high level of

professionalism during his twenty year career as a

photojournalist, yet also acknowledging that the high

standards of professional journalism cannot be

compromised for the sake of maintaining the trust of the


"What Brian did is totally unacceptable and he

violated our trust with our readers," Crawford says.
"We do not for a moment underestimate what he has
witnessed and experienced. We don't feel good about
doing this, but the integrity of our organization is
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essential. If our readers can't count on honesty from

us, I don't know that we have left" (Irby, 2003).

Digital Image Manipulation In Advertising And


Images are used by the advertising and entertainment

industries in order to promote products and services and

to provide entertainment to the culture. These images are

in an immediate juxtaposition with images used for

journalism in that they are not used in an effort to report

the truth of events to the public. Instead they

are used to give a representation of ideas. Because of

this, photographers and editors have more room for

maneuvering in their creation of images.

In professional photography, the digital darkroom has

virtually replaced the traditional darkroom. The

photographic equipment, powerful personal computers and

intuitive software available for use by photographers

allows for images to be manipulated in order to achieve the

photographer’s creative intent. Very rarely is an image

taken from a camera and used without having been retouched

in some manner. To do so would be the equivalent of

painting with colors straight out of the tube (M. Goldstein,

personal communication, October 29, 2006).

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In the context of manipulating digital images, it must be

said that a manipulation has occurred the moment anything

is done to an image after it has been removed from the

camera. Retouching is done to photographs in order to

optimize them for their intended purpose (M. Goldstein,

personal communication, October 29, 2006).

Recently a video entitled Evolution was released by

Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty. This video shows the

viewer how an image is created for an advertising campaign

using images taken of a model that are then processed on a

computer with Adobe Photoshop. The intent of this video is

to educate viewers about how images are created, but it

also works to imply that the image could not have been had

without the use of the computer and software.

Marc Goldstein of West Hollywood, California is a

professional photographer who has worked in the advertising

and entertainment industry for more than fifteen years. In

regards to the Dove video he made the following


You have to consider what truth is and you have to

consider what entertainment is. Does the truth sell
the products? Probably not. Would you buy a product if
it could show you that you look exactly the way you
look in real life? Is it false advertisement? No. If
they had looked long enough they could have found a
woman that looked like that end product. The process
of the [Dove] commercial in showing the modifications
tells the truth about the photograph, so there the
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alteration [of the image] serves the purpose of the

truth. (M. Goldstein, personal communication, October
29, 2006).

With regards to the best interest of the public, there

are clearly specific instances when digital images should

not be altered. Imagery used for journalistic purposes is

one very strong example of such an instance. Manipulation

of images that are transmitted through the media in order

to inform is a practice that is severely frowned upon, both

within the news industry and by the consuming public. It is

evident that a photojournalist should not take artistic

license with the images produced for the purpose of

informing the public. But in the cases of entertainment and

advertisement, digital image manipulation is a standard

practice within these industries because of the necessity

to produce perfect photographs. Marc Goldstein had this to

say about it:

At no point in the history of mankind have there been

more images created and recorded than now. And, isn't
it fair for an image creator to take advantage of
whatever means exist to allow it to compete against
millions of other images? (M. Goldstein, personal
communication, October 29, 2006).

Knowing what the intended use of an image is along with an

understanding of the process used to create it may help one

to view images in the media objectively.

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Amato, I. (2000). Lying With Pixels. Technology Review,

103(4), 60-66.

Cobb, J. (2006, March 8). Product placement goes

digital, gets lucrative - CNBC TV - MSNBC.com.

Retrieved October 31, 2006, from

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/ Web site:


Farid, H. (2006, October). Digital Tampering in the Media,

Politics and Law. Retrieved November 4, 2006, from

Hany Farid, Assoc. Prof., Computer Science, Dartmouth

Web site:



Handelman, L. (2000, Jan 31). Princeton Packet OnLine

Business: A sharper image - Princeton Video Image

creates new realities. Retrieved October 31, 2006,

from The Princeton Packet Web site:



Irby, K. (2003, April 2). Poynter Online - L.A. Times

Photographer Fired Over Altered Image. Retrieved

October 31, 2006, from Poynter Online Web site:

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Leggat, R. (2000). A History of Photography. Retrieved

November 4, 2006, from A History of Photography Web

site: http://www.rleggat.com/photohistory/

Mendrala, J. (2002, July 1). A Brief History of Film and

Digital Cinema. Retrieved November 3, 2006, from Tech-

Notes Web site: http://www.tech-notes.tv/Dig-


NPPA, (1990, November 12). NPPA: Digital Ethics. Retrieved

October 28, 2006, from National Press Photographers

Association Web site:



Van Riper, F. (2003). Manipulating Truth, Losing

Credibility. Retrieved November 4, 2006, from Camera

Works: Photo Essay (washingtonpost.com) Web site: