In the age of Photoshop, any image can be tweaked, adjusted or radically transformed with a click of a mouse. Some public health advocates worry that the fashion and advertising industry’s reliance on photo editing is distorting popular ideas of body image. Within journalism, many photographers and editors are grappling with the challenge of identifying distorted and falsified images. Tech Tuesday explores the uses (and abuses) of photo editing suites.


  • Hany Farid Professor of Computer Science, Dartmouth College
  • Santiago Lyon Director of Photography, The Associated Press
  • Matthew Barrick Professional Photographer; and Adjunct Professor, Catholic University
  • Jean Kilbourne Author and Filmmaker, "Killing Us Softly"

Using “Digital Forensics” to Detect Manipulated Images:

Does the fashion industry promote dangerous ideas of beauty and body images among young people?

For years, women’s groups, medical professionals and parents have criticized the advertising and fashion industries for celebrating rail-thin models with flawless skin. In fact, most models can’t even live up to those standards: many of the iconic images in magazines and advertisements are digitally manipulated to shave off weight, eliminate wrinkles and slim silhouettes.

Legislators in France, Britain and Norway have proposed legal remedies, including labeling requirements for digitally manipulated images. This year, advertisements featuring Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington were banned by Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority for being too airbrushed

Designing an “objective” standard? How much editing is too much?

Dartmouth computer science professor Hany Farid and Ph.D. student Eric Kee have designed a new algorithm to measure how much images have been digitally altered. Farid and Kee based their algorithm on human perception, asking hundreds of people to compare sets of images before and after they had been Photoshopped. Participants ranked the sets of images on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 representing the least changes and 5 representing the most. Farid and Kee then used the human rankings to “train” the software, New York Times reporter Steve Lohr writes.

Farid put together a page demonstrating some of the miracles of Photoshopping where users can toggle back and forth between before-and-after shots, noting how wrinkles and bulges disappear with a click and years fade away.

A Journalist’s Dilemma

Farid’s software could have a big impact in journalism, too:

Some advocates hope the very existence of Farid’s software might be enough to make decision-makers in both industries more honest, more likely to self-police, and less likely to make the most drastic alterations to images. What do you think?


  • 12:06:43

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. It's Tech Tuesday. Welcome to the Photoshop era. Please don't believe every picture you see. That model in the fashion magazine might look impossibly thin. Her complexion might look impossibly wrinkle free. But those perfect images don't come from perfect genes.

  • 12:07:19

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIThey come from Photoshop and other sophisticated digital editing tools. Today, any image can be tweaked, adjusted or radically transformed with a click of a mouse. In the world of fashion and advertising, many think these tools are distorting our ideas of beauty. Some say they're also fueling a body image crisis among young women and men. In the news media, the same digital tools are presenting a different challenge.

  • 12:07:47

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIHow can we be sure that those pictures from a war zone really reflect what's happening on the ground? This Tech Tuesday, we're exploring the uses and abuses of digitally altered images. Joining us in studio is Matthew Barrick. Matt Barrick is a professional photographer and a professor at Catholic University. Matt Barrick, good to see you again.

  • 12:08:09


  • 12:08:10

    NNAMDIJoining us from studios in Berkley, Calif. is Hany Farid, professor of computer science at Dartmouth College. He's designed a variety of software programs and algorithms to detect forgeries and alterations of digital images. His most recent research on fashion photography appeared last month in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Hany Farid, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:08:37

    PROF. HANY FARIDThanks for having me.

  • 12:08:39

    NNAMDIJoining us from NPR studios in New York City is Santiago Lyon, director of photography at The Associated Press. Santiago Lyon, good to have you aboard.

  • 12:08:50

    MR. SANTIAGO LYONNice to be here. Thank you.

  • 12:08:52

    NNAMDIWe're interested in your calls at 800-433-8850. How have digital tools, in your view, affected photography? 800-433-8850. Have they changed the way you capture or the way you consume images? You can also go to our website, Join the conversation there. Send us email to or a tweet, @kojoshow, or a tweet, you can just send it -- your tweet to #TechTuesday.

  • 12:09:22

    NNAMDIHany, I'll start with you. We live in the age of Photoshop. And even though we know that powerful editing tools can manipulate things digital images, we often see those images as a sort of definitive document nevertheless. You've been a pioneer in a field called digital forensics. What is digital forensics?

  • 12:09:46

    FARIDWell, this is a field that emerged about 10 years ago, just as I was starting as a young professor at Dartmouth College. And it was really -- you have to remember before the huge digital revolution that we're living in now, and what we set out to do was to try to determine if digital images, photographic images, audio recordings, video documents have been altered from the time of recording.

  • 12:10:11

    FARIDAnd we were very much motivated by the concern that, as the digital revolution was emerging that it was going to become harder and harder to know how to trust digital media because of the ease with which it can be manipulated. So in the end, we developed mathematical and computational techniques to authenticate whether something is an original recording.

  • 12:10:31

    NNAMDIYour work has been used by a variety of institutions that are concerned with forgeries, manipulations. You've worked with the national security agencies, law enforcement, scientific journals, journalism organizations, but your most recent work has ventured in a different direction, the world of fashion and advertising. Tell us about your perceptual metric for photo retouching.

  • 12:10:54

    FARIDYeah. So, as you said, we have been sort of focused really on this authentication problem for law enforcement, the courts, media and other organizations. And most recently, in collaboration with Eric Kee, who is a graduate student in my lab, we developed a measure to determine by how much a photo has been altered, so not just has it been altered but also by how much.

  • 12:11:16

    FARIDAnd we were very much motivated by this issue of body image and extreme retouching in fashion magazines and advertising. And, in fact, we're particularly motivated by pending legislation in the U.K., France and Norway that was going to mandate the labeling of retouched photos in response to the health concerns.

  • 12:11:36

    NNAMDISomething we'll be talking about more later, but go ahead, please.

  • 12:11:38

    FARIDYes. And so what we wanted to do, however, was not just to make the claim, well, this has been retouched, because, of course, everything has been retouched. What we wanted to know was by how much and the way that was perceptually meaningful to the reader. So what we did was we developed a mathematical technique that would measure by how much a photo was altered, both in terms of the shape, the color, the texture, the wrinkles.

  • 12:12:03

    FARIDAnd then we correlated with that with how people perceived alterations in images of people. And we're able to essentially now predict how people will report by how much a person has strayed from reality in the photograph.

  • 12:12:16

    NNAMDIIf you go to our website,, you can see a link to some of the work that Hany Farid has been doing about how photographs have been changed, and that's at Matt, we described you as a professional photographer a minute ago, but maybe it's more accurate to call you a photographer and a Photoshop artist. How much of your job and your work hours as a photographer involve manipulating pixels on a computer?

  • 12:12:42

    BARRICKWell, I use Photoshop every day. One of the things that I do is the initial editing when I bring the photographs in. Once I get the photographs where I want them as far as, you know, total quality and, you know, sort of a look, I can either leave it there or, depending upon the client or the job that I'm doing, I may have to alter something. I recently did a magazine cover where the photograph was taken about five years ago.

  • 12:13:10

    BARRICKWell, they wanted to use it for a holiday issue, and this was not a holiday issue for the photograph. So what I had to do was actually put a Christmas tree in the photograph and a wreath, and you can't tell. You could -- I'm sure that Hany's program would definitely be able to tell what I did, but, you know, I do run across this on a regular basis, where you have to change something.

  • 12:13:35

    NNAMDIDid it include a Santa hat on the politician's head?

  • 12:13:36


  • 12:13:39

    NNAMDIHow do we know an image is real or altered, Santiago? But before I get to that, the Associated Press processes roughly 3,000 images a day, more than 3 million a year. Your goal: to find images that meet your standards of objectivity. How can you be sure that the image you've been sent, oh, from the field and a far away location is authentic?

  • 12:14:01

    LYONWell, for the most part, we work with people with whom we have an established professional relationship, and we're very clear about defining what our standards are when it comes to using programs like Photoshop. And since we're in the journalism business, which is the reality business or the business of telling the truth, those guidelines are very clear to firmly point out what can and cannot be done.

  • 12:14:28

    LYONSo, for the most part, we have confidence in the folks who are working with us on a regular basis, know and understand those rules and what they send into us and what we then distribute to thousands of media outlets around the world is what it claims to be, an accurate representation of events as they were seen by the photographer.

  • 12:14:48

    NNAMDIWhat's the general framework within which your photographers are operating? Because one assumes that, regardless of where they are, they know what those general frameworks are.

  • 12:15:00

    LYONEssentially, we're trying to reproduce, as faithfully as possible, the scene as the photographer saw it. So, while we understand the difference between what a camera sensor can capture and what the human eye can capture, we allow for some minor adjustments of tonality, lightening of some dark areas, darkening of some light areas but essentially trying to keep things as they were. What we certainly don't allow for at all is the addition or subtraction of elements of a photograph.

  • 12:15:34

    LYONSo we don't allow distracting telephone poles, or whatever it might be, to be removed from a photograph, nor do we allow elements that weren't in the original scene to be added to a photograph.

  • 12:15:46

    NNAMDIHany Farid, and, I guess, this is also for you, Matt Barrick, how do we know an image is real or altered? Sometimes, confronted with an image that just kind of feels wrong, we may not be able to explain it. Maybe the light or the shadows in the background fall in a strange direction. Maybe a fashion model's waistline seems a little bit too narrow. What are some of the common tells or mistakes? First you, Matt.

  • 12:16:12

    BARRICKSome of the common tells you can look at the individual pixels if you blow them up. When you use certain tools, they'll either soften the pixel, change the color of it, so that the adjoining pixels don't match up. You know, there are examples you can look at you can definitely tell, you know? You were mentioning to me about a photograph that you recently saw, and, you know, certain people don't look certain ways.

  • 12:16:38

    BARRICKAnd you can automatically tell when something has been done that way. Hopefully, as a digital artist, if you're going into it with a frame of a mind that you want to change it for the better or make something that the client wants, that that will be, for the most part, indetectable. (sp?) But to a trained eye, you can definitely go in and see, you know, where it's been changed, how it's been changed because you work in that medium.

  • 12:17:02

    NNAMDIWhat I saw was a photo of Oprah with Iman's neck, so I didn't put it together. But, Hany Farid, you have also walked, so to speak, in the shoes of an impostor, so you might be able to give us a look at this from the inside.

  • 12:17:17

    FARIDYeah. There's sort of two aspects here. So one that we try to leverage is, of course, the underlining mathematics of how images are formed in the real world. So that means understanding physics and optics and camera sensors. But the other is actually understanding human perception and understanding the weaknesses of the visual system in detecting consistencies and inconsistencies.

  • 12:17:39

    FARIDAnd while we are remarkably visual creatures, there are failings at the visual system, and we like to exploit those. So, for example, we know that people are very bad at detecting inconsistencies in shadows and lighting in a photograph. And the reason, of course, is that that's a process that's happening at a three-dimensional world outside, and we're taking a two-dimensional snapshot of that.

  • 12:18:00

    FARIDAnd reasoning about the geometry and the physics of that is very hard. But -- so what we have done is we know that when people create fakes with shadows and lighting, they often get them wrong, even though they're perceptually very compelling. But we can measure whether they are geometrically consistent and plausible. Same thing is true with things like reflections in glass, on a shiny surface -- very hard to get that right when you're altering in Photoshop, but very easy for us to measure.

  • 12:18:26

    FARIDAnd then more fine printings like color aberrations, lens -- a lens -- a camera lens splits the color channels a little bit and creates slight misalignments. And when you're doctoring things, you tend to ruin those a little bit, and we can actually go ahead and measure those as well.

  • 12:18:41

    NNAMDIHere is Daniel in Baltimore, Md. Daniel, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:18:48

    DANIELHi, guys. Thank you very much for taking my call. I'm a wedding photographer, and what I do encounter constantly is the clients who generally tend to set to turn their skin into doll-like consistency with absolutely no texture, no shadow, no detail, has become a great deal more the norm. And we have to (unintelligible) time in which to educate them and say, well, this is what you'd look like.

  • 12:19:11

    DANIELAnd a hundred years from now, we don't want your grandchildren to say that's grandma. She has no actual skin. It's just a smooth texture. I'll take my comments off the air. Thank you very much. Love the show.

  • 12:19:21

    NNAMDICare to comment on that, Matt Barrick?

  • 12:19:24

    BARRICKYou find that quite often these days where you use plug-ins with Photoshop to actually change the skin. Back in the early days of Photoshop, when you went in and actually changed something, it was a much more tedious process. Nowadays, you have a plug-in. You can go press one button and boom. One of the things that Daniel was talking about was turning the skin to a sort of doll-like look, and, you know, there are plug-ins for that. OnOne software makes one that's very easily manipulated and used in Photoshop. But you do find that people are tending to want exactly that.

  • 12:19:57

    BARRICKOne of the things I offer my clients is I say I will change something if you want me to, but I will give you what I have as the edited, true version of the photograph, unmanipulated, you know, just as Santiago was saying, you know, maybe changing the tonality a little bit, a little dodging, a little burning, cropping, that sort of thing, but giving them the unmanipulated photograph.

  • 12:20:20

    NNAMDIHany, it's my understanding that you've been working on more sophisticated plug-ins that can actually go into Photoshop and detect when it's been used.

  • 12:20:29

    FARIDYeah. So one of the -- we have a small company we are getting off the ground here in the Bay Area with a former Adobe, in fact, vice president of digital imaging, Kevin Connor. And we partnered up to commercialize some of the forensic software that we have been developing in my lab over the last decade. And the first, in fact, will be a very simple technique that will allow us to determine if the image, based on the underlying JPEG compression parameters, has been altered in any way from the time of recording.

  • 12:20:58

    FARIDAnd this could be very useful, either in a court of law where evidence is being introduced and you need to authenticate or, for example, for the Associated Press. If -- so Santiago said that he works quite a bit with photographers that they have a relationship with, but they also, as I understand, receive photographs from, you know, people with their cell phones who happen to be in the (word?). And that's -- you don't have trusted relationship there, and so the ability to authenticate just directly out of the camera could be very powerful.

  • 12:21:27

    NNAMDIThat's also one of the issues we'd like to discuss later. But first, we've got to take a short break. When we come back, we'll be also joined by Jean Kilbourne, author and filmmaker, who talks about, "Advertising's Image of Women." You can still call us. 800-433-8850 is the number to call. You can send email to Go to our website, Are we sophisticated enough to recognize fakes? You can also go to #TechTuesday, send us a tweet. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:23:43

    NNAMDIWelcome back to this Tech Tuesday conversation on Photoshopping, its use and abuse. We are talking with Hany Farid, professor of computer science at Dartmouth College, Santiago Lyon is a director of photography at the Associated Press, and Matt Barrick is a professional photographer and a professor at Catholic University. Joining us now by phone is Jean Kilbourne, author and filmmaker. Her film series, "Killing Us Softly: Advertising's Image of Women," explores how images from the fashion and advertising industries distort body images. Jean Kilbourne, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:24:17

    MS. JEAN KILBOURNEThank you, Kojo. It's a pleasure to be with all of you.

  • 12:24:19

    NNAMDILegislators in Britain, France and Norway have proposed different legal remedies to address what they see as highly problematic images. You actually advised some of those legislators about the dangers posed by highly manipulated advertisements. What links do you see between public health and digitally manipulated images?

  • 12:24:38

    KILBOURNEWell, I've been talking for decades about how the ideal image of beauty and the sort of tyranny of that ideal image affects female self-esteem and leads to eating disorders and that sort of thing. But, of course, Photoshop is -- made this a whole new world so that it's a very different world from the days when this was done by some -- a little bit of airbrushing or camera angle or something like that. And I think it's pretty clear that these images really do affect self-esteem. They can lead to body dysmorphia, maybe to eating disorders. They certainly contribute to a fear of aging.

  • 12:25:12

    KILBOURNEAnd the American Medical Association has actually adopted a policy against Photoshopping in publications that are aimed at children and teens because they feel clearly that this is a health issue and really a public health issue.

  • 12:25:25

    NNAMDIHany, let's talk about some examples. A couple of years ago, the fashion house Ralph Lauren released an advertisement that was widely ridiculed and condemned by the public. It shows -- showed a model whose waistline was so shrunken that it appeared to be narrower than her head, Hany?

  • 12:25:41

    FARIDYeah, that's correct. And, I think, in some ways those are the least harmful, those really extreme, poorly done because they stick out, and they become obvious. I think the more dangerous examples are the ones where all the wrinkles and the smoothing and the little things, the little imperfections that we all have that are just obliterated in these magazines on a day-to-day basis in advertising. And I think that's what sort of gives the sense of, wow, something is wrong because all of these little details are just gone. And that was, in fact, what inspired our work.

  • 12:26:09

    KILBOURNEIf can interrupt, I completely agree with that, Hany, and that I think the biggest problem is this kind of desensitization that occurs because we're surrounded by these -- all of these images where there have been fairly subtle changes. And yet this artificial image becomes the image against which real women and girls, and to some extent men, measure ourselves every single day.

  • 12:26:31

    NNAMDIAnd, Jean, apparently, Ralph Lauren is one of the companies that uses these manipulated images most frequently.

  • 12:26:37

    KILBOURNEYes. I mean, I use that particular image where, you know, her pelvis is bigger than her head -- I mean, smaller than her head in the latest version of "Killing Us Softly." And it's true that that -- it sort of brings the gasp from audiences, and it is very shocking. But as I said, I agree with Hany that it's the routine use of this to create this impossible skin or, in particular, removing any signs of aging.

  • 12:27:06

    KILBOURNESo always there's been sort of terror of aging for women, but that's never been worse because women have -- are encouraged to compare ourselves to women who are -- look impossibly young, no matter what their actual age is.

  • 12:27:21

    NNAMDISome European legislators have proposed labeling requirements that would force ad agencies to notify the public if an image was highly edited. More recently, in the U.K., ad campaigns featuring Julia Roberts and the model Christy Turlington were actually banned. Jean, could you, please, explain?

  • 12:27:39

    KILBOURNEYes. Well, this legislation that was introduced by Jo Swinson, who's an MP, and I met with her in June and her wonderful Campaign for Body Confidence, is what it's called. And one of the things that she introduced was a bill that would ban or would label Photoshopped images. And in this case, the one with Julia Roberts, it was so heavily Photoshopped and so heavily altered that they banned it, actually, so that it couldn't be used. So that's one of many things that Jo Swinson is proposing in order to address these issues. It's not a silver bullet. It's just one thing.

  • 12:28:18

    NNAMDIHany, not all digital editing is created equal, and most people agree that the Ralph Lauren example is extreme. Do we need a more sophisticated set of yard sticks to assess whether an image is too manipulated?

  • 12:28:32

    FARIDI think so. One of the criticisms of the legislation -- not by me, by publishers -- was that it was blunt of an instrument. It was going to label any images retouched regardless if it was something simple, like what Santiago is describing -- color correction, toning or some kind of radical digital sculpting. And I think that was a fair criticism not only that -- is it -- are we treating the publishers unfairly, but the consumers are not getting the information they need.

  • 12:28:59

    FARIDAnd that was, in fact, what inspired us to develop this metric, this rating on the scale of one to five. One says, look, this is basically what the person looks like. There is minor alterations to the image. And a five says something has been radically redone in this photograph. This person does not look like this in reality. And we think that that sort of nuanced labeling will be more informative to the consumer but also more fair to the publisher as well.

  • 12:29:24

    NNAMDISantiago, do you think that what you're doing is in the same stratosphere, if you will, as fashion photography?

  • 12:29:32

    LYONNo. I think it's somewhat different. We're, for the most part, documenting reality around the world, whether it's news or sports events. And so our sort of guarantee, if you like, to the consumer or to the viewer is that this comes from the Associated Press. This is true. This can be trusted. And that's what our whole reputation in the news industry is staked on, our reputation for credibility.

  • 12:29:58

    NNAMDISo in the murky, ethical and philosophical area where the question is asked, what is photography and what is a photograph supposed to be, is it a faithful representation of what a photographer sees, or is it supposed to represent an idea? The AP comes down in favor of the former, faithful representation.

  • 12:30:17


  • 12:30:18

    NNAMDIMatt, does the existence of and widespread use of this Photoshopping technology end up affecting the expectations of your clients? If, for instance, a public figure becomes accustomed to seeing himself or herself in the digitally augmented form, does that end up distorting what the person actually feels he or she looks like?

  • 12:30:37

    BARRICKIt does. You know, it depends on how widespread it is. And it's actually become quite commonplace to where some in Hollywood actually have their own digital artist who manipulate the images that go out for PR purposes. One of the things that bothers me -- and Jean brought this up, you know, with what she is working on. I have three daughters, and I remember very distinctly my daughter one day saying to me, Daddy, I think I look fat. And I said, absolutely not.

  • 12:31:09

    BARRICKI don't alter anything that goes with my family 'cause I want my daughters to understand what the reality of it is, and I talk to them about what I do. I, you know, do what a client ask me to do, but I try to keep it to more of a realism than, you know, radically changing something and, you know, making something that's completely not there now existing. So...

  • 12:31:34

    NNAMDIHany, the program you designed used an algorithm to detect two different types of changes, geometric manipulations and photometric manipulations. What's the difference?

  • 12:31:45

    FARIDRight. So geometric are changes to the shape of the body. For example, making the breasts larger, the hips narrower, the legs longer, the neck longer, the eyes larger, so literally changing, sculpting the body. Photometric is referring to things like changing the skin tone, removing blemishes, removing wrinkles. And those are the two basic categories that we know that photo retouches are doing. And we set out to measure those because we assumed, as it turned out correctly so, that that would correlate with how people would perceive these differences.

  • 12:32:20

    NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call. How have digital tools affected the way you capture or the way you consume images? 800-433-8850. Here is Benjamin in Rockville, Md. Benjamin, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:32:39

    BENJAMINHi, Kojo, thanks for having me on. I'm -- artist, and one of the things I wanted to get out there was there are companies that are purposefully advertising that they don't digitally alter their models because, you know, it does provide an unattainable ideals for them to match. And it's almost like lying on your resume, you know? It doesn't show what your product can do.

  • 12:33:07

    BENJAMINAnd, like, Escentuals just hired all of their models through blind casting, never seeing their faces, because they wanted to hire people that are volunteers, that you could -- so that if somebody is going to aspire to be what they see in the ad, they are seen beautiful like the world around them, you know. And...

  • 12:33:28

    NNAMDIJean Kilbourne, have you noticed that trend at all?

  • 12:33:31

    KILBOURNEI've heard a little bit about it, but I am -- thanks, Benjamin, for the call because I think that's very interesting to think of that possibility.

  • 12:33:40

    NNAMDIYeah, Benjamin, thank you very much for your call. You, too, can call us, 800-433-8850. You can send the email to Jean, one flashion (sic) blog called Jezebel has been chronicling so-called Photoshop fails and other news stories involving editing suites for a long time, and they recently wrote a series of stories about the company H&M. What has that company been doing?

  • 12:34:06

    KILBOURNEOh, well, there's been quite a lot -- an uproar about H&M because in their most recent catalog and on their website, they use the same body. It's a virtual body, and they use that for all of the models. They put different model's heads on the body, but the body -- the pose is not real, and it's identical. So it's sort of astonishing really when you look at one after the other and see these different faces but the exact same body.

  • 12:34:30

    FARIDJean, quick...

  • 12:34:31

    KILBOURNESo their argument is that, you know, these draws more attention to the clothes or something like that, but, in fact, it seems like a very ominous sign of what we might be seeing in the future.

  • 12:34:42

    LYONMatthew, I'm sorry...

  • 12:34:43

    FARIDJean, are these CGI-constructed images of the body?

  • 12:34:47

    BARRICKYes, they are.

  • 12:34:48


  • 12:34:49

    BARRICKThey're whole -- this is what's so interesting about this H&M story, is that, you know, we went from taking pictures of people to small retouching to extreme retouching. And now we've just given up, and we're just doing computer-generated models. So this way we get to create -- we do exactly what we want. We sculpt literally in the computer, and there's no humans that get in the way of what we want to show.

  • 12:35:11

    LYONOne of the things that's happened in Detroit is the photographers who used to photograph all the cars, they're no longer doing that anymore. It's all CGI, computer-generated imagery, so the photographs you see for car ads are not actually the --- in most part, not actually the cars. They're computer generated.

  • 12:35:32

    FARIDAnd this is the inevitable place you have to end up. It's been a slippery slope, but if you have this ideal of beauty or perfection, you have to eventually end up with CGI, where you can control absolutely everything from the model to the lightning, to the camera.

  • 12:35:46

    NNAMDIHere is Matt in Alexandria, Va. Matt, your turn.

  • 12:35:51

    MATTYeah, I appreciate what they're saying. One of my concerns was the fact that they seem to be implying that photographs always accurately reflect the way people see the world. But I think for a long we've been talking about the fact that photos are an editorial art, and they don't really accurately represent that way you see the world. Sometimes the two-dimensional form brings up things that normally you wouldn't notice, whether it's a mish or, you know, a wrinkle here and there.

  • 12:36:18

    NNAMDISantiago Lyon, could you care to respond to that?

  • 12:36:22

    LYONWell, I think -- I'm not sure if I understood the point the caller was making entirely correctly, but there is a certain amount of subjectivity, of course, in photography in terms of where the photographer points the lens and what they choose to include or exclude from the frame of the photograph in question. So, I think, like any form of storytelling or reporting, what's going on there is always going to be a certain amount of subjectivity. I think what we're talking about here are the technical aspects of photography and what can be done to it to manipulate it in one way or the other.

  • 12:37:01

    NNAMDIMatt, is that the point you were, in fact, making, that there is a subjective aspect to photography in the same way that there is a subjective aspect to all journalism? Or were you saying that photographs invariably have an editorial point in mind?

  • 12:37:15

    MATTWell, it's -- I actually meant more in the studio environment, whereas in the studio environment, someone can often -- some of these things that are accomplished in Photoshop could be accomplished with lighting. It's just a matter of time.

  • 12:37:29

    NNAMDIOK. Thank you very much for your call. We got an email from Constance in Silver Spring, who says, "Photo editing is not new. My father was a professional photographer, so I saw many of the ways you can change a pre-digital image, for example, by choosing which parts of a negative to print and by using special dark room printing techniques: dodging, burning, masking, et cetera. Studio techniques, such as lightning, makeup and special camera angles can also drastically change what the camera captures."

  • 12:37:56

    NNAMDI"And my mother, an artist, was a wiz with the retouching brush, so Photoshop makes it easier to change an image, but you could change a pre-digital image on film if you knew how." Jean Kilbourne, you began first raising these issues back in the 1970s when the technology of manipulating images was much less sophisticated. Is technology making it worse or is Constance saying, hello, this is all that's been around?

  • 12:38:21

    KILBOURNEWell, I think it made it much worse, actually. And, of course, it's true that it's been around and that people have been able to alter images and do airbrushing and that sort of thing for quite some time. But Photoshop takes it to extremes, I mean, the actual extreme of the virtual body we were just talking about.

  • 12:38:36

    KILBOURNEBut also, it makes it possible for lots -- for most people to be able to at least do some of it, you know, in a way that this used to be the bailiwick of people who were, perhaps, like this -- like Constance's mother, you know, who were experts or -- on this, whereas now, it's sort of all kinds of -- you rarely see a photograph that isn't Photoshopped actually.

  • 12:39:01

    NNAMDIBack to the telephones, here now is Omar in Washington, D.C. Omar, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:39:10

    OMARYes, good afternoon. Thank you for having me. I'm a physician. And in attending conferences, dermatology-type conferences and so forth, what I've been struck by is the acceptance in an age of the idea of so-called global diversity and multiculturalism. I've been impressed by the fact that there's still a hegemonic notion of beauty as being Western beauty. And it's been shocking to see a dermatologist of color in essence accept notions of lightening a person's skin and other such things. So I would say that this whole thing about images -- excuse my son here...

  • 12:40:02

    NNAMDIGo ahead, Omar.

  • 12:40:05

    OMARBeyond simply photography, and, Kojo, this is (unintelligible) just to let you know (unintelligible) doing well.

  • 12:40:12

    NNAMDISure. I am doing well. But, Jean Kilbourne, would you like to respond? The...

  • 12:40:18

    KILBOURNEYes. Omar raises a really important point. And that is the way in which Photoshop is used to lighten skin -- the skin of people of color. And...

  • 12:40:25

    NNAMDIWe looked at some images of Beyonce. It's hard to tell what color Beyonce really is. I saw her in at least three different colors. But go ahead, please.

  • 12:40:32

    KILBOURNEThat's right. And that's true with, you know, many of the -- many celebrities and models as well. So this also contributes to the (word?) standard of what's beautiful. And Omar is certainly right that it is hegemonic and that it's actually the sort of American ideal of beauty that's increasingly all around the world, where the models are very young, always, of course, thin, white and often blonde and blue-eyed, no matter what the culture and that, with Photoshop, now it's possible to create this image, make this image even more powerful than ever before.

  • 12:41:09

    KILBOURNEAnd, you know, I would argue that this tremendously affects the self-esteem of women and, increasingly, I guess, of men as well, but particularly of women, that it really has real harmful -- really harmful effects.

  • 12:41:22

    NNAMDIJean Kilbourne, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:41:24

    KILBOURNEIt's been my pleasure. Thank you all.

  • 12:41:26

    NNAMDIJean Kilbourne is...

  • 12:41:26

    KILBOURNEHany, I just want to say I love what you're doing. And you're right that it's a blunt instrument to ban this stuff. And so I think what you're doing is going to make it so much more possible to achieve something that's going to be really important for everyone. So thank you.

  • 12:41:41

    NNAMDIHany, care to respond?

  • 12:41:41

    FARIDThanks so much. Thank you so much. I do hope, and I should say Eric also, my co-author and graduate student, we do hope that this research will actually help address some of the pressing issues.

  • 12:41:54

    NNAMDIJean Kilbourne is an author and filmmaker. Her film series "Killing Us Softly: Advertising Image of Women" explores how images from the fashion and advertising industries distorts body image. She joined us by telephone. You can find a link to her film series at our website, We'll be taking a short break. When we come back, we will continue this conversation about Photoshop, its use and abuse with our other guests. You can still call us, 800-433-8850, or send email to Are we sophisticated enough to recognize fakes? I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:44:12

    NNAMDIWelcome back to our Tech Tuesday conversation on Photoshop, its use and abuse with Hany Farid, professor of computer science at Dartmouth College. Santiago Lyon is director of photography at the Associated Press, and Matt Barrick is a professional photographer and a professor at Catholic University. Santiago, it's one thing to ask questions about whether a model has been retouched too much, it's another thing entirely when we look at fabricated news images.

  • 12:44:38

    NNAMDIBack in 2008, one remembers Iran's Revolutionary Guard released pictures of a provocative missile testing exercise. The image of four missiles being fired into the air was splashed across major newspapers across the world, but some people immediately began to question whether the picture was real. It turned out that some of those missiles were actually Photoshopped. How is that affecting the news business and the perception of it, Santiago?

  • 12:45:06

    LYONWell, with regards to that particular incident you described, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard who released those pictures actually released two versions of that picture, one that had been Photoshopped and one which had not. We at the AP were fortunate enough to receive the unaltered version, whereas some of our colleagues received the altered version. But the point here is that if we had received the altered version, it would have been very problematic for us.

  • 12:45:35

    LYONAnd it raises the whole question of what do we do with images from sources who have a different interpretation of what the rules surrounding Photoshop manipulation should be. And it...

  • 12:45:46

    NNAMDIIs that something that keeps you up at night? Because it was mentioned earlier, if we look at the protests that are happening, oh, in Syria right now, many of the images that end up on the front pages of newspapers and news websites are actually crowdsourced. They're often grainy cell pictures, cell phone pictures.

  • 12:46:03

    LYONYes, indeed, and it's something that we try and take great care to verify and authenticate as we receive them. It's...

  • 12:46:14

    NNAMDIIn that circumstance, the photographer is an amateur, sometimes a partisan. What do you look for as a visual clue that it's either real or manipulated?

  • 12:46:22

    LYONWell, we apply, I would say, standard journalistic techniques to analyzing the image. We'd look for any indicators of date, of location, signs in the background, time of day, whether that image has been shown before or popped up elsewhere. And it's a very exact thing and arduous process, but our ultimate goal is always to be sure in our minds that what we are distributing is what it claims to be.

  • 12:46:52

    NNAMDIHany, I'm sure you have some interesting thoughts on that process.

  • 12:46:55

    FARIDYeah. So, I mean, I think you and Santiago are pointing exactly to the problem of authentication is that we're living in a much smaller world where everybody has a camera today, and they are in places where photojournalists are not. And we would like to see those images. But we have a trust problem, I mean, and rightfully so. And so that is, essentially, at the very core of what we are thinking about as digital forensic scientists is how do we authenticate images in a day and an age where not only is it Photoshopped, by the way, but it's your smartphone now.

  • 12:47:25

    FARIDI mean, you can do basic editing on your smartphone. There's a Photoshop plug-in that allows you to do not the types of things you can do on your desktop, but you can do manipulations right on your smartphone. And, you know, it's getting harder and harder to know what -- where even the line of reality is. And our hope, of course, is that we can regain some trust. But, in some ways, it is lost. There is no going back anymore. It's just a matter of how bad is it.

  • 12:47:47

    NNAMDIAnd, Matt, if you're working as a photojournalist, you adhere to three basic rules, right? Tell us about dodging, burning and cropping.

  • 12:47:56

    BARRICKYes. When you're submitting images -- I've, you know, worked with the AP, Washington Post and, you know, so on -- you're only allowed to change certain things. You can crop. You can dodge. You can burn. And you can change from a color image into black and white. And that's pretty much it. No other manipulation. No heightening of tones, you know, to, you know, make a certain color stand out, but you want to keep it as -- you know, as Santiago was saying, as original as possible.

  • 12:48:27

    NNAMDIOn to the phones again. Here's Sergei in Rockville, Md. Sergei, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:48:33

    SERGEIYes. Good afternoon. Thank you for taking my call. I just want to bring -- comment about photographers' part in this excessive age of Photoshopping. So the result of widespread practice, the real skillful photographers feel underappreciated. And it's kind of degrading the art and craft of photography that used to be choose the right tools, right angles, right lighting. You can create, basically, a perfect image the way you see it.

  • 12:49:09

    SERGEINow, a new generation of photographers comes to the scene, and they just don't care about this stuff. They say, well, we'll fix it later in Photoshop. We'll do this in Photoshop. And so as a result, the photographer's job is underappreciated.

  • 12:49:24

    NNAMDIMatt Barrick, you're dealing with students studying photography.

  • 12:49:27

    BARRICKI do all the time. One of the things I say to them, I say use Photoshop as a tool, not an excuse. In other words, you need to have proper imaging techniques, proper, you know, compositional techniques, use of lighting, use of camera angle, use of different camera's lenses, that sort of thing. And your caller is exactly right that it does take away from the skill set of the photographer if everyone is just instantly, you know, dictating Photoshop into the image. It should be, you know, photography as the art form, Photoshop used as a tool for a means to an end.

  • 12:50:05

    NNAMDIYou can call us at 800-433-8850. Were you going to say something, Hany?

  • 12:50:10

    FARIDI was. Sorry. I just wanted to add that there is this interesting blowback from all the Photoshopping, which is that now when very talented photographers make remarkable shots, the authenticity is being called into question. And I agree with your caller...

  • 12:50:23


  • 12:50:24

    FARID...that it seems a little unfair that we're now, you know, so suspicious that even authentic things are being called into question. And that's sort of the flip side of the digital age.

  • 12:50:32

    NNAMDISergei, thank you very much for your call. We move on to Andy in Washington, D.C. Andy, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Hi. Andy in Washington, are you there? Well, maybe Andy thinks that we want to talk with Andy in Boyds, Md. Andy in Boyds, Md., are you there?

  • 12:50:52

    ANDYI am here.

  • 12:50:53

    NNAMDIGo right ahead, please.

  • 12:50:55

    ANDYOh, "Kojo Show," always a great show. Right at the end here, the guys were starting to get more global, big picture, and I appreciate it. That's where -- that's what I want to -- callers try to do this. So real quick. I don't want to burn the rest of the time. I'd argue that all art, at some level, is a lie. And so now -- and, by the way, I am a great digital photographer, I dare say, and I love Photoshop. My solution, I always have the original photograph, which I always assume the metadata would prove the original, but that might not be true.

  • 12:51:30

    ANDYI'm not like a internal techie guy on digital photography. But what I love about digital photography is my then-fiancée -- who had no experience with photography, with the digital cameras that I bought her for Christmas -- in about a month, I could teach her what took me, starting as a 12-year-old until I was, like, 30, the things that took me years to learn -- and experimenting with print film.

  • 12:51:54

    ANDYI could teach her that, like, in a week or two, and that's the technology. So I don't think -- we don't need to be afraid of the technology. When you see the photo with some simple tools, and -- I think the answer is you have to show me the original photograph, and you have to put that next to the photograph that you're purporting to show me. And then I can look myself and see whether what you did is a fair representation, you know, of the original photo.

  • 12:52:19

    ANDYIt is important, you know, historical photographs. But in terms of my photography, if I take a nature picture and I crop it and I change the color value, you know, I don't think anybody is going to, you know -- no civilization is going to fall because I did that, you know, much as, you know, (word?) or any painter, you know, impressionist. You know, they didn't paint the literal scene.

  • 12:52:38

    ANDYYou saw the thing and you are like, oh, my God, invoked the emotion that the artist wanted you to invoke. So, I mean, that makes photography art. Otherwise, it's just, you know, documentary.

  • 12:52:46

    NNAMDIWell, on the one hand, Andy, you have described how, throughout history, even before digital technology, knowledge was handed down from one generation to another. The accumulated knowledge of previous generations was always capsulized. That's why teachers are teachers. They capsulize the knowledge of previous generations and hand it down to you in 40-minute period, so to speak.

  • 12:53:08

    NNAMDIBut the other issue that you raise has what Hany, I think, might consider a downside. Hany, I'd like to highlight an example that lies somewhere between the realm of fashion and current events. This month, an Indian men's magazine, FHM India, featured a shocking cover. A Pakistani model named Veena Malik appears in the nude with the initials ISI written across her arm.

  • 12:53:34

    NNAMDIThat cover ignited a firestorm of controversy not just because it was designed to be provocative, but also because the model claimed that she never had posed nude, that the image was essentially completely created using Photoshop.

  • 12:53:49

    FARIDYeah, that's correct, and we spent a little time looking at those photographs. Those are difficult situations to deal with because, clearly, the photo has been manipulated because it's the cover of a fashion magazine, which has been heavily edited. And now the question is, is it this person's head on this person's body? And we know that other things have been altered. And, you know, the truth is, we don't know.

  • 12:54:10

    FARIDIt was one of those images where it's -- it was inconclusive. There were things in the photograph that were clearly consistent, but that, of course, doesn't prove that something is real. It could have just been a very, very good fake. And therein lies the rub with forensics, which is when we find inconsistencies, we're pretty sure that it's a fake. But if we don't find inconsistencies, one of two things has happened: It's authentic, or it's somebody who's very, very talented at what they do, and we simply can't tell yet.

  • 12:54:37

    NNAMDIAnd, of course, the political implications that I was talking about here, Santiago, has to do with the fact that this was a magazine in India, and we all know the ISI in Pakistan has been highly controversial. Don't know if you want to comment on it, Santiago.

  • 12:54:52

    LYONYou know, I think there's a lot to be said here about intent, and manipulation is done for different reasons.

  • 12:55:00


  • 12:55:01

    LYONTo provoke, to try and achieve some sort of stylized notion of beauty, to mislead, so I think it's very important to try and understand what the intent behind any manipulation is and then go ahead and process it based on our understanding of that.

  • 12:55:18

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. Hany, we've been talking about how to recognize and perhaps grade images that are manipulated. But you've also done pioneering work on images that are not altered, but are highly illegal, like child pornography. Tell us about that.

  • 12:55:35

    FARIDYeah. So I've been working with Microsoft and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to try to disrupt the global trade of child pornography around the world, which is a multibillion-dollar and deeply disturbing trend that we are seeing. And just for your listeners who aren't aware, we're not talking about images of 16- and 17-year-olds, which I'm not condoning, but we are talking about images as young as 7, 8, 9 years old and even actually infants on the order of 1- and 2-year-olds who are being sexually abused.

  • 12:56:07

    FARIDAnd we have developed a technology, in collaboration with Microsoft, that will allow Internet service providers such as Microsoft, Facebook, Google, AOL, et cetera, to find and remove and report child pornography as it moves through their network. So that's either email, Web or cloud services. And we have the ability now or the technology to really put an end to this incredibly horrible crime that is being committed to children.

  • 12:56:35

    FARIDAnd it's -- what's interesting about this issue is that technology got us in trouble. It got us to the ability to produce and distribute massive amounts of child pornography, and we now have the technology that we hope will actually disrupt that trade as well.

  • 12:56:49

    NNAMDIThis final from CeeCee in Rockville. "Please ask your guests to discuss identity theft or other disturbing ways to use image searching, image copying and manipulation and facial recognition. Should I be worried?" Matt?

  • 12:57:05

    BARRICKI've actually had instances where people have actually taken my work and manipulated or changed it and claimed it as their own or used it in a publication. It can be very difficult to trace, in some instances, unless you're actually on it. There is software where you can tag your images' metadata, where it will actually be traced.

  • 12:57:25

    BARRICKBut this -- this is quite commonplace and is quite unfortunate. As a photographer, you know, you have your rights, your copyrights, you know, possession of your images, and they don't have just one single use. They have a longevity to them.

  • 12:57:41

    NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Matt Barrick is a professional photographer and a professor at Catholic University. Matthew Barrick, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:57:49

    BARRICKThank you for having me.

  • 12:57:50

    NNAMDISantiago Lyon is director of photography at the Associated Press. He joined us from NPR studios in New York City. Santiago, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:57:58

    LYONThank you. My pleasure.

  • 12:58:00

    NNAMDIHany Farid is a professor of computer science at Dartmouth College. He's designed a variety of software programs and algorithms to detect forgeries and alterations of digital images. His most recent research on fashion photography appeared last month in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. You can find links to some of his work at Dartmouth at our website, Hany Farid, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:58:25

    FARIDThank you. It's my pleasure.

  • 12:58:27

    NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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