Home > Misc > 2010-04-06 We Are The Network: Trends and Ethics in Image Enhancement and Alteration

2010-04-06 We Are The Network: Trends and Ethics in Image Enhancement and Alteration

April 4th, 2010

Trends and Ethics in Image Enhancement and Alteration

Please join our global discussion group
every Tuesday at 12PM noon U.S. Pacific / SL time

This Tuesday, Apr 6, at the Epoch Institute in Second Life

Click here to teleport to the Epoch Institute in Second Life

This Week’s Topic

Trends and Ethics in Image Enhancement and Alteration

Advances in image manipulation and enhancement software have made it ever easier to enhance, or modify, images in ways that look natural and would not be noticed readily as altered. This trend is not new, however the technologies for manipulating images are getting radically easier. “Normal people” can now seamlessly alter images in ways that used to require significant expertise in advanced tools. One example of the new tools generation is the “Content Aware Fill” feature that is bound to ship shortly with Photoshop CS5 (linked below in the reading links section). This tool has now made it possible for almost anyone to make major structural alterations to images no more effort than selection a region of the image and clicking a few checkboxes.

How will ever-advancing image manipulation capabilities, and the drive to provide these as consumer-easy features, change our views of the world? Legal challenges and discussions of ethics continue to multiply as these capabilities appear. Will image modification become “the status quo” for every use, or will news, reporting and education resist these temptations? Major publications  have answered ethics challenges with the comment that they just exercised industry standards of image manipluation. Does this mean that extensive image manipulation is now the norm across industries? Are attempts to contain image manipulation based on ethics arguments too little, too late? Where is image enhancement and alteration headed, and how will ethics of image integrity and enhancement change to keep up with these changes?

Join us Tuesday at 12PM noon SL for an interactive discussion, and thanks for being part of “We Are The Network”!

Best regards,


Reading links below – have fun and see you soon!

Photoshop CS5 Content Aware Fill Sneak Peek Demo

The Biggest Retouching Scandals, via Gone Hollywood

Microsoft Apologies for Racially Charged Image Alteration, via PC World

Every Contact Leaves a Trace, blog for Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination

Demi Moore Sues over “Altered” Photo on W Cover

10 News Photos that took Retouching Too Far

To Retouch or Not to Retouch, That is the Question

Chapter Six, Picture Manipulations, by Paul Martin Lester, from Photojournalism: An Ethical Approach

Kate Doesn’t Like Photoshop: Digital Ethics

A Thread about Reactions to Retouching on “Retouch Pro” Forum

Digital Custom Model Ethics Guidelines

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Please Note – Mixed Text and Voice Session:

We Are The Network is an open, mixed voice / text discussion session. Please feel free to participate in voice or in text, to your preference. The facilitator and some participants will be using voice, so you may wish to enable voice in your viewer so that you can hear the voice portions of the session.

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Thanks for attending!

Joel Foner (Second Life: Joel Savard)


  1. April 6th, 2010 at 23:16 | #1

    Sorry I missed it! Crazy day at work, then I had to meet with an instructor from last quarter.

    The input I had to offer was that image alteration should definitely be left out of the news. But I see National Geographic as more art than news. As artists’ subjects sometimes get political (such as the graffiti artist who won awards for his portrait of Barack Obama), the lines between news and art become blurred. It’s important to recognize the publisher’s main interest. National Geographic places a high priority on evoking emotion with its imagery, and that’s art.

    It’s important that artists’ rights be preserved – artistic license is an important part of the craft. But the news is a different kind of craft, and it doesn’t need altering. It’s about the truth, and that’s it.

    Alteration is also appropriate in advertising. Consumers may consider that an ethical issue, but advertising is about making more money for the ad buyer. They pay money for the advertising, so they deserve to have it pay off. Say, for instance, a sales rep is visiting a client on a certain day that was planned 4 weeks in advance, and the rep is to take pictures of the client’s property on a day that turns out to be a dark and dreary day that looks like a storm is brewing. With a very tight production window, the rep has to take the picture that day and then move on to another client. With these circumstances, the picture taken that stormy day must later be altered by a designer, or it’s so unattractive it’s misleading. The designer takes down the cyan level a little, bumps up yellow a bit, and drops in some pretty blue sky with fluffy white clouds instead of the dismal gray. An experienced designer can make the photo look like it was taken in weather that’s typical for the client’s peak season. And that’s the point of the ad.

    So there’s my take – I welcome comments to follow! 🙂

  2. April 6th, 2010 at 23:17 | #2

    And oh for those in the We Are the Network group who don’t know who Elizabeth Whitmire is, look for me in Second Life as Beth Walcher.

  3. April 9th, 2010 at 07:55 | #3

    It was a fascinating discussion I think we blabbed on for over 2 hours!

  4. April 9th, 2010 at 12:28 | #4

    Thanks for your comments @Elizabeth, and I hope to see you again soon.

    There was strong agreement about the need for artistic license. In addition the discussion focused a lot on the news and journalism issues, and the blurring of lines between journalism and entertainment, with news outlets feeling the need to compete in terms of entertainment value – thus driving questionable image integrity decisions. We had a couple of folks from the news industry internationally in the discussion (including @RolandLegrand from Belgium!), and they brought in some interesting perspectives.

    Thanks @Angie – it was great to have you there too!

  1. April 4th, 2010 at 20:14 | #1
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