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The Media

World Press Photo Winner Accused of Photoshopping 182

vikingpower writes "The winner of this year's World Press Photo award, Paul l Hanssen, is under fire for allegedly having photoshopped the winning picture. The Hacker Factor is detailing the reasons and technicalities for the accusations. ExtremeTech also runs an item about the possible faking. Upon questions by Australian news site, Hanssen answers his photo is not a fake. The whole story, however, is based upon somewhat thin proof: three different times in the file's Adobe XMP block; this does not necessarily mean that more than one file was used in order to obtain a composite image." Update: 05/14 20:04 GMT by S : World Press Photo says the photo is genuine.
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World Press Photo Winner Accused of Photoshopping

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @08:57AM (#43718865)

    The "photo" looks like it was CGI'd from the ground up. It looks like it was meant to look that way.

    It looks like a Final Fantasy cutscreen.

    • The "photo" looks like it was CGI'd from the ground up. It looks like it was meant to look that way.

      Indeed. My first thought was "uncanny valley" []. The people don't even look real.

      • Right. But there's a big difference between enhancing the tones that are already there in a single shot, and compositing from more than one image, or other techniques such as shape distortion.

        I have no problem with photo-journalists enhancing the tones of an image. The image still shows an actual scene. It might change the feel of an image but it doesn't change the facts that the image shows. I'd rather see an image where I can see the details than one where I can't because the exposure needed for different

  • Minor observations (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @09:07AM (#43718921) Journal

    I am not agreeing with or denying what Hacker Factor is saying, but I would like to point out some minor issues with the analysis.

    First, as to the lighting of the faces being brighter than in other pictures taken during the same procession, it is entirely possible there was a reflective surface to the crowd's right (picture left) which is making the faces appear brighter than one would think they should be in the alley way. Think of the reflective nature of the moon's surface which conspiracy theorists always ignore when talking about how bright things are in shadows. While the Photoshop effect could be the issue, note the wall to their right (picture left) which does have a reflective surface.

    Note also the man on the far left, next to the wall. Note how there is sun shining on the white cloth directly below his face. As everyone knows, a white surface reflects large portions of light falling on it which would also produce the lighting effect seen on the man's face.

    Second, as to the dirt on the girls face appearing differently in the photos, note the different angles of her head. In the winning photo the forehead is almost at a right angle to the picture taker whereas in the second photo it is pointing almost directly at the camera. The lighting in the second photo is much more diffuse than the first which could explain the difference.

    Also note that in the winning photo, the crowd is in a part of the alley which has exposure to much more sunlight than in the second photo.

    Again, I'm not saying the person didn't do what has been accused, I'm only pointing out possibilities to explain what is being shown.

    • by O('_')O_Bush ( 1162487 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @09:28AM (#43719097)
      The photographer has already explained the lat the photos have been retouched to affect lighting and dynamic range, he just didn't do what he was accused of, which was splicing different images together.
      • by Zeromous ( 668365 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @11:02AM (#43720125) Homepage

        I have to agree with this, I actually see VERY LITTLE evidence of a splice of three "different" images.

        What is very possible, is three copies of the same image where spliced and lighting adjustment was performed on three splices separately. This is done for masking purposes, or situations of convenience.

        I believe in fact, this is what the photographer claims and I find the analysis of the pixel changes and shadows consistent with this.

        • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

          I think that is what he did too, selectively enhancing different parts of the image each differently. it matters little if they were done in separate copies or on the same image just at different places of the image(technically it's the same anyhow).

          however, I'm not so sure he would admit to that so directly on his own - because it's walking on a fine line what's acceptable and what's not. (since he could fade out entire persons with that technique, and it was supposed to be a photojournalism contest). beca

          • The difference between multiple images and the same image is what is suspicious. It's just not what you would do in a normal scenario. When I need to edit an image (crop/balance), I normally don't need to load the original multiple times. It is possible that he made changes and could not undo them because he saved the changes or whatever. So rather than starting all over again, he loaded the original for different parts. But it's rather a sloppy way to do things. Most of the time multiple loads signif
            • by Dahamma ( 304068 )

              He already said exactly what he was doing and why.

              "In the post-process toning and balancing of the uneven light in the alleyway, I developed the raw file with different density to use the natural light instead of dodging and burning. In effect to recreate what the eye sees and get a larger dynamic range. To put it simply, it's the same file - developed over itself - the same thing you did with negatives when you scanned them."

              You could call this "sloppy" digital editing, but you could also argue it just me

    • Light Room 101 (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It looks like it's be run through lightroom which is what he says he did to it!

      If you're not familiar with lightroom, its what professional photographers use to get brightness and depth into photos. It's a set of filters coupled to some workflow and archiving tools. What it isn't is Photoshop editing. He didn't put the dead children into the shot, or composite two separate dead children into one shot.

      Israel really did kill children, they real

      • It really is a tragedy, and pretending it's fake, and by implication that the dead children are also fake is a misleading argument.

        But it usually works. Resistance is diminished and discredited, and that's all that matters.

  • not convinced (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jbmartin6 ( 1232050 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @09:09AM (#43718941)
    I'm not an expert in photography and imaging, but upon reading the Extreme Tech article I wasn't impressed. Their stunning crescendo:

    I think most of you will agree, though, that the photo simply feels fake

    I was surprised they didn't simply go for "you can tell by the pixels."

    • The bit with the shadow angles reminded me of those Apollo conspiracy sites. "The sun's on the right, nothing on the left can be illuminated at all!"

      Like ambient light doesn't exist.

  • zero evidence (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Njovich ( 553857 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @09:10AM (#43718953)

    The supposed proof of 'fakery' from the article seems entirely consistent with what the photographer says it is, different regions with different light intensities from the same raw file.The light angles seem entirely plausible, I guess the article writer hasn't heard of reflection. Even the moon landing nutters come up with better stuff than this.

    The only true thing is that (as the photographer also says), the light intensities are differing.

    Why wouldn't the photographer be allowed to change light intensities? Every single digital image, ever uses some kind of processing to turn photons into pixels on your screen, and there is always some level of subjectivity in how that is done, even if it's done right on the chip. Why is that an issue?

    • "In the post-process toning and balancing of the uneven light in the alleyway, I developed the raw file with different density to use the natural light instead of dodging and burning. In effect to recreate what the eye sees and get a larger dynamic range"

      From the contest: " The content of the image must not be altered. Only retouching which conforms to the currently accepted standards in the industry is allowed."

      It seems lighting isn't the issue, so much as the accusation of image splicing.
      • Re: zero evidence (Score:4, Insightful)

        by lahvak ( 69490 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @10:20AM (#43719595) Homepage Journal

        It seems lighting isn't the issue, so much as the accusation of image splicing.

        Yes, but the image splicing accusation is largely based on the three conversions from raw. If he made a hdr image from a single raw, as he claims, he would obviously have to do several conversions of the same raw file. That would also explain different ELA brightness in different parts of the picture: they came from different conversions of the same raw file, so they were processed differently. Notice that there are several slight halos, for example on top of the building in the background, that would indicate a hdr from raw techique that the author claims he used. In fact, a single raw hdr was my first reaction when I saw the picture.

        The only thing left that would support possible splicing is then the lighting itself: the light on the faces is not consistent with the location of the sun. That can easily be explained by an additional (weaker) light source on the left (most likely a reflective surface on the left wall). The hdr processing emphasizes this light in the otherwise dark areas of the picture, which makes it look strange and unnatural, but is still does not prove splicing of several images.

        I don't know whether the single raw hdr techique "conforms to the currently accepted standards in the industry", but I am pretty sure I have seen it used in news images before. After all, it does not alter the actual scene in any way, it just emphasizes some parts of it differently.

        • I'm more partial to think the lighting on the faces is more to do with a simple bounce from the sun. He assembled the image from three separate virtual exposures. It's likely he chose the brightest one to use for the faces, his normal exposure for the walls and stuff, and the darkest one for the sky. I don't think he assembled the "HDR" using some automated method. More likely he just used more traditional blending (overlay, etc) of the different exposures and some layer masks as photographers have been
    • There are many ways to lie with a camera, and most of them don't rely on Photoshop--framing, cropping, timing, staging or simple selection from a number of shots. Rules tend to be arbitrary--composites may be utter fictions, but they can also be stitched panoramas that provide a wider view and greater detail than the lens/camera combination could provide in a single frame. Film shots were dodged and burned in the darkroom long before digital photography was created. Digital has merely made manipulation e
    • by jovius ( 974690 )

      True. Even during the black&white developing process one can alter the lighting of the original exposure by various means. One simple method is to cover certain areas with hands while the photographic paper is exposed. Press images always have a viewpoint which is pronounced by a simple crop for example. Their function is to distill the context into a striking composition. This image conveys the feeling and the depth of the actual event really well - it's a good press photo.

  • It's no longer really possible for "normal" people to tell apart real images from photoshopped or even completely CGI rendered ones. Computer imagining has become this good.

    What's real? What's fake? Or rather, where does the fake start? Pretty much every ad picture is 'shopped. Models don't "grow" that way. A real human isn't pretty enough for us. And real reality isn't sensationalist enough either.

    Get used to fake images being broadcast as news. Thinking about it, you probably already are, you just don't k

    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      The news is almost already entirely lies. Adding fake images doesn't affect its trustworthiness at all.

    • It's no longer really possible for "normal" people to tell apart real images from photoshopped or even completely CGI rendered ones.

      To be honest, it never has been. Photographers, long before Photoshop or computers, have been editing photos to the point that normal people can't tell the difference. It's always funny to read some photographer go off about the abuse of digital editing these days and give evidence of some well known photo [] as what photographers used to do 'in camera' only to have some other photographer show the original photo [] and show that most of that great photo was not done in camera.

  • Bit of retouching (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrDoh! ( 71235 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @09:17AM (#43719005) Homepage Journal
    Looks brightened up a bit, but not other images thrown in. Can photographers not brighten/tweak contrast on a pic? Posting the original RAW file (if it still exists) would cover him for these sorts of accusations. Wouldn't it be prudent for a news agency to have a backup of the RAW files for A) these sorts of accusations B) their own tweaking of the pic for print/display?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This photo is supposed to show mourners in Gaza City carrying children who died in an Israeli air strike

    No, it really does show mourners in Gaza City carrying children who died in an Israeli air strike. There's no dispute about the factual content. The only dispute is about dramatic enhancement. "Supposed" is an attempt to cast uncertainty about what happened on the ground, when the only uncertainty is how pretty the photographer made it look.

  • by gaspyy ( 514539 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @09:25AM (#43719073)

    The gritty look on the picture can be achieved with a local contrast filter. Combined with contrast and saturation manipulation, it's pretty easy to do. In Lightroom is just a matter of setting a few sliders - Darks, Highlights, Clarity, Vibrance and Saturation.

    Furthermore, the author says he has the RAW file and it was examined by the jury. Personally I know of no software that can currently reverse a jpeg into raw. It should be possible in theory to fake a raw file, but I sincerely doubt it's the case.

    Analyzing jpeg artifacts is snake oil. My photo workflow is this: shoot in RAW. Edit in Lightroom. Convert to ProPhoto 16bit/channel. Open in Photoshop, make any fine adjustments if needed. Output to jpeg. Only fools edit and re-save jpegs.

    This is simply one of the "fake moon landings" conspiracies, started by people who don't understand photography.

    • by Toonol ( 1057698 )
      Personally I know of no software that can currently reverse a jpeg into raw.

      Me neither, and now that I think of it, that's kind of a glaring hole. Somebody needs to write one, so that the entire chain of evidence can be faked. At this point, I think it's better to establish in everybody's mind that no photos can be trusted, rather than some notion that the fakes can still be distinguished from the real.
      • You'd have to write one for each variety of CCD, no?

      • You could create a RAW file easily enough, but it would be painfully evident that your 8 bit JPEG source data was not 10-16 bit RAW data. Not to mention the loss from the compression.

      • Somebody should write an algorithm that perfectly reverses lossy compression. Brilliant!
        • by Dahamma ( 304068 )

          I always wanted to create an iPhone app to do something like that. I'd call it "Unstagram".

      • by Cederic ( 9623 )

        Doesn't Adobe allow you to convert your RAW to DNG? Will that also convert your JPGs to DNG?

        Some cameras produce DNG as their RAW format, so it must count. It's just going to look a bit shitty as it came from a JPG.

        (For what it's worth, I publish 100% quality JPGs. They're not as good as RAWs, but for most uses they're pretty adequate)

    • by naroom ( 1560139 )

      Personally I know of no software that can currently reverse a jpeg into raw.

      Print at high res, then take a picture of the print!

      • by BetterSense ( 1398915 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @10:45AM (#43719873)
        That's exactly what I always do to digitize my darkroom prints...I use a Nikon D70 on a copy stand, which is much much easier for me than using a flatbed scanner. When I post images of my prints online, the images say "Nikon D70" in the EXIF data, even for an image of a cyanotype. That's just how I digitize my prints for posting on the web. So I can show you plenty of "raw files" "proving" that my images were "unmanipulated"...and I guess you are supposed to believe me that I found an alternate universe that is bluish monochrome.

        When I see any modern "photo contests" that require images to be "unmanipulated", I just shake my head. Not because I don't think that manipulation is good or bad, but because I don't think the idea of "manipulation" or "unmanipulation" is even a coherent concept in the context of what I call "information images", colloquially called "photographs(2)", which by their nature are manipulated and interpreted, and the authenticity of such information images has no meaning apart from the manipulative choices of the artist/programmer(s). A digital image can be considered no more or less authentic than a painting. They must always be considered interpretations because that's what they are, by their very nature; they have no nature apart from such interpretive manipulation; they must be interpreted to even be experienced. The common man only clings to the idea of an "unmanipulated image" because he thinks digital images are some different type of photograph(1), when in reality an "information image" (photograph(2)) is actually a fundamentally different (no matter how superficially similar) thing to a physical photograph(1). This is an example of the kind of "counterproductive metaphor or analogy" that Dijkstra talks about in one of his EWDs about radical innovations. The shift from photography to digital imaging is actually what EWD considers a "radical innovation" not some kind of evolution, and failure to understand this, evidenced by the fact that the common man thinks that digital images and photograph(1)s are similar things, is a tragic, limiting and counterproductive semiotic "false friend" that is only the more inevitable because the two things are so superficially similar.

        Photographs(1) can be manipulated, and the extent to which their image can be said to represent reality is totally open (see Jerry Uelsmann) and I'm not talking about that kind of interpretation in the "viewing space". I'm just saying that in the objective space, the ideas of an "authentic" or "original" photograph(1) at least is a concept that can be understood, that COULD make sense, however useful or useless it may be. With digital photographs(2), the concept does not philosophically exist (in my opinion) and only exists as some kind of mass illusion, where people declare an photograph(2) "unauthentic" because "I know it when I see it" (except they demonstrably do not).
        • Photographs(1) can be manipulated

          No, photographs (here, sticking with your notion of not referring to digitally captured images as photographs, only things that use something chemically photosensitive) are manipulated. Every single one of them. Film speed and tonal behavior? Lens behavior like field curvature, chromatic smearing, and non-infinite depth of field? Choice of chemistry? Grain? Paper stock? How it's all souped? Filters to deal with color temps? The photographer's own choice of exposure method? The use of reflectors or suppleme

    • by Goaway ( 82658 )

      Analyzing jpeg artifacts is snake oil.

      Exactly. The second I saw that the accusers were bringing out ELA, I lost all reason to believe anything they were saying. ELA is almost completely random, and will show you whatever you want to see.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 14, 2013 @09:52AM (#43719275)

      A side by side comparison [] of the photo that won the prize and the same photo published the day after it was taken.

      There was a lot of work done on the light levels in the prize winner, but it is the same photo.

      • Yes that wraps it up nicely. The sad thing is I find the less doctored photo looks much better.

      • by PhxBlue ( 562201 )

        There was a lot of work done on the light levels in the prize winner, but it is the same photo.

        Sure, it's the same photo, but how did the photographer get light onto the right side of a man's face when the primary light source (the sun) was obscured? That would have required an off-camera flash, which is doable but uncommon.

        • by Alomex ( 148003 )

          Your English is pretty good, but you need to learn a new phrase:

          Oh, I guess I was wrong. Goes to show.

          You should try it sometime.

  • You can't shoop a 35mm negative.
    • by Ksevio ( 865461 )
      But you can other tricks such as taking a second photo using the same negative to similar effect. A bit more challenging, but still possible
  • As a retoucher for 20 years, as soon as the image popped open on my screen it was yelling at me... "I've been retouched" The light and it's intensity is all over the place. It maybe the shot the photographer took, but he ruined it with terrible retouching.
    • You don't like the retouching, but given it won whatever the award in the title is clearly some other people did like it. So ruined from your perspective - made to appeal to the people judging that award in a less self centered perspective.

      • True. The award panel is looking at the emotional aspect of the shot. The visual colour/light aspect is what is terrible. There was no need to put a glossy magazine touch to a terrible situation other people are finding themselves dealing with.
    • by stymy ( 1223496 )
      The claim is that he spliced 3 images together. There are no rules against fudging with lighting, contrast, and so forth.
  • The strong light coming from the left-area is consistent with a bounce flash. The left-most person has a high amount of directed light, while the rightmost does not. The rightmost is also shielded from the potential flash behind the person carrying the right-most child. If a bounce flash wasn't used, then perhaps a strong reflection from the sunlight from an object. Also, if a remote flash unit was used, it may not show on the metadata.

    The picture looks processed, but mostly to bring out the shadows and hig

  • From the ExtremeTech [] headline:

    How the 2013 World Press Photo of the Year was faked with Photoshop

    OMG, it was faked! This is an outrage!

    ... but, from the ExtremeTech article:

    When is an image fake, and when is it merely enhanced?

    The bigger discussion, of course, is whether Gaza Burial is actually fake — or just enhanced to bring out important details. This is a question that has plagued photography since its inception. Should a photo, especially a press photo, be purely objective? Most people think the answer is an obvious “yes,” but it’s not quite that simple. What if a photo is perfect, except that it’s taken at an odd angle — can you digitally rotate it? What about cropping? What if there’s dust on the lens/sensor/film — can you digitally remove it?

    Perhaps most importantly, though, cameras simply don’t capture the same gamut of color or dynamic range as human eyes — a photo never looks the same as the original image perceived by your brain. Is it okay for a photographer to modify a picture so that it looks exactly how he remembers the scene?

    So, it wasn't faked, but rather cleaned up? All those people were in those positions at that time? The event was real?

    The article uses the word "fake" to discredit the photographer, while at the same time admitting that that determination is really a subjective one having to do with how much enhancement is acceptable, and that the subject of the photo - which photojournalism is really about - is completely real.

    • by PhxBlue ( 562201 )
      The language was softened from the original story so that if it turned out the photo wasn't faked, ExtremeTech won't get sued for libel.
  • This analysis is very dubious, and the shadow analysis is just wrong. The people are in shadow -- they are not lit by the sun -- so you wouldn't expect the shadows on their faces to be determined by the sun. In fact they are illuminated by the sunlit wall, so the shadows are perfectly consistent.

    To be sure the lighting is odd, and I wouldn't be surprised if the photographer had lifted the lighting on and around the people. But this is not proven by the analysis, and in any case I don't think that kind

  • I see no reason to believe that the picture in question has been created by using several photos and copying/pasting people or heads around, but the lighting DEFINITELY looks "fake" (heavily edited) to me. Not only the light, also the colours. For example, the old guy (2nd from the left, holding the left child) - his head just looks unrealistically bright. Or the glasses guy two to the right of him. He definitely is in the shadow, yet his face is not dark at all. And the colours - on the hackerfactor page,

  • It doesn't really matter whether the photo was changed in Photoshop; just the photo itself, the lighting, the angle, and the subject matter are designed to manipulate the viewer's emotions. Press photography and photo journalism is probably the most dishonest form of reporting because it pretends to be authentic, but the the message is so strongly under the photographer's control and the picture and moment are so unrepresentative.

  • This isn't 'photoshop'

    Simply put it's selective filtering and editing as typically afforded in modern day photography software such as Nikon Capture NX

    In fact both photos are highly edited - one photographer/editor will manipulate the exposure, colour, contrast to suit their eye as opposed to another. But the content of the photo is NOT manipulated.

    So effectively you are seeing the results of two different edits, either by the same photographer (unlikely) or two different editors.

    It would be similar to the

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay