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The skin features shown in a portrait of have been manipulated to create the image on the right.

Photo manipulation involves a using various methods and techniques to achieve desired results. Some photo manipulations are considered skillful artwork while others are frowned upon as unethical practices, especially when used to deceive the public, such as that used for political , or to make a product or person look better.

Depending on the application and intent, some photo manipulations are considered an because it involves the creation of unique images and in some instances, signature expressions of art by photographic artists. For example, employed some of the more common manipulations using , such as burning (darkening) and dodging (lightening) a photograph. Other examples of photo manipulation include retouching photographs using ink or paint, , , piecing photos or negatives together in the darkroom, scratching , or through the use of software-based manipulation tools applied to digital images. There are a number of software applications available for digital image manipulation, ranging from professional applications to very basic imaging software for casual users.



Vintage manipulated photo of battle action including details combined from multiple photos. family portrait photo in which the visage of the uniformed , who was actually away on military duties, was inserted and retouched.

Photo manipulation dates back to some of the earliest photographs captured on and during the . The practice began not long after the creation of the first photograph (1825) by who developed and made the first photographic print from a photoengraved printing plate. Traditional photographic prints can be altered using various methods and techniques that involve manipulation directly to the print, such as retouching with ink, paint, , or scratching during developing. Negatives can be manipulated while still in the camera using double-exposure techniques, or in the by piecing photos or negatives together. Some darkroom manipulations involved techniques such as bleaching to artfully lighten or totally wash-out parts of the photograph, or hand coloring for aesthetic purposes or to mimic a fine art painting.

In the early 19th century, photography and the technology that made it possible was rather crude and cumbersome. While the equipment and technology progressed over time, it was not until the late that photography evolved into the digital realm. At the onset, digital photography was considered by some to be a radical new approach, and was initially rejected by photographers because of its substandard quality. The transition from film to digital has been an ongoing process although great strides were made in the early 21st century as a result of advancing technology that has greatly improved digital image quality while reducing the bulk and weight of cameras and equipment.

Early manipulation[]

An early example of tampering was in the early 1860s, when a photo of was altered using the body from a portrait of and the head of Lincoln from a famous seated portrait by – the which was the basis for the Lincoln . Another is exampled in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalogue wherein it exposes a manipulated photograph of posing horseback in front of his troops at . Close observation of the photograph raises questions and brings to light certain details in the photograph that simply do not add up. For example, Grant's head is set at a strange angle to his body, his uniform is of a different time period, and his favorite horse did not have a left hind sock like the horse in the photograph, although his other horse Egypt did have a sock but on a different foot. With further research, three different photographs were discovered that explained the composite using Grant's head from one photograph, the body of atop his horse from another photograph, and for the background, an 1864 photograph of captured at the .

In the 20th century, digital retouching became available with computers running in professional environments, which, alongside other contemporary packages, were effectively replaced in the market by and other editing software for .

Political and ethical issues[]

Photo manipulation has been used to deceive or persuade viewers or improve storytelling and self-expression. Often even subtle and discreet changes can have a profound impact on how we interpret or judge a photograph, making it all the more important to know when or if manipulation has occurred. As early as the American Civil War, photographs were published as engravings based on more than one negative.

made use of photo retouching for propaganda purposes. On May 5, 1920 his predecessor held a speech for Soviet troops that attended. Stalin had Trotsky retouched out of a photograph showing Trotsky in attendance. In a well known case of image manipulation, leader (the "Vanishing Commissar"), after his execution in 1940, was removed from an official press photo where he was pictured with Stalin. (For more information, see .) The pioneer among journalists distorting photographic images for news value was : in the mid-1920s, his "" process involved reenacting real news events with costumed and then photographing the dramatized scenes—then pasting faces of the real news-personalities (gathered from unrelated photos) onto his staged images. In the 1930s, artist used a type of photo manipulation known as the to critique .

Some ethical theories have been applied to image manipulation. During a panel on the topic of ethics in image manipulation Aude Oliva theorized that categorical shifts are necessary in order for an edited image to be viewed as a manipulation. In Image Act Theory, Carson Reynolds extended theory by applying it to photo editing and image manipulations. In "How to Do Things with Pictures", details the long history of photo manipulation and discusses it critically.

Use in journalism[]

See also:

A notable incident of controversial photo manipulation occurred over a photograph that was altered to fit the vertical orientation of a 1982 magazine cover. The altered image made two appear closer together than they actually were in the original photograph. The incident triggered a debate about the appropriateness of falsifying an image, and raised questions regarding the magazine's credibility. Shortly after the incident, Tom Kennedy, director of photography for National Geographic stated, "We no longer use that technology to manipulate elements in a photo simply to achieve a more compelling graphic effect. We regarded that afterwards as a mistake, and we wouldn’t repeat that mistake today."

There are other incidents of questionable photo manipulation in journalism. One such incident arose in early 2005 after was released from prison. used a photograph of Stewart's face on the body of a much slimmer woman for their cover, suggesting that Stewart had lost weight while in prison. Speaking about the incident in an interview, Lynn Staley, assistant managing editor at Newsweek said, "The piece that we commissioned was intended to show Martha as she would be, not necessarily as she is." Staley also explained that Newsweek disclosed on page 3 that the cover image of Martha Stewart was a composite.

Image manipulation software has affected the level of trust many viewers once had in the aphorism, the camera never lies. Images may be manipulated for fun, aesthetic reasons, or to improve the appearance of a subject but not all image manipulation is innocuous as evidenced by the . The image in question was a fraudulent composite image of taken on June 13, 1971 and taken in August, 1972 sharing the same platform at a 1971 antiwar rally; the latter of which carried a fake credit with the intent to change the public's perspective of reality.

There is a growing body of writings devoted to the ethical use of digital editing in . In the United States, for example, the (NPPA) established a Code of Ethics which promotes the accuracy of published images, advising that photographers "do not manipulate images [...] that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects." Infringements of the Code are taken very seriously, especially regarding digital alteration of published photographs, as evidenced by a case in which -nominated photographer resigned his post following the revelation that a number of his photographs had been manipulated.

In 2010, a Ukrainian photographer Stepan Rudik, winner of the 3rd prize story in Sports Features, has been disqualified due to violation of the rules of the contest. "After requesting of the series from him, it became clear that an element had been removed from one of the original photographs." As of 2015, up to 20% of World Press Photo entries that made it to the penultimate round of the contest were disqualified after they were found to have been manipulated or post-processed with rules violations.

Use in glamour photography[]

The photo manipulation industry has often been accused of promoting or inciting a distorted and unrealistic image of self; most specifically in younger people. The world of is one specific industry which has been heavily involved with the use of photo manipulation (what many consider to be a concerning element as many people look up to celebrities in search of embodying the 'ideal figure'). Manipulation of a photo to alter a model’s appearance can be used to change features such as skin complexion, hair color, body shape, and other features. Many of the alterations to skin involve removing blemishes through the use of the healing tool in Photoshop. Photo editors may also alter the color of hair to remove roots or add shine. Additionally, the model’s teeth and eyes may be made to look whiter than they are in reality. and can even be edited into pictures to look as though the model was wearing them when the photo was taken. Through photo editing, the appearance of a model may be drastically changed to mask imperfections.

Celebrities against photo manipulation[]

Photo manipulation has triggered negative responses from both viewers and celebrities. This has led to celebrities refusing to have their photos retouched in support of the that has decided that "[we] must stop exposing impressionable children and teenagers to advertisements portraying models with body types only attainable with the help of photo editing software" These include , , , and .

Brad Pitt had a photographer, , take photos of him that emphasized all of his flaws. Chuck Close is known for his photos that emphasize all skin flaws of an individual. Pitt did so in an effort to speak out against media using photoshop and manipulating celebrities’ photos in an attempt to hide their flaws. Also, spoke out against photo manipulation in media after magazine altered her body, making it look unnaturally thin.

In April 2010, agreed to release "un-airbrushed images of herself next to the digitally altered ones". The fundamental motive behind her move was to "highlight the pressure exerted on women to look perfect".

In addition, 42-year-old also appeared on the cover of 's 2012 March/April issue, makeup-free and without digital retouching for the first time.

Companies against photo manipulation[]

Multiple companies have begun taking the initiative to speak out against the use of photo manipulation when advertising their products. Two companies that have done so include and . Dove created the Dove Self-Esteem Fund and also the as a way to try to help build confidence in young women. They want to emphasize what is known as real beauty, or untouched photographs, in the media now. Also, Aerie has started their campaign #AerieREAL. They have a line of undergarments now that goes by that name with the intention of them being for everyone. Also, their advertisements state that the model has not been retouched in any way. They also add in their advertisements that "The real you is sexy."

Also, the American Medical Association has taken a stand against the use of photo manipulation. Dr. McAneny made a statement that altering models to such extremes creates unrealistic expectations in children and teenagers regarding body image. He also said that we should stop altering the models so they are not exposed to body types that can be attained only through the use of editing the photos. The American Medical Associations as a whole adopted a policy to work with advertisers to work on setting up guidelines for advertisements to try to limit how much photoshop is used. The goal of this policy is to limit the amount of unrealistic expectations for body image in advertisement.

Governments against excessive photo manipulation[]

Governments are exerting pressure on advertisers, and are starting to ban photos that are too airbrushed and edited. In the United Kingdom the has banned an advertisement by featuring for being misleading, stating that the flawless skin seen in the photo was too good to be true. The US is also moving in the direction of banning excessive photo manipulation where a model's ad was banned because it had exaggerated effects, leading to a misleading representation of the product.

Support for photo manipulation in media[]

Some editors of magazine companies do not view manipulating their as an issue. In an interview with the editor of the French magazine , she stated that their readers are not idiots and that they can tell when a model has been retouched. Also, some who support photo manipulation in the media state that the altered photographs are not the issue, but that it is the expectations that viewers have that they fail to meet, such as wanting to have the same body as a celebrity on the cover of their favorite magazine.

Surveys done about photo manipulation[]

Surveys have been done to see how photo manipulation affects society and to see what society thinks of it. One survey was done by a fashion store in the United Kingdom, , and it showed that 90% of the individuals surveyed would prefer seeing a wider variety of body shapes in media. This would involve them wanting to see cover models that are not all thin, but some with more curves than others. The survey also talked about how readers view the use of photo manipulation. One statistic stated that 15% of the readers believed that the cover images are accurate depictions of the model in reality. Also, they found that 33% of women who were surveyed are aiming for a body that is impossible for them to attain.

Dove also did a survey to see how photo manipulation affects the self-esteem of females. In doing this, they found that 80% of the women surveyed felt insecure when seeing photos of celebrities in the media. Of the women surveyed who had lower self-esteem, 71% of them do not believe that their appearance is pretty or stylish enough in comparison to cover models.

Social and cultural implications[]

The growing popularity of image manipulation has raised concern as to whether it allows for unrealistic images to be portrayed to the public. In her article "" (1977), discusses the objectivity, or lack thereof, in photography, concluding that "photographs, which fiddle with the scale of the world, themselves get reduced, blown up, cropped, retouched, doctored and tricked out". A practice widely used in the magazine industry, the use of photo manipulation on an already subjective photograph, creates a constructed reality for the individual and it can become difficult to differentiate fact from fiction. With the potential to alter body image, debate continues as to whether manipulated images, particularly those in magazines, contribute to self-esteem issues in both men and women.

In today's world, photo manipulation has a positive impact by developing the creativity of one's mind or maybe a negative one by removing the art and beauty of capturing something so magnificent and natural or the way it should be. According to , "Photoshopping and airbrushing, many believe, are now an inherent part of the beauty industry, as are makeup, lighting and styling". In a way, these image alterations are "selling" actual people to the masses to affect responses, reactions, and emotions toward these cultural icons.

Types of digital photo manipulation[]

In digital editing, photographs are usually taken with a and input directly into a computer. , or printed photographs may also be using a , or images may be obtained from databases. With the advent of computers, , and digital cameras, the term image editing encompasses everything that can be done to a photo, whether in a or on a computer. Photo manipulation is often much more explicit than subtle alterations to color balance or contrast and may involve overlaying a head onto a different body or changing a sign's text, for examples. Image editing software can be used to apply effects and warp an image until the desired result is achieved. The resulting image may have little or no resemblance to the photo (or photos in the case of ) from which it originated. Today, photo manipulation is widely accepted as an .

There are several subtypes of digital image-retouching:

Technical retouching Manipulation for photo restoration or enhancement. This can involve the adjustment of colors, contrast, (i.e. gradational retouching) and sharpness, and the removal of noise, elements or visible flaws on skin or materials. Creative retouching Used as an art form or for commercial use to create more sleek and interesting images for advertisements. Creative retouching could be manipulation for fashion, beauty or advertising photography such as pack-shots (which could also be considered inherently technical retouching in regards to package dimensions and wrap-around factors). One of the most prominent disciplines in creative retouching is image compositing whereby the digital artist uses multiple photos to create a single image. Today, are used more and more to add extra elements or even locations and backgrounds. This kind of image composition is widely used when conventional photography would be technically too difficult or impossible to shoot on location or in studio.


As a result of the popularity of Adobe Photoshop as image editing software, use of the neologism "photoshopped" grew ubiquitously. The term commonly refers to any and all digital editing of photographs regardless of what software is used. Trademark owners , while flattered over the software's popularity, objected to what they referred to as misuse of their trademarked software, and considered it an infringement on their trademark to use terms such as "photoshopped" or "photoshopping" as a noun or verb, in possessive form or as a slang term. However, Adobe's attempts to prevent "" or "genericide" of the company's trademark was to no avail. Separately, the advises against using "photoshop" as a verb because Adobe Photoshop is . The terms "photoshop", "photoshopped" and "photoshopping" are ubiquitous and widely used colloquially and academically when referencing image editing software as it relates to digital manipulation and alteration of photographs.

In popular culture, the term photoshopping is sometimes associated with in the form of visual jokes, such as those published on and in magazine. Images may be propagated via e-mail as humor or passed as actual news in a form of . An example of the latter category is "", which was widely circulated as a so-called "National Geographic Photo of the Year" and was later revealed to be a hoax.


  • of 16 photos which have been digitally manipulated in to give the impression that it is a real landscape.

  • Before its release to news media, congressional staff digitally added into this 2013 official portrait the heads of four members absent in the original photo shoot.

  • Original photograph of horses being sorted in a corral

  • Digitally manipulated composite: horses in original photo are added to a photo of a pasture.

  • Photograph manipulated in Photoshop to give impression it is a painting complete with brush strokes.

  • Photomanipulation

  • GorillaBourbon.jpg

See also[]


  1. Jack Dziamba (February 27, 2013). . 
  2. Mia Fineman (November 29, 2012). . PBS Newshour (Interview). Interviewed by Tom Legro. South Florida: WPBT2. Retrieved January 30, 2016. 
  3. . BBC News. 21 March 2002. Retrieved 2011-11-17. The image of an engraving depicting a man leading a horse was made in 1825 by Nicephore Niepce, who invented a technique known as heliogravure. 
  4. ^ Farid, Hany. (PDF). Archived from on September 8, 2015. 
  5. Klaus Wolfer (ed.). . Polaroid SX-70 Art. Skylab Portfolio. Retrieved February 2, 2016. 
  6. (2006). . Routledge. p. 1007.  . 
  7. Peres, Michael (2007). . Focal Press; 4 edition. p. Preface, 24.  . Retrieved January 30, 2016. 
  8. (2006). (PDF). Adobe Systems Incorporated. 
  9. ^ . . Retrieved January 30, 2016. 
  10. Fabio Sasso (July 2011). . Pearson Education. p. 124.  . 
  11. Rotman, Brian (2008). . Duke University Press. pp. 96–97.  . 
  12. Peter E. Palmquist, Thomas R. Kailbourn (2005). Pioneer Photographers from the Mississippi to the Continental Divide: A Biographical Dictionary, 1839-1865. Stanford University Press. p. 55.  . 
  13. King, D. (1997). The Commissar Vanishes: the falsification of photographs and art in Stalin's Russia. New York: Metropolitan Books.  . 
  14. Ammann, Daniel (2009). . Macmillan. p. 228.  . 
  15. The Newseum (Sep 1, 1999). . Retrieved September 30, 2012. 
  16. Carlson, Kathryn; DeLevie, Brian; Oliva, Aude (2006). . ACM SIGGRAPH 2006. International Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques. . :.  . 
  17. Reynolds, C. J. (July 12–14, 2007). (PDF). Seventh International Conference of Computer Ethics. Archived from () on May 28, 2008. 
  18. (1994). . The Reconfigured Eye: Visual Truth in the Post-Photographic Era. MIT Press. 
  19. Fred Ritchin (November 4, 1984). . The New York Times Company. Retrieved January 6, 2016. 
  20. ^ . Bronx Documentary Center. Retrieved January 6, 2016. 
  21. ^ Jonathan D. Glater (March 3, 2005). . New York Times. Retrieved January 6, 2015. 
  22. ^ Katie Hefner (March 11, 2004). . The New York Times Company. 
  23. Kitchin, Rob (2011). "6". . The MIT Press. p. 120.  . 
  24. . . 
  25. Lang, Daryl (April 15, 2007). . . 
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  28. . World Press Photo. Retrieved 2016-01-22. 
  29. ^ . Daily Mail. April 13, 2010. Retrieved March 23, 2012. 
  30. Metzmacher, Dirk. "Smashing Magazine." Smashing Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. April 16, 2014.
  31. . NY Daily News. Retrieved 2016-04-25. 
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  33. Roberts, Soraya. . The Juice. Retrieved March 22, 2012. 
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  35. . Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
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  43. (1977). . p. 4. 
  44. L. Boutwell, Allison. . 
  45. Rodriguez, Edward (2008). . Netlibrary. p. 163.  . The term photoshopping is a neologism, meaning "editing an image", regardless of the program used. 
  46. Geelan, David (2006). . Sense Publisher. p. 146.  . And with digital photography, there is also the possibility of photoshopping – digitally editing the representation to make it more aesthetically pleasing, or to change decisions about framing. 
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Further reading[]

  • Ades, Dawn (1986). Photomontage. London, UK: Thames & Hudson.  . 

External links[]


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