Well Being

Cool New Software Reveals Degree Of Photo Manipulation In Ads

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It's safe to assume that many of the images you see in magazines and advertisements have been digitally enhanced. Now a new tool from Dartmouth University computer scientists lets us see exactly how and to what extent such photoshopped images have been altered. What's so cool about the program is it doesn't just identify the obvious (like that fat rolls or deep wrinkles have been removed) but minor beauty enhancements, too. You might not have consciously noticed how much whiter Angelina Jolie's eyes are in the second, touched-up photo—but this computer program did. [tagbox tag= “photoshop”]

The ‘digital forensics software,' designed by Harry Farid and Eric Kee, can spot and highlight areas of photo retouching. It accounts for two types of image alteration: geometric adjustments, such as slimming subjects' arms, legs and waists, and ‘photometric' changes, such as augmenting skin tone or removing wrinkles, blemishes and cellulite. The program then assigns a score of 1-5 to the image, based on how significant the changes have been.

The program “can be used to objectively judge by how much a retouched photo has strayed from reality,” the researchers note.

Photoshopped imagery has been a hot topic in 2011. Earlier this year, the American Medical Association took a stand, condemning advertisers for using digitally enhanced photographs and encouraging business to show more realistic faces and bodies. And in July, the U.K. Advertising Authority banned two L’Oreal makeup ads for using misleadingly altered photos.

Farid and Kee said their motivation is combating the way “unrealistic and highly idealized images” spawn body-image dissatisfaction and eating disorders in women, men and children. Their program could be used to assign health ratings or warnings to digitally enhanced ads, they say.

While I don't see (and don't want to see) a day where photoshopped images carry mandatory health ratings coming anytime soon, I do think this project is pretty cool. The more people—academics, bloggers, activists, etc.—we have policing the media's photoshop absurdity and making a fuss about it, the better to break these images' illusive power.

Photo: The Daily Mail