Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Ethics of Photoshopping a Shirtless Obama

The Washingtonian is generating a lot of buzz for featuring a shirtless pic of Obama on their cover. Here is an interesting discussion on photo ethics, prompted by the discovery that the paparazzi photo on the cover had been altered.

Said Leslie Milk, the magazine's lifestyle editor, "I know we changed the color of his suit to red, and dropped out the background." In the original photo the president is wearing a black suit and walking from what appears to be sliding glass doors leading to a living room. What also appears to be altered from the original image is the contrast and the color balance of the president's skin. On The Washingtonian's cover the sun striking Obama's chest makes him appear more golden, almost glistening.

In the world of news, that's unethical. The rule of thumb is, if you want to change what's in the photo, choose another photo. Making Obama into a man wearing brilliant red surfer trunks, instead of a more modest black pair, making the image more dramatic by having him walking out of darkness, and changing the exposure so he looks more gilded changes viewers' ideas about who the man is.

The cover shot:

The original shot:

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