This week I was able to experiment with manipulating an image using a Photoshop software. I chose to work with GIMP – a free, online software. I chose this program because it was free and available to anyone. When reading NOVA’s article, Fake or Real?, I saw the difference that high-end software can make when manipulating images. Because of this, I wanted to see if free software would be that much more difficult to use to create a believable manipulated image.
It brings up the question, if it is so much easier to manipulate photos through higher-end, expensive software, who is it that has the means to effectively manipulate images we see in the media?
I chose to use a photo of a friend and put her on a runway as a model. I wanted to see if I could use a free software and an image from a social media site like Facebook to create something believable, or if that power was saved exclusively for those with means and access.
What was my conclusion?
Manipulating an image was both much easier and much more complicated than I had expected. When reading the Fake or Real article about image manipulation, I realized how many different aspects of the photo I needed to keep in mind. I tried to focus on all of these while manipulating the image, and that’s where it became very complicated. Yes, I can take a picture and layer it over a setting. However, I then had to alter the lighting and shadows to make it look as though the subject of the photo hadn’t been standing outside in the original but instead inside as the other people in the picture. Since the photo was from Facebook, the compression and pixelation of the images are very different. However, with a free software there wasn’t much I could do about that without having access to the original, high-resolution image. Because of this, it doesn’t take much scrutiny to realize that this photo is a fake.
There were so many factors to keep in mind, yet in some ways the manipulation was much easier than I thought it would have been. First, access to the tools was incredibly simple. This leads me to believe that anyone can manipulate media and release it into the digital universe. In a way, that’s terrifying. Beyond learning the tools, it only takes persistence and the drive to create something believable and I was able to accomplish much more than I thought I could have.
This is where Photoshop is worrying. If I can take a Facebook photo and a free software and create a photo that is somewhat believable (at least at first glance), then anyone truly can! This helps emphasize how important it is to view images critically. You can never assume that what you see online is automatically true.
Clearly, it takes very little to create something more fantastic than fact.