***scroll for updates…a reminder about Reuters’ news-gathering policy from the Reuters website: “Our policy is to send news to our customers only after scrutiny by a group of production editors who ensure quality standards are maintained across all our news services. When we get something wrong, our policy is to be honest about errors and to correct them promptly and clearly.”***
***update: The picture is killed***
Charles points out that the photographer of the image, Adnan Hajj, is responsible for another familiar image from the past week. And Allah points out an Adnan Hajj iconic image highlighted here in February.
Half the time you spend when you use the clone-stamp tool is spent on undoing those repeating patterns to make the image look more realistic. Rarely are they as noticeable or as numerous as they are here, though, even before retouching. And for such a cheap effect too: generating more smoke.
Professional photographers are debating the Hajj photo at SportsShooters.com and they smell something funny, too. A sample:
Geoff Miller, Photographer
Portage | MI | USA | Posted: 8:53 PM Today
->> Not looking to get political on this one… But, um, does anyone see anything odd about this photo?:
Wesley R. Bush, Photographer
Nashville | TN | U.S. | Posted: 9:13 PM Today
->> Cloned smoke?
Jenna Isaacson, Photographer
Columbia | Mo | USA | Posted: 9:15 PM Today
->> That *IS* weird. I wonder if any non-photo people notice it as much as we do.
Bruce Twitchell, Photographer
Coeur d’Alene | ID | USA | Posted: 9:16 PM Today
->> Nah… smoke naturally repeats itself in perfect patterns like that. It always does…..doesn’t it?
Alan Rogers, Photographer
Carbondale | IL | USA | Posted: 9:18 PM Today
->> I’ll second the cloned smoke…but it looks so obvious that I don’t know how the photographer could have gotten away with it. Has anyone seen a high-res version of the photo?
Geoff Miller, Photographer
Portage | MI | USA | Posted: 9:29 PM Today
->> I know that building plans are often reused in other parts of the world, but if you look at the building that’s the apparent source of the plume on the left (as well as the next two buildings to its right) it appears that it’s been rubber stamped at least two other times up and to the right.
Jenna, Yes, non-photographers have notices it. To make matters worse, Mr. Hajj was one of the photographers that covered the Qana apartment complex bombing where some people (incorrectly, I believe) questioned the truthfullness of the images. This photo is going to _really_ pour gas on the that whole issue.
Matt Mallams, Photographer
Ventura | CA | USA | Posted: 9:31 PM Today
->> This makes me sick to my stomach. This is got to be a joke.
If your going to ruined your career, at least work on the photo a little longer than two minutes.
Jason Fritz, Student/Intern
San Francisco | CA | USA | Posted: 10:14 PM Today
->> The IDF has reduced many parts of Lebanon to smoldering piles or rubble. And then they bomb those piles again. I am having trouble understanding why a photographer would ruin their career over a photo that isn’t very good in the first place, especially considering there is no shortage of buildings being consumed by fire and smoke in Lebanon. Can this be a bad video still? Or perhaps a long lens with a doubler attached. This image would certainly catch the attention of any Reuters photo editor, if it were – as many of you are suggesting – a clone stamp fakery, would it not?
I am sure someone can shoot an email to the Reuters Beirut Bureau Photo Editor, to alert them and get an answer, if the building is even still there. It is our job as journalists to bring these things up. Its a sad day if the accusations are indeed true. I’ve seen some truly moving images from this conflict. Ones that evoke anger and a deep sense of sadness. I can’t imagine why, with all the horror, violence and destruction happening in Lebanon, a photojournalist would feel the need to spend the time doctoring a bad photograph when it is very evident that there are truly moving images that convey the absurdity of this war being taken everyday.
Every morning, I pick up a copy of the LA Times, and see the outstanding work of their photographers are doing on both sides of the border. It obvious to me that there are moving pictures to be made there, if photographers would spend less time doctoring bad pictures in photo shop, and more time walking the streets of the cities of Lebanon.
I’ve written to Reuters asking them to respond. Will let you know if I hear back.
You can write them, too. Contact info here.
A trip down MSM Photo Doctors’ and Stage Managers’ lane:
And this National Journal piece, “Real or Fake,” on war photography is definitely worth a re-read:
Thanks to digital technology, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the most photographed in history. Photographers with digital cameras have provided, almost instantaneously, an enormous flood of accurate, dramatic, and even shocking images to people around the world. But the daily downloads of news photos include some that are staged, fake, or so lacking in context as to be meaningless, despite the Western media’s best efforts to separate the factual from the fictional…
…Asked for comment on the whole subject of suspect images, photo directors from several U.S. publications said they do indeed worry about the reliability of images distributed by photo agencies, even the most respected ones. But they also said they want and need to trust the agencies and distributors, which include AFP, the Associated Press, Reuters, and Getty Images. In normal practice, photo directors receive a stream of digital images from the photo agencies, select the best of them, and then present them to editors, who decide which photographs to publish.
Photo editors for news publications say that, regardless of the subject matter, they routinely watch for flawed photos and inaccurate captions, and they catch many. But wartime conditions exacerbate these quality-control problems…
For photo editors, new pressures to get it right are coming from Internet bloggers who collect and post critical comments from ordinary citizens and also from niche experts who may have intimate knowledge of the local culture, the U.S. military, or the particular news event in question, [Joe Elbert, The Washington Post's managing editor for photography] said. “We in the mainstream media have always decided what [images] we want to push out, but now people are disagreeing and questioning accuracy,” he said. “This is really confounding the mainstream media.”
…David Schlesinger, the London-based global managing editor for Reuters, said, “We try to tell the story, so the more [that] people are playing to the camera, the less it is the real story. There is a line where it is difficult to tell, but we try to tell the story straight in pictures, so we don’t pose photos.”
Yes, but what about clone-stamping?
Allah pulls out his Photoshop tools and demonstrates a two-minute digital smoke-blowing job:
And here’s the result when Allah cleaned up the duplicate smoke:
Dan Riehl does his own Reuters Photoshopping.
Another guy with an expert graphic eye, Jeff Harrell, weighs in:
Adobe Photoshop has a tool that pretty much all artists and photographers adore and revile in equal proportion. It’s called the clone stamp tool, and basically what it lets you do is take pixels from over there and put them over here. It’s essentially a cut-and-paste paintbrush.
Used wisely it’s a good tool for, for example, airbrushing out specks of dust or scratches on film. But no matter how a Photoshop newbie might be tempted by it, it is not a good tool to use for replicating large areas of a photograph. Because all you can do is take a piece of the picture and reproduce it someplace else, it’s very easy to introduce subtle patterns into a photo, especially in the background, that the eye can pick up on. If somebody overuses the clone stamp tool, you won’t necessarily be able to pinpoint exactly what the problem is, but you’ll know something is off.
By all appearances, it looks like Adnan Hajj used the clone stamp tool about sixty-three zillion times to paint more smoke into the sky above Beirut.
There are a couple other peculiarities in the photo that jump out to my eye, including a couple of conspicuously similar patterns of pixels — that’s “buildings” to you non-geek types out there — in the lower left. But I spent a few minutes zoomed in real tight and couldn’t be sure that I was seeing something artificial. Frankly, compared to the unbelieveably clumsy work in the sky, the retouching in the lower left — if that’s indeed what it is — is incongruously subtle. So I’m willing to pass that off as two similar-looking buildings in downtown Beirut for now.
But come on, man. The sky is such a dead giveaway, I’m frankly shocked that this photo ever made it out onto the wire at all.
Adnan Hajj isn’t a photojournalist. He’s not even a photographer. He’s just a damn liar.
Frank J. applies Reuters-style craftmanship to his Disney vacation photos.
One of the things that makes the blogsophere so valuable is the ability to share open-source intelligence, trade specialized knowledge, and toss and test theories out loud (the democratizing process that WaPo photo editor Joe Elbert criticized as “confounding”). Charles thinks he’s spotted the original source photo for the enhanced smoke image (scroll to bottom). Allah disagrees.
Feel free to weigh in.
Charles’ post is one of the top Digg posts of the day, with plenty of comments analyzing the photo. Consensus on the faked smoke, disagreement on whether buildings were cloned.
Charles writes: “Regardless of whether you agree that the July 26 photo is from the same panorama shot as today’s (I still think it is), it is still a damning photo — because the one from today shows buildings that don’t exist in the earlier photo, even though they are clearly from the same angle.”
Allah says: “Absolutely. Look at the spot where the smoke originates in the Hajj photo. You can see what looks like a ledge of some building that very clearly isn’t there in the AP shot. Someone used the lasso tool to drag that from another image into this one, probably because it had that nice thick black plume shooting up from it. I’d start looking through Hajj’s other photos on the wire, since that’s the first place he’d think to borrow from. If someone finds that little piece of ledge and black smoke in another photo, it is lights out for Reuters.”
So let’s see what kind of organization Reuters is. If they are smart, they will deal with this swiftly and decisively. They need to issue a correction and state that they will never purchase photos from this source again, and they need to do it within 24 hours. Basically they need to make the retraction newsworthy and topical, so that people remember they cared about this and fixed it. If they do their reputation may even go up. If they deny, hesitate, deal with it less than decisvely, or if they wait too long to say anything about it at all, all people will remember is that they posted a fake picture, and their credability will go down the drain. We’ll see.
Like I said, if I hear back from Reuters, I’ll let you know.
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