Essay / Avant-Garde

Altered Photo Scandal at Middlebrow

Picture Kill

The editorial staff at Middlebrow regrets to inform our readers that a picture published here recently does not meet our own high journalistic standards. We are issuing a retraction and correction of that image and are currently investigating our policies for accepting images from freelance contributors.

The image in question was provided by our freelance contributor Grendal B. Firedrake, and was published with the caption “Unidentified knight attacks city for no apparent reason, causing giant clouds of smoke to billow into the sky.” Here is the image as it originally appeared. Knight Detail We handled this image with all of the routine steps accepted industry-wide for image processing: we heightened the contrast for printing, sharpened the lines by using the “sharpen” filter, and adjusted color levels partly to remove muddiness and dust specks. We also, of course, cropped out extraneous information in order to focus on the main point of the composition. This is standard image processing for all of our pictures, and we will continue to handle images in this way.

With this particular image, however, we now realize that Mr. G. B. Firedrake crossed a line. The original image was really only one color, so Firedrake colored in some of the main areas in order to heighten the drama and make the image more agreeable for viewing. Furthermore, this particular image did not succeed in capturing the actual urban setting of the scene, so we personally provided a city skyline in the background to anchor the foreground image. The skyline was taken from stock photos widely used in the journalism industry and easily available (nothing to hide here folks, no story). Finally, we added the billowing smoke by using Photoshop’s clone stamping tool, and we think we did a pretty good job too. Man, Photoshoppin’ is fun stuff, and hard to stop once you get started.

Although this whole brouhaha is no big deal, we at Middlebrow do realize that if things like this were to become commonplace, our credibility might begin to erode. Pajama-wearing hacks with no professional training might start outdoing us, and the total unquestioning confidence which our public currently places in our capable hands might suffer. Therefore we are issuing this Picture Kill retraction, we will not be using any more images provided by Mr. Grendal B. Firedrake in the immediate future, and we promise to be good. Big Scary Dragon Also, in case anyone cares (and we can’t imagine why they should because we are totally on top of this stuff), we are publishing the original uncropped image without any of the alterations innocently introduced during our routine editing process. You will find the published image if you concentrate on the lower right hand corner of this unretouched image.

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