Thanks to some “before retouching” and “after retouching” photos that have surfaced on the internet in recent years, it’s pretty clear that many of the images we see of models, movie stars, and others in the entertainment industry have been altered, some dramatically so. What isn’t as clear to the viewer is how much retouching has been done—have slight “imperfections” been “fixed” or has the retouching work been more akin to major plastic surgery, completely altering body shape and removing all signs of age? Due to the potential negative effect of these unrealistic, highly edited photos on body image, there have been proposals to identify altered images.
A recent New York Times article looks at a proposal by Dr. Farid, a professor of computer science and digital forensics at Dartmouth, and Eric Kee, a Ph.D. student at Dartmouth. Based on their research, they are proposing a software tool to measure how much photos have been altered. The software would indicate to viewers the amount of retouching, using a scale of 1 to 5. The rating system could also let the photo subjects, photographers, and photo editors communicate more specifically about degrees of retouching. Another article about the research gives more information and a link to some interactive images comparing original and retouched photos. What do you think? Do you think a tool like this would be useful?