Monday, August 07, 2006

Conspiracy Theories and Photoshop

When you are trying to prove a point too hard, the lines blur between mere speculation and methodical analysis. So when the analysis go against your estimate, some resort to dirty tricks to push the case further.

Like this website, which attempts to make an expert analysis of a Reuters photo which shows three missiles from an Israeli warplane. From the very same photographer, Adnan Hajj who digitally manipulated his photo to add some 'punch'. Fair enough, you have reasons to suspect all his photos to be manipulated in the same way. So the PS experts of MyPetJawa takes the photo and analyses the photo up close pixel by pixel. And what did they find? They do not match. Which means they are 3 different flares. Now thats not fair is it? So they create another magnified image, this time with three identical flares (hoping nobody will notice - afterall how many of you know Photoshop and even if you do, how many of you will take the trouble to make such lengthy pixel-bypixel comparison to prove that a discredited photographer has one photo which is genuine?) and concludes that the image is manipulated. Another expert even does a matte difference check to add to the speculation.

First things first. The original photograph submitted would normally be, say a 300 dpi 6000x4500 image which the Reuters website has converted to 72 dpi - 350x 232 pixels for the web. This essentially means that this resized low resolution image is not fit for such analysis.

Secondly, to manipulate the resized image to suit your conspiracy theory is criminal. I might be wrong and the photo may have been manipulated afterall. But until we have conclusive proof, it is not wise to take such theories into consideration.

Update: Now Reuters has confirmed that the flares were indeed manipulated. Thanks to Sam for the link. However I am not convinced that such a conclusion could be drawn from the low resolution jpegs posted in the Reuters website on technical grounds.

8 Comments:

Blogger BD said...

Hi Woke,

I have to say this whole picture debate has gotten rather confusing for me. I just want to ask, in the photo you dispay here, does it suggest the original photo is genuine, not genuine or that it cannot be concluded either way.

9:25 am  
Blogger Woke said...

Bd,
The confusion is understandeable because it is more of a technical photoediting issue. I will try to make a simpler conclusion.

1. The photo that is posted on the Reuters website is a smaller, optimised version of the photo taken by the photographer. Technically it is not possible to make an accurate judegement on whether this photo has been manipulated by the original photographer by examining the smaller version.

2. Not only these guys have examined the smaller version -they have manipulated it(when they magnified it) to make it look like as if it was fake in the first place.
So when they magnified it to take a closer look, they copied the same flare to the other two and started telling readers that all the three flares are copies.
Ordinary readers would have no way of double checking this without technical knowledge on photo editing.

9:42 am  
Blogger samuraisam said...

Woke: sorry, but you lose.

Reuters gave an image kill for this image too (which byt he way wasn't missiles but flares) and something like 900 images from adnan hajj have also been killed.

3:26 pm  
Blogger Woke said...

Sam,
Im not trying to win something here. I just made an observation after checking the post on that website you had provided.

I still stand by what I said. Whatever proof provided by those websites is, in my opinion incorrect. Sam, why dont your check yourself? Why should you rely on a third party if you the means to check it in photoshop?

The higher resolution version might have been manipulated. The method the websites you mentioned has taken the low resolution version and they have manipulated the same too to prove their point.

9:33 am  
Blogger samuraisam said...

An immediate enquiry began into Hajj’s other work. It found on Monday that a second photograph, of an Israeli F-16 fighter over Nabatiyeh, southern Lebanon and dated Aug 2, had been doctored to increase the number of flares dropped by the plane from one to three.

Conclusive.

3:08 pm  
Blogger Woke said...

Thanks for the link, Sam.

They would have verified the high resolution version to make the conclusion. Such a conclusion is not possible by examining the low resolution versions as the website(MypetJawa)did.

5:05 pm  
Blogger bandicoot said...

woke and sam, thanks for an intriguing (though admittedly confusing) discussion; If it wasn't for the war, I'd probably say some happier things. Allthings considered, this was a good learning experience too.

1:15 pm  
Blogger Woke said...

bandicoot,
Yes, the confusion was avoidable. The bottomline is the photo is manipulated as Sam had pointed out - it is only the methodology adopted by some websites which I had questioned.

I regard this solely as an issue of unethical journalism and detecting/resolving it technically. Nothing about taking sides with Israel or Lebanon.

2:33 pm  

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