Image Alteration


The image above is showing two versions of a published photo. The difference in the eyes of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is the result of an alteration of the image -- apparently by the USA Today newspaper.
This is the image that appeared in the 0/19/2005 USA Today This is the original image taken by AP photographer Mikhail Metzel during a Senate hearing



Three Primary Alterations

Brightening of the Sclera
Enlargement of the Eye Openings
Change in the Iris Shape

The sclera (white of the eyes) of the eyes in the altered image have been brightened and the shape of the iris has been changed from round to ovoid or even triangular. The eye openings have been enlarged. The manipulation of the iris shape may have been done intentionally to produce a desired effect or it may simply be the result of the crude alteration of the white eye areas which also caused an enlargement of the eye opening.

Whatever the purpose of the alteration, it was done clumsily. If the intention was to "improve" the image by lightening the whites of the eyes (a common practice by portrait photographers and magazine photo editors), it could have been done with a much more subtle and effective technique which would not cause such a dramatic and -- I believe -- negative effect.

 I could not find any other alterations or manipulations in the two images.


These alterations are not the products of general image enhancement or adjustment: They are the result of a deliberate manipulation of the image.



USA Today has admitted the alteration and removed the altered photo from its website with this explanation by spokesman Steve Anderson:

", like other news organizations, often adjusts photos for sharpness and brightness to optimize appearance," Anderson told E&P. He added that an online editor sharpened the photo to brighten Rice's face, but did not do so in an effort to make her look strange. In this case, after sharpening the photo for clarity, the editor brightened a portion of Rice's face, giving her eyes an unnatural appearance."

The above explanation is false.

The alteration of the eyes was not the result of adjustments for "sharpness and brightness." If such adjustments were applied, they would effect all of the image, not just the eyes. A visual comparison and my direct overlay comparison of the two images shows that the only elements altered were Sec. Rice's eyes. Those alterations were not part of any attempt to "optimize appearance."

Some have written me suggesting that the Photoshop "UnSharpMask" (USM) filter was used (overused) to create that eye effect. I have done tests with the USM filter and no matter how bad the settings, it is not possible to alter the eyes as they were in the USA Today photo.

Once again: The alteration was deliberate and it was done to the eyes only.




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