When people use the snappy new verb photoshopping, usually they are talking about women’s glossy magazines where photo manipulation is used to make a model thinner and blemish-free. Yet few people know that photoshop use is often used in criminal law, either on the side of committing crimes or solving them. Here are some real life examples both in the worlds of criminal law and the media that show how photoshop can be used both for the better and for the worse.
On the right side of the law…
Photoshop is often used both by forensic professionals and private investigators to garner more information from an image than can be seen with the naked eye. By enhancing and filtering images, aspects of a photo that were not previously clear or even seen at all can come to light. This is often important when it comes to photographs taken in surveillance or poor qualify photos captured from CCTV camera.
Even when criminals do try to use photoshop, they are often caught out by photo experts. One particularly amusing case involved fraud-convicted Daryl Simon photoshopping himself into pictures the made it seem like he was doing volunteer work. He then gave the images to a judge to try and reduce his sentence. Simon however was caught out, and had his sentence increased instead.
And on the wrong side of the law.
For every advancement that makes it is easier for law enforcement to improve images, there is another advancement that makes it easier for criminals to alter photos for their own nefarious purposes. Photo evidence has also been increasingly difficult to get through court as it is rather easy for the defence to claim that the photo has either been staged or altered. Increasingly forensic experts have had to back up photos they use in building a case with other evidence truly have a solid case.
Outside of criminal law, there have been several instances where images used in advertising have been pulled by the relevant authorities for being dishonest. In the UK the Advertising Standards Authority pulled a Lancome ad featuring Julia Roberts for being too heavily photoshopped and the ‘misleading nature of excessive retouching’.This is just one high publicity example in a sea of other advertisements that have been removed because of their misleading nature. There have been some leaps forward: mascara adverts must now state in small print below the ad if flash eyelashes or digital enhancements were used to make the eyelashes look longer. But there remain some who say that any photoshopping in advertising is a dishonest practice and should be stopped.
This is a guest post by Frank Adams. Occasional guest blogger on asset search and full time on line privacy. Frank currently represents Beacon Investigation Solutions a private investigation company licensed in 45 states across the US.