New image software finds manipulated pictures

An edited picture of Michael Vick, making him look white.

It’s no longer a secret that advertisers and magazines doctor photos so they’re more visually appealing. “Visually appealing” doesn’t always equal “real.” Airbrushing on Time Square billboards and on the cover of Cosmopolitan is blatant, and there are real questions about how those images affect the people that see them.

Real Fergie vs. Fake Fergie

But this kind of editing didn’t start with computer generated H&M models or cellulite on Kim Kardashians butt. A reader recently sent me an awesome website that points out examples of photo doctoring through the years, it’s called

Four and Six is a startup company that’s developed a software that allows someone to find computer traces on a picture. When computers alter a photo, they leave a trace. The computer scientists at Four and Six have found a way to find that trace.

Here’s an example from Rolling Stone of how blatant the photoshopping can be. Betty is mean enough with both hands imagine how cold she’d be to the kids if she lost one:

Most of the examples on the site have been edited for political motives. Everyone from Stalin and Mao to American presidential candidates manipulate photos to make them seem more dramatic, or the leader more heroic. The reasoning behind the edits is more often than not based primarily on ego. Here’s a John Kerry example from the 2004 election.

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