Can you spot the fake photograph?
A new photograph-analyzing tool quantifies changes made by digital airbrushers in the fashion and lifestyle industry, where image alteration has become the psychologically destructive norm.
“Publishers have legitimate reasons to alter photographs to create fantasy and sell products, but they’ve gone a little too far,” said image forensics specialist Hany Farid of Dartmouth University. “You can’t ignore the body of literature showing negative consequences to being inundated with these images.”
In a Nov. 28 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study, Farid and doctoral student Eric Kee debut a computational model developed by analyzing 468 sets of original and retouched photographs. From these, Farid and Kee distilled a formal mathematical description of alterations made to models’ shapes and features. Their model then scored each altered photograph on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 signifying heavy retouching.
To validate the scores, Farid and Kee then asked 50 people randomly picked through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk task outsourcing service to evaluate the photographs. Computational and human scores matched closely. “Now what we have is a mathematical measure of photo retouching,” said Farid. “We can predict what an average observer would say.”