Ever wondered how "touched-up" a photo of your favorite celebrity is? Now, a new software tool is uncovering the truth that Photoshop is so good at hiding.
The New York Times reports today on an effort by researchers at Dartmouth to develop an algorithm that measures how much, on a 1-to-5 scale, fashion and beauty photos have been altered.
One of the researchers, Hany Farid, said he was inspired by people’s concerns over the impact that highly Photoshopped images can have. For example, some studies have linked advertising and fashion images to body-image anxiety and eating disorders. These problems are more likely to affect young women, particularly when they don't realize that advertising and fashion images are heavily altered.
Several European cities in particular have seen a backlash over images that have been greatly altered. In France, Britain and Norway, advocates have called for digitally altered images to be labeled as such.
Dr. Farid and company want to take a slightly different approach. Their software algorithm uses statistics to measure how much an image of a person’s face and body has been Photoshopped. Using before-and-after images of hundreds of volunteers, the researchers trained their software to detect common alterations and rank them from “minimally altered” (1) to “starkly changed” (5).
If fashion and celebrity photography were labeled according to that 1-to-5 scale, Farid says, the people producing this artwork would be more likely to show some Photoshop restraint. And, in the end, put a little truth back into photography.
The research has been published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. From there, we may be hearing about this software a lot more in the next few years.