"Scientists in the United States have come up with a tool for automatically analysing digital photographs, making it possible to gauge the extent to which images have been altered or retouched.
Advances in image-manipulation software have made it trivial to radically alter the appearance of models and celebrities in photos, notes Hany Farid, a computer scientist who studies digital forensics and image analysis at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Farid created the analysis tool with his colleague Eric Kee, also at Dartmouth College. The promotion of unrealistic body images in some advertisements and magazines is thought to have a role in triggering eating disorders, explains Farid, and some countries, including the United Kingdom, France and Norway, are now considering legislation to require digitally altered images to be labelled as such.
The idea is to use the software to generate a scale that can be printed next to published images, say Farid and Kee, so that readers can tell how accurately they represent the originals. The hope is that this will shed light on the culture of 'airbrushing' in the advertising and fashion-magazine industries. The software could also help to deter fraud in scientific images, they say.
However, simply labelling manipulated images is not the solution, says Farid, because this would tar all altered images with the same brush — even those that used legitimate adjustments such as cropping and colour modification. Farid and Kee's solution, published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA1, is a system that can score on a scale of one to five how much an altered image has strayed from reality. ..."