Friday, 17 May 2013

Assignment 4. Real or fake?

This assignment concludes chapter four. Much of this chapter has revolved around the fact that it is now extremely easy to manipulate an image and that,with some careful work, it is possible to change the image in such a way that it no longer represents the truth. We have been asked to consider our own stance on this moral issue.

I am personally very clear about how I feel. In any context where the image is to represent news or factual information, I feel there should be no tinkering with the exception of some editing for clarity, such as lightening etc. Any images used to sell a product, should accurately depict this product. However, any associated imagery is not to be believed, and in my book is free for personal interpretation. Classic cases in question are models and their often digitally enhanced appearance. Fine art photography is a subject on to itself and anything goes.

For this assignment I have been asked to make a book cover and give my ethical justification for any work carried out on the image(s).

First, here is the cover...

The technical aspect

The cover consists of three images over a black background. The two obvious images are of course the noose and the hangman. There is a third image of some blurry trees which I will mention in more detail in a moment. Take a look at the images in their original form.

It is immediately apparent that some processing was carried out. Here's what I did.

Starting with a black background in Photoshop, I added a new layer with the tree image. This layer was set to about 90% opacity. Next, my friend Vincent was added to a new layer. To this I added a layer mask and with a large, soft brush painted out above his top hat and around his hands. The Vincent layer was set to overlay which allowed some of the trees to show through. Now, about the trees. If I had gone straight to the layer with Vincent, the Hangman, the image was to clean and lacked any form of atmosphere. Although you cannot see the trees in the finished image, they form a nice 'misty' texture and add a bit of mystery.

Before moving on to the layer with the noose, I added some soft 'black to transparent' gradients. some originating from the bottom left to blend Vincent in a bit better and one from the top down to create the dark area under the main title.

Next, the noose was added and the unwanted parts of the noose image were removed by way of another mask  For the final step text was added for the title and the strap line.

Ethical justification

I initially thought that there was no requirement for any ethical justification for the cover of a paperback novel but as I was typing it dawned on me that actually there is. The book I have chosen to represent is fictitious but if you were to take a guess at the content I suspect you would be thinking along the lines of Victorian based crime/horror story. This would indeed tally with what I imagined the book to be about. Imagine your horror then, if the book actually was a love story set in the year 3560! I would have deceived you with the cover and if you had hurriedly picked the book up at the airport with no time to read the synopsis, I wager you would be pretty unhappy on that flight! Therefore, I do have an  ethical obligation to represent the contents of the book accurately. 

With regard to the content of the picture? Well Vincent is a jolly nice chap and would never hang anybody. He is aware that the image would be used to picture him as a hangman, so there is no ethical dilemma here. Had I snapped a complete stranger and then used the image in the same manner I would be acting in a non ethical manner and could possibly end up in trouble.

Monday, 1 April 2013


In this last exercise of part 4, I am going to edit a photograph to show a complete untruth, by removing an element. Take a look at the picture below...

Not a very exciting picture but I spotted this lady with her dog when I was out walking. I did like the decorations on the sea wall though, and the fact that the dog was looking over the wall like it's owner.

This isn't actually what I took with the camera though. There was also a boy in the group. Scroll down to the end of this post to see the original picture.

The tools I used for this task were primarily the clone stamp tool, a little use of the patch tool and the selection tool in Photoshop.

I started by using the patch tool to get rid of most of the boy's upper body which was hiding the sea behind. Then using the clone tool I cleaned this up and cloned out the boys legs. Creating the missing part of the crab required me to copy the section that was visible on the wall and then flip this to create the missing area. This required a bit more cloning to fill in some missing gaps. Finally I used the clone tool again to cover any left-over bits.

As well as a straight replacement of areas I didn't want in the completed image, I also had to use my imagination a little. The shadow area on the path had to be adjusted so as not to show the shadow of the boy any longer. This took a little bit of guess work on my be-halve but hopefully I have just removed the boys shadow.

The picture I originally took is shown below...

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Back Again

There has been a four month gap in my work. Regrettably my father passed away in Sept 2012. He lived in Malta and the time and organisation required to settle the arrangements has been tremendous. Furthermore, the circumstances of his death really dampened my enthusiasm for photography and my interest in studying.

The time has come to put that all behind me now and get back in the swing of things. I have dusted of my books and camera and now feel ready to pick up where I left off.