BP and the great photoshop Scandal

It's a strange fact of digital photography that most files benefit from some - or a lot - of retouching. A bit of contrast here, a touch of sharpening there, colour balance and saturation....

This morning I got pulled up on some retouching I had done and was told to tone it down a little. In fairness, looking at the photos there was perhaps a little too much sharpness and contrast on a couple of the shots, but it wasn't anything extreme - not even as bad as some I have seen in the very same publication, and in my defence I did work them very quickly, and it was hot to the point of distraction that day, which was long and busy. Still. It's good advice and another anecdote to tell students. Ease off on the adobe programs people. Lightroom and Photoshop have some pretty powerful tools, doesn't mean that using them is going to make your pictures any better. On the contrary it seems.

In fact we all know that photos can be poor truth tellers and they only tell part of the story at best. Now when people start getting out the digital scissors and really start cutting, pasting and altering, removing and adding we get into some serious lying with photos.

Take this one for example:

which was removed and replaced from BP's website with this. look carefully:

Terms of use: These images are the copyright of BP p.l.c. and are made available in good faith. You may reproduce the images on the understanding that (i) any reproduction of these images will include the following acknowledgement adjacent to the image(s) used - '© BP p.l.c.' and (ii) these images will not be used in connection with any purpose that is prejudicial to BP, its officers or employees or any other third party. The images may not be sold on.

I reproduced the full terms and conditions, which include a 'no prejudice' use restriction. Well, I'm not sure if that's supposed to prevent criticism, but I do like the 'good faith' bit, which makes me laugh because you need a healthy dose of good (blind) faith to believe what you see in this picture. It apparently shows the BP 'Hive' (whatever that is supposed to be) in July 2010. According to this, it may in fact be a photo from 2001 that has been retouched so the monitors show footage of the recent gulf oil well travesty. Now it seems BP are finally getting a grip on this problem, but given that journalists and photographers have been harassed and bullied, they could at least provide us with some proper PR shots as a consolation prize instead of some poorly photoshopped bullshit. I'd rather be lied to well than lied to badly and if you look at the hi res version of the photo here, you will see it is a pretty bad lie they are handing out. Though now I do feel much better about that ticking off I got this morning.

In any case. Well done BP for stopping that oil geyser you caused. Now let's hope that cap actually holds, that the U.S. government demands a full review of all the capped and tapped oil wells scattered throughout the gulf, that we just call it quits on the whole drilling holes into the planet and sucking out prehistoric old gunk regardless of the consequences thing and seriously start investing in clean, safe, renewable and sustainable energy technology. Oh, and about those Nigerian oil wells...

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