10 Photo-Editing Flubs: Digitally Altered Photo Disasters

Photo: Photoshop Mistakes

The blogosphere went wild earlier this week over an image in a Microsoft Corp. ad that had been edited to change a man's race from black to white.

In a photo featured on the company's U.S. Web site, three colleagues -- one white, one black and one Asian -- sit around a conference room table. But in the same photo on the company's Polish site, the face of the black man had been replaced with the face of a white man.

The gaffe sparked quite the discussion online, as bloggers and commenters wondered if the change was racially motivated, the result of poor judgement or both. Some people suspected that the computer technology giant changed the Polish image so that it matched the country's own racial composition.

It even inspired the popular tech blog TechCrunch to launch a contest to see who can manipulate the funniest head onto the Microsoft ad.

"So get Photoshop fired up and make your funniest (and yet not in any way offensive) version of the Polish Microsoft head replacement. No rules. Replace all the heads if you want to. Add costumes and props. And text bubbles," it said on its site.

The winner gets a Bing (Microsoft's search engine) T-shirt in the mail.

Ultimately, the affair elicited an apology from Microsoft, which said in a statement, "We are looking into the details of this situation. We apologize and have replaced the image with the original photograph."

But Microsoft's digitally altered image is just one of many manipulated photographs to court controversy. Here are nine others.

1. Toronto's Race-Changing Summer 'Fun Guide'

Earlier this summer, officials in Toronto had to defend their own decision to decieve its audience when it was learned that they had superimposed the face of a black man over that of a white man to make a recreation brochure look more inclusive.

A spokesman for the department responsible for the summer "Fun Guide" told the city's National Post newspaper in June that the alteration was consistent with the city's policy to reflect diversity.

"He superimposed the African-Canadian person onto the family cluster in the original photo. It was two photographs and one head was superimposed over the original family photo," said John Gosgnach, communications director for the social development division. "The goal was to depict the diversity of Toronto and its residents."

But, apparently, the diversity didn't pass the authenticity test for a graphics editor at the National Post. A program called TinEye that detects digital manipulation confirmed that it had been altered.

Jim Edwards, former managing editor for AdWeek and BNET.com columnist, said this example is not the only one of its kind. "It's not frequent, but one or two crop up each year, particularly in the advertising business," he said.

In advertising, there are no ethical restrictions when it comes to digital manipulation. But when those manipulations draw attention to race, the brand could find itself in trouble.

"It's the one thing you absolutely don't want to do," he said.

2. University of Wisconsin Recalls Brochure With Doctored Image

But race-altering edits have backfired for other brands too. In 2000, the University of Wisconsin admitted that it had doctored the cover of a brochure to make the school look more diverse.

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