FOCUS: PHOTOGRAPHY; Exposing the sharp shooters

MANIPULATION: Technology has made it possible to manipulate photographs to create almost any image COPYRIGHT: Using a variety of pictures to create one image has generated new problems of ownership DIGITISATION: Futuristic digital picture libraries will be able to offer video, sound and text, in addition to stills

MANIPULATION: Technology has made it possible to manipulate photographs

to create almost any image COPYRIGHT: Using a variety of pictures to

create one image has generated new problems of ownership

DIGITISATION: Futuristic digital picture libraries will be able to offer

video, sound and text, in addition to stills

Seeing is no longer believing as photographs can say virtually whatever

PR companies and advertisers want. Nick Purdom reports on the techniques

available and the hidden pitfalls

Photo manipulation has been getting a bad press recently thanks to the

way some national newspapers have been using it to lampoon the famous

and embellish the truth.

Mention photo manipulation and most people think of the Graham Taylor

turnip head treatment in the Sun, or the occasion two years ago when the

same paper made the most of a story about a Catholic priest having an

affair by substituting his ordinary clothes for a cassock in a shot of

him walking arm-in-arm with his girlfriend.

Manipulation is even happening in hard news. One of the best-known news

pictures of last year, a fireman carrying a baby out of the rubble of

the Oklahoma bombing, had its cluttered background editedout for

dramatic effect.

‘Editorially there is increasing use of photo manipulation,’ says

Stephen Mayes, group creative director of Tony Stone Images - the photo

library that recently supplied manipulated images for front covers of

Accountancy, Psychology Review and Investment Trusts.

But despite the enormous creative potential of photo manipulation and

retouching, many PR agencies are wary about what they see as distorting

the truth. Bert Moore, associate director at Burson-Marsteller regards

manipulation as ‘unethical’ and maintains that ‘a photograph is a

snapshot of an event in time.’

Jon Tarrant, editor of professional photography magazine HotShoe

International, closely observes the way photographs are used in the

media: ‘News is generally regarded as sacrosanct when it comes to

manipulation but I don’t think anyone would argue about manipulation in

advertising,’ says Tarrant. ‘PR images are rather different - in part

they represent reality and in part they’re conveying a message in

general, so the issue becomes blurred. I would be upset if I received a

picture that purported to be an accurate representation of a product and

I found out it had been manipulated.’

For many agencies the time for enhancement is before the photograph is

taken, rather than the way it is manipulated afterwards, either in the

laboratory or by computer. ‘We put a lot of effort into getting a

photograph right in the first place,’ stresses Charles Barker director

Jennifer Potter.

Another deterrent to using photo manipulation is the sheer cost. Berni

Vent, managing director of Alchemy Creative Services, which specialises

in photo manipulation says: ‘PR agencies normally don’t have the budgets

to do manipulation.’ Alchemy charges a minimum of pounds 150 an hour for

manipulation, and minimum job charge is pounds 350 which includes a high

resolution scan and a high resolution transparency. For photo composites

the average job works out at around pounds 1,000.

However, DIY computer manipulation of photographs has now come within

reach of design-conscious PR people. Basically, all that is needed is a

scanner and/or CD-ROM drive to enable the import of pictures, an Apple

Mac or PC, and software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. The Mac

plus Photoshop combination is widely used by specialist photo

manipulation bureaus for lower end work, newspapers and magazines and

even PR agencies.

While outside manipulation costs may be regarded as beyond an average

client’s budget, manipulation can be considerably cheaper than setting

up an elaborate image in a studio. The shot of the Ford Mondeo (above),

commissioned by Ford’s press office and produced by Altered Image, cost

less than pounds 500. ‘It could have been done at huge expense in a

studio by building a 40ft pool of water and using techniques such as

double exposure, but manipulation was much more cost-effective,’ says

Altered Image director Dean Hawthorn.

Ford - which created a furore when its ad agency doctored a publicity of

staff at its Dagenham plant - originally attempted to create a

reflection using black perspex in the studio, but this simply didn’t

work. Hawthorn used a Mac and Photoshop to cut-out the car, put it onto

a black background, flip the image to create a reflection, divide this

up into sections and add different colours to illustrate the options

offered by Ford, finally adding a ripple effect to suggest moving water.

For agencies that are prepared to be creative with photo manipulation

the rewards are substantial. Harvard Public Relations has received

coverage in the Independent, Marketing and a host of trade and consumer

computer titles for a product called The Internet Solution, a box

containing everything you need to get started on the Internet, which it

launched for Motorola ISG in June 1995.

In order to convey the message that the product opens up the whole world

to the user the agency created colourful rays emanating from the product

packaging, into which was set an image of the earth as seen from space.

‘In order to make the product communicate a message we had to manipulate

it,’ explains Gareth Zundel, group PR director at Harvard. ‘We made a

bog standard pack shot into something that communicates a message

without misleading. Without doubt our approach increased the amount of

coverage, size of reproduction and range of titles that covered the

product,’ he says.

Simon Jones, account director at Harvard, worked closely on the Motorola

campaign and has no doubt ‘with the trade press the better the

photograph, the more coverage you get.’ The image is still being used to

illustrate generic articles on the Internet. Because of its success,

Jones says that ‘instead of being a number two or three priority,

photography is probably now the number one element for Motorola ISG

product launches in 1996.’

Despite the success of this shot, however, Zundel is still cautious

about using manipulated images. ‘The risks of manipulation are very

clear to us, which is why if we do it we almost make the image over the

top so there can’t be any confusion.’

A creative approach to photography using manipulation also paid off for

Hill and Knowlton as part of its promotion of the new Cadbury’s

chocolate bar, Pocket Pack. ‘We wanted something really punchy that

emphasised the power of the product,’ says director designate at Hill

and Knowlton Hilary Bassett.

The agency created a range of lifestyle shots that clearly focused on

the product. The original photographs were manipulated so that only the

distinctive purple chocolate bar retained its colour against a

monochrome background.

‘If you say this is a chocolate for teenagers it will turn them off, so

we let the photography do this for us,’ says Bassett. ‘In the end

publications that don’t normally run competitions were saying the

photography was so good they wanted to do it, and were giving us

ludicrously good rates.’

‘Manipulation is something we are looking at in the agency when it’s

relevant,’ adds Bassett. ‘It’s our job to create the right photographs

for the environment in which they appear. A basic pack shot would have

looked out of place in the publications we were targeting for Pocket


So what do picture editors think of manipulated photographs? While

manipulated news shots remain too hot for most to handle, creative

product treatments are increasingly welcomed.

‘We are using an increasing number of photo-montages,’ says Hugh

Anderson, art editor of Computer Weekly. ‘More people are doing cut-

outs, enhancing colours and putting a shadow behind objects to give

photographs a lift. I’m quite in favour - provided it’s done well.’

Copyright: Whose shot is it anyway?

What happens with copyright when you manipulate two pictures to create a

new image? Robert Harding, MD of Robert Harding Picture Library says:

‘Our licences stipulate that the original image always has a copyright,

but if the image someone produced from two or more of our images was

sold on that would create a problem.’

In theory the new image would have at least three copyrights. But trying

to monitor and enforce these rights is not easy which is why many photo

libraries use the work of a single photographer for manipulated images.

Stephen Mayes, group creative director at Tony Stone Images says: ‘If we

mix the work of different photographers we always seek their permission.

If two images are combined we’d split the licence fee 50/50. But the

complications are such we deliberately try to use just one

photographer’s work as one photo might occupy 90 per cent of the space

but the key element might be the other 10 per cent.’

According to Harding: ‘Most photographers don’t mind their images being

manipulated, but if it’s a specific, very special image they may have

strong feelings about it. Our attitude is that as long as someone pays

the copyright for the original image they can do a fair amount with it

as long as it’s still recognisable as the same image.’

Electronic distribution of photographs - on-line and CD-ROM - is also

focusing attention on copyright enforcement. ‘With electronic images you

can put on a watermark and encryptions, so in theory you can enforce

copyright more easily than with a transparency,’ says Mayes. However,

Richard Johnson, managing director of on-line multimedia library

Signpost, admits that once someone has downloaded a digital file it is

open to copyright abuse. But there is a solution on the horizon. Johnson

is currently exploring file tagging, which he says could be the saviour

of photographers and libraries and wipe out copyright abuse.

Photo libraries: Saving time with digital technology

At the London Book Fair from 17-19 March, Hulton Deutsch will officially

launch its on-line photo library after year-long trials with ten clients

in a variety of markets.

The library has now digitised 160,000 of its collection of 15 million

images, and is continuing to digitise at a rate of around 3,000 images a

week. As a result of feedback from the trials the system has been made

as simple as possible to use. A sophisticated search system has been

developed whereby users can search not only by subject and photographer

but using keywords such as ‘anger.’

Anyone with a 486 PC or 6840 based Mac with ISDN 2 connection and Hulton

Deutsch software will be able to use the on-line library. They will be

able to download low resolution images for use in layouts and

presentations onto the desktop in a matter of seconds. High resolution

colour images take about five minutes to download. The cost of using the

service either by subscription or time on the system, has yet to be

decided. ‘Instead of waiting three or four days for a picture, clients

all around the world will be able to receive it in ten minutes,’ says

Hulton Deutsch marketing assistant, Ade Akitoye.

Another company convinced that on-line is the future for photo libraries

is on-line multi-media information service Signpost. ‘We have 115

customers, and this is growing day by day,’ reports Signpost managing

director, Richard Johnson. So far there are only 2,500 images on the

system, but as a multimedia library, Signpost offers video, sound and

text in addition to stills.

‘We’re aiming for 1,000 customers by the end of the year,’ says Johnson.

‘Design and multimedia companies were the first to sign up, but the

business market is coming very fast. Everyone wants to make digital


Signpost is also carrying out trials in a couple of ‘big PR agencies’ to

provide ‘media desk’ facilities -where the agency sends out information

to a range of media using an on-line service. Media desk facilities will

be used for the first time this year on the French round-the-world yacht

race, Grand Mistral, and next year on the Whitbread round-the-world


Technological developments are driving the market. ‘ISDN is really

taking off now. There’s a new ISDN card for pounds 350, and this sort of

pricing initiative is fuelling the market,’ says Johnson, who is adamant

there is no comparison between on-line and conventional ways of getting

photographs when it comes to cost. ‘Compared to couriers, the telecoms

way always costs in,’ he says.

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