Faking Reality

Hat tip to @FayeHamilton1 on Twitter for leading me to this Blaze articleabout a Vogue photoshoot of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The buzz among conservatives is about the price of the dress and how that makes little Debbie a hypocrite for her continuous class-envy messaging.

As someone who does some photo and video work myself, the more important take-away is how easiy it is to manipulate reality. That manipulation can be done using still images, audio, video, news reports and any number of other ways including polls. Below is a well-known and iconic video done by the Dove people to help young women understand some of this reality-manipulation so they don’t fall victim to self-image issues.  An already beautiful woman is made even more beautiful by the makeup artist, the photographer and the photo retouching artist.

That example is rather extreme, although it’s common in print advertising. Here are some slightly more subtle techniques you should be aware of, if you are not already.  Take, for instance, this example of a photo of our President.

Barack Obama

Notice the almost studio-quality lighting on the President. It may be my imagination but almost every photo I see of President Obama has flattering lighting. I don’t recall seeing consistently good lighting on other politician photos. Obama’s regularly good lighting could be an accident of the venue he is in or it could be meticulous photo selection by editors or it could be planned by the President’s team the same way publicists guard the image of Hollywood stars. In any case, the real point is to be aware that one person can be made to look good, another bad, one young, another old, just by the way a “candid” photo is taken.

We all know the technique of publishing a photo taken of a person in mid-word to give them a funny grimace or expression. But just changing the angle of the camera can make a big difference. Photos taken from below make the subject look regal. Photos taken from above make the subject look diminutive and less powerful. Photos of President Obama tend to be taken from below, naturally, because he is usually speaking from a podium. Also, there are an inordinate number of Presidential photos of him looking up, into space, with a heroic pose. Again, maybe it’s just me, but I doubt there are three images of G. W. Bush in existence with that pose.

It’s a measure of the extent image-makers go to fool us that we feel shock when we see a famous actor without makeup or caught in an unscripted moment, as the President has been done a couple times. Just remind yourself from time to time that there are people out there who want to fool you and the techniques they use are not that difficult.


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