Editorializing Using Photoshop

An Image is Worth 1000 Words of Bias

It’s easy to spot a publication’s political bias by its choice of photographs. Even the most supposed “objective” reporting is soon betrayed by the judicious use of an unflattering photograph or one that was Photoshopped.

The news media becomes rather biased when it chooses specific photos of politicians that put them in a bad light. During the Trump era, this was easy to do because Trump himself provided endless material. Rarely did a flattering or even neutral image of the president appear in the major media.

Some news outlets such as the Daily News, edited by unapologetic Trump-haters, did not even attempt to be subtle and Photoshopped clown make-up on the president.

Hilarious Photoshopped images of Trump done by random people on the Internet often found their way into the mainstream.

This “editorializing via imagery” is nothing new but was only employed by tabloids such as the National Enquirer. Airbrush artists were the key players decades before digital photo-editing tools came around. The digital tools make it easier. And in most cases, the photo does not even have to be edited, per se. You can make your feelings known by jacking up the contrast or turning a color photo into one that is black and white.

The New York Times recently did this with its coverage of Rep. Matt Gaetz and his alleged paid-for tryst with a 17-year- old. We’ve all seen Gaetz on TV in various Congressional hearings. He looks pretty normal. But the Times managed to make him look ominous with high contrast black and white images. The New York Times is a color publication so running black and white images--unless they are “art”--is a form of bias.

Matt Gaetz
The New York Times used these ominous black and white high-contrast photos of Matt Gaetz to tease its stories about him. Other “fixes” may have been used too.

Here are a few simple tricks you can use, with Photoshop, to make people look worse than they appear. None of this involves any actual photo manipulation, such as making the person crossed-eyed or enlarging their nose, etc.

The easiest trick is the high contrast black and white rendering. This involves turning the color image into black and white, then manipulating the red and yellow color sliders to play with the person’s complexion, and finally jacking up the contrast to make the person look ominous. I’ve found that if you overuse the sharpen filter, you can make anyone look twenty years older.

Some subjects, like Senator Chuck Schumer, who seems to wear make-up, take a little effort. Here is what it took for me to get this image. The Photoshops steps appear at the right of the photo. The excessive number of blurs was to knock back the cartoony “look” you often get when you overdo it.

Joe Biden is an incredible candidate for these techniques. Using “find edges” on Joe, then backing them off with “fade fine edges” in “color burn” mode, reveals a goldmine of splotches and liver spots as well as some rosacea around the nose. The picture below shows what kind of fun you can have. An expert with more time to fine tune this image would do wonders.

Then again if you wanted to rag on Biden, you’d use one of the many stock shots available where Biden has some sort of blank look on his face and that will suffice. If you want to have some fun with that, you could get carried away.

But now we are doing to Biden what they did to Trump, and we wouldn’t want that, would we? -- jcd

April 13, 2021