More on FAQ #404

404. But the behavior of “light” in photographs hasn’t changed, so why is this an issue now when it wasn’t 50 or 100 years ago?

Because of the introduction of digital technology, which for the first time made NON-“light”-related changes easy to make.

A. In the film era,
it was very difficult to make changes to most non-“light”-related aspects of photographs without viewers noticing.

It would often take an expert significant time to make those changes, and even then the changes were usually detectable upon examination of the print or negative (as opposed to published versions, the low quality of which often obscured the manipulations). The image would usually look “retouched” or “airbrushed.”

B. But now, in the age of Photoshop, it’s easy for anyone to make non-light”-related changes, quickly and undetectably.

Things within a photo can be selectively moved, blurred, added, deleted, reshaped, and resized — all without viewers having any clue.

B” explains one of the main reasons the public is more skeptical of photographs now than they were even 20 years ago:

Viewers have learned how easy it is in the digital age to undetectably alter things that “wouldn’t change unless someone intervened to change them” — forms and shapes. (See also #2 on this page.)