Questions about photos of a brawl and a ballet


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This week, readers raised questions about the authenticity of two photos that appeared in the print edition -- both of them from the Reuters news service. In each, the readers thought the image was puzzling and must have been digitally altered.

Steve Stroud, The Times’ deputy director of photography, examined both images and shared his findings:



Question from reader John Powell:

‘The guy in the lower left of the image associated with your article does not look right (yellow, grey and black hoodie). Is it possible photographer Shalash (Reuters) got a composite image past the editors? ... Or maybe the guy is a ‘little person’? Thanks for looking into it. And yes I am aware of the depth perception effect and shutter aperture.’

Response from Steve Stroud:

‘On close examination using Adobe Photoshop software, the photo by Reuters staff photographer Saad Shalash showing the Baghdad protest appears to be genuine. The ‘little person’ in the foreground, while he may be shorter than those around him, is also bending down as he prepares to deliver a blow to his opponent. Examining the photo at the pixel level of magnification turns up no evidence that the content of the picture was tampered with.’


Question from reader A.J. Van Herle, M.D.:

On Sunday, June 12, an article appeared regarding Alicia Alonso and the Cuban ballet, which I found very interesting. A photograph entitled ‘The staying power of Cuban Ballet’ puzzled me, however. Indeed, most of the ballerinas (not all of them) are shown with their legs in an awkward position. Their right legs face the photographer but their left legs are directed away from the photographer. Indeed, their popliteal fossa(e) face the camera, and this is further confirmed by the fact that the heel(s) of their ballet shoes face the camera.This implies that either most of these ballerinas have a complete ‘luxation of the hip joint,’ or the agency (Reuters) who provided these pictures have a fantastic expert in Photoshop in their service.’

Response from Steve Stroud:

‘Immediately upon opening the original photo file using Adobe Photoshop software it’s evident the picture was greatly enlarged before being transmitted. Enlarging the photo only slightly more causes it to break up at the pixel level, causing aberrations for lack of digital information. It would be akin to putting together a puzzle without having all the pieces -- in this case, pixels.

‘Without the missing information, the other pixels can be misleading because they are disconnected. The resulting lack of digital information makes the details look soft, small elements appear incomplete and, in this case, gives the appearance the feet might be facing in impossible directions.

‘There’s no indication of photo manipulation, rather an overzealous enlargement to achieve a dramatic crop.’

-- Deirdre Edgar