Is Visual Evidence Fact?

Posted on 9/21/2018 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

When I entered the photography profession “Seeing Was Believing.” If there was a visual record of something, then it really happened. Photos were much more important records of events than just words. A still image might not provide an accurate, overall understanding of a particular event, but at least it was an accurate rendition of a moment in time. No more!

Photoshop has made it easy for anyone to manipulate images. It is often difficult for anyone, other than a technology expert, to determine or recognize the manipulation. The average viewer has no way of knowing if the photo they are viewing is real or fiction.

Last week I visited the fantastic National Geographic “Encounter, Ocean Odyssey” exhibit in New York City. As might be expected from National Geographic there were many amazing visuals. I know the extent that Geographic photographers go to in order to record real events that happen in nature, and the extent they go to not to “fake” a situation.

If I were going to believe that any event had really occurred, it would be a photograph taken by a National Geographic photographer. As a photographer one of the things I’m always thinking about when I go to a Nat Geo exhibit is “How did they get that shot?”

There was one shot in this exhibit that showed a whale chasing a squid. At the climax there was a full screen shot where the whale’s open mouth appears to swallow the squid, camera and the viewer. My reaction was “How did they get that shot?” I couldn’t believe that Nat Geo would be showing viewers something that wasn’t an actual photograph of a “real event.”

My 12-year-old grandson answered my question immediately, “It’s CGI.” It’s only entertainment. Young people don’t expect anything to be real anymore.

I checked with the exhibit administrator. He confirmed that it was CGI. How much of the rest of the exhibit was CGI? I have no idea. What is the world under water really like? I’m not sure what, if anything I learned from the exhibit. But, I was entertained.

Truth Online

In July there appeared to be a mass movement called the #WalkAway campaign that shared memes who purportedly testified to “walking away” from the Democratic Party. This social media hashtag #WalkAway was characterized as an answer to the “blue wave.”

However, it turned out that many of the pictures of people who supposedly were walking away were actually stock photos acquired from Shutterstock. Is your stock photo promoting something you, or the subject of your photograph, really believe in and support, or is it promoting the direct opposite?

Twitter tracking tool Hamilton68 had recorded Russian bots and trolls helping to amplify the #WalkAway hashtag.

#WalkAway memes employing stock photographic images have been shared by at least one prominent conservative figure: Ginni Thomas, an attorney who contributes to the conservative Daily Caller website and is married to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

There is little actual evidence to suggest that #WalkAway represents a mass conversion of millions -- or even thousands -- of Democrats to Team Trump. However, in today’s “Fake News” world, anyone – right up to the President of the United States – is free to say anything they want about anyone or anything, and use anyone’s picture however they choose.

It won’t be long before any face found online, can be easily attached to any body – in either a still or a video – and presented as supporting or opposing anything.

Truth In Tourism

This story tells of how the Maharashtra Tourism Department Corporation (MTDC) in India is using fake pictures to promote local tourism.

While some of the pictures had been photo shopped with local destinations, in many others, the places shown are not even from Maharashtra. Oh, well, its India and none of us are probably ever going to go there anyway.

The whole idea that a photograph should provide some degree of truth is dying fast, if it is not already dead.

Copyright © 2018 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


Be the first to comment below.

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More

More from Free Stuff