Update: Congratulations to commenter David, who came close to guessing what was up with the photo. The un-photoshopped version of this helicopter shot, which BP America has uploaded to its Flickr account, shows that the photo was taken on the deck of a vessel at the spill site. That explains the tower and the fact that the helicopter is not actually flying.
BP spokesman Scott Dean told the Washington Post yesterday that the photographer, who works on contract with BP, pasted in blue sea where the edge of the landing pad was showing.
“He also adjusted colors and contrast so that the interior of the helicopter was brighter, Dean said.”
The WaPo says — arguably — that the changes were minor, but the embarrassment was major. It doesn’t bode well for a company trying to convince America of its transparency that bloggers are finding altered photos of the spill response. But it also highlights a discrepancy between standards set for photojournalists and PR folk. In the past, professional photojournalists have lost their jobs for doing just what BP did.
In 2003, L.A. Times photographer Colin Crawford was fired for merging two photos of a scene from Iraq.
In 2006, Reuters fired a Beirut-based freelance photographer for photoshopping a photo of a city after an airstrike to make it appear that there was more smoke.
And just this week, a photographer for Getty Images was fired for using Photoshop to remove a person from the background of a golf shot, probably for aesthetic purposes.
Getty’s PR manager told Photo District News:
Getty Images actively advocates and upholds strict guidelines pertaining to the capture and dissemination of its editorial content … As such, when Getty Images was made aware of (the) altered image in our coverage of this event, it was immediately removed…from our website and a mandatory ‘kill’ request was sent to our feed-based subscribers. In adherence with our zero tolerance policy on photo manipulation, we terminated our relationship with freelance photographer Marc Feldman.
BP has uploaded the “before” and “after” versions of photos that have been photoshopped to its Flickr account under an album called “BP Altered Images.” The album includes a third photo exposed by Americablog, which spotted the first chop job, showing a technical team in front of a large projection screen. The image on the projection screen, which is blown out in the original photo, was enhanced.
Tom Fowler posted yesterday that an observant blogger noticed BP had done some crummy photoshopping on a picture of its control room to make it look like more video feeds were running. BP was called out and spokesman Scott Dean told the WaPo that nothing sinister was intended by the alteration.
Well today, the folks over at Gizmodo have pointed out another BP photoshop job — this time on an image showing a view of the oil spill site from the cockpit of a helicopter.
The image — featured on the “Response in pictures” section of BP’s website — has more not-so-great photoshop work and then some, because as one commentor on Gizmodo pointed out, whoever worked the photo forgot about the window near the co-pilot, which depicts a totally different scene (That is unless the co-pilot likes to decorate his side of the cockpit with posters..)
Gizmodo points out that the air traffic control tower in the upper left hand side of the picture probably shouldn’t be there if the helicopter is flying over the well site. The water also changes colors, blurs and cuts off one of the vessels as it moves from the left toward the middle.
Zooming in on the dash of the helicopter, Gizmodo notes that the readouts indicate the door and ramp are open and the parking brake is on. The pilot also appears to be holding the pre-flight checklist.
Original image from BP’s website.