Does BP Need Photoshop Lessons?
Once again, BP has been caught in a crisis of its own making. The revelation that it used Photoshop to alter images of the Command Center monitoring the Gulf oil spill crisis does not lend strength to the petroleum behemoth’s credibility.
BP says there is “nothing sinister” in the image alteration. What it apparently did is add some images to video screens that were blank in the original image. It seems reasonable to think the PR folks thought it might seem like a bad thing to have blank screens monitoring the situation. They would be right about that, of course. One has to wonder why the screens were blank during critical hours at the Command Center, and what should have been being monitored that wasn’t...
But of course, we’re not oil drilling professionals, and there may have been good reason for the screens to be blank. Indeed, they may have simply been in the process of switching to different camera views when the photo was snapped.
But if you’re going to fake a picture, you shouldn’t do a lousy job at it. And whoever retouched the photo really did a lousy job. It is so clearly a fake that it hardly takes a professional to see the bad cut-outs where the images were crudely sandwiched together.
The Photoshop “artist” might have had reason to believe that since the image was going up on the web at low resolution no one would notice how bad his or her work was, but that seems like a lame excuse for bad work. There may have been a deadline crush and perhaps the person creating the work INTENDED for the public to realize the photo had been altered.
But BP also published on their site the high resolution version of the photo, where the crude slicing and dicing is more readily apparent to anyone.
Perhaps BP needs a course in Photoshop tips and tricks. More likely, it needs a course in truth in advertising and business ethics.
Suppose you had been given this task by BP: would you have taken it on and simply executed it better? Would you have refused to do the work because it was blatantly dishonest? Would you have figured there was “nothing sinister” about doctoring the image and gone ahead with it?
One thing I hope you’ll agree with: you would at the very least have done a better job.
Stephen Beals is a veteran prepress manager with some 30 years of experience in the commercial print business. He has written hundreds of articles for dozens of publications and owns the website "Printoolz" for software for print and multimedia production. Stephen also founded his own murder mystery dinner theatre troupe and is a Presbyterian pastor.