Week in review: Seeing is deceiving

A doctored photo of new CBS anchor Katie Couric calls attention to the tricks that digital images can play.

We all know that technology is making strides in improving our daily lives, but did you also know it can help you shed unwanted pounds from your waistline in seconds without breaking a sweat?

That's what CBS did with an image of Katie Couric, which was originally released in May for reuse. The doctored photo appears in the September issue of Watch magazine, according to Mediabistro, which first reported on the alteration. The New York Post and several blogs soon followed with coverage.

You too can look thinner, taller or tanner. Today's cameras will let you do more than adjust the flash; they'll let you adjust reality. Photo-adjusting features that once required a PC and special know-how are now allowing consumers to alter a photo as soon as it's snapped.

Most digital cameras to date have had tools that remove red-eye from photos or lighten darkened images because of a poor flash. But that editing corrects a deficiency in the photographer's skills, or the camera itself, not the subject.

With new tools, average people can create their own "pictures that lie" at the moment of capture, without any trace of the real image that was seen with the naked eye.

"People in the legal world are now concerned about whether photos can be accepted as evidence anymore, especially when you can alter the scene as you click the shutter," said Peter Southwick, associate professor and director of the photojournalism program at Boston University.

Photograph alteration has a long, seedy history. Digital technology, however, is taking the art to new levels. Here are some recent examples.

Many CNET News.com readers were surprised that some people still look to photos as unimpeachable fact.

"The fakes we should care about are the photojournalists, which we've heard of altering photos for dramatic effect," wrote one reader to the News.com TalkBack forum.

Photographers aren't the only people looking to improve their artwork. Budding YouTube directors are clamoring for tools that can help polish and add a touch of Hollywood to their homemade videos. They're demanding ease of use, low prices and visual effects that wow audiences.

Most of the material found at Revver, Metacafe and YouTube typically doesn't include much in the way of production values. It's usually just some guy with a camera recording his dog, baby or girlfriend. But the numbers of people trying to infuse their work with a unique look and craftsmanship are growing.

Fixing a hole
Fake Windows security patches and rogue iPod invoices have been making the rounds this week as spammers continue trying to fool people into installing Trojans on their PCs. Internet threat-monitoring firm Websense issued an advisory about a fake e-mail that encourages recipients to install a patch to fix a Windows vulnerability described in Microsoft security bulletin MS05-039.

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