(Probably not) doctored photo [from Getty runs] in Washington Post


Photoshop Disasters posted this photo from Washington Post. The guy on the left is both behind and in front of Tiger Woods. Neat trick. Link

UPDATE: Here's some background from, Chris Combs, photo editor at the Washington Post Express: "This is a Getty photo and I ran it verbatim. I don't have time for Photoshop. The one error to which our sports editor will likely admit is that it is credited to "Stuart Franklin/AP," whereas it is "Stuart Franklin/Getty Images" that took the photo. Here is the picture on Getty's site.

"You may also find it on editorial.gettyimages.com by searching for "Stuart Franklin" tiger mickelson. I can't say that Stuart Franklin didn't 'chop the image, but Express didn't touch it."

UPDATE: Stuart Franklin says: "I would like to clarify something. Several people have been writing to my web address which is stuartfranklin.com complaining about some fakery etc. Please do not confuse me - the current President of Magnum Photos - with a sports photographer of the same name who licenses his work through Getty (I believe). I have little interest in sport except cross country running and no interest in photographing sport. You will need to take up your issue via Getty or AP."


  1. One of the comments on the linked page indicates that the photo appeared in “Express”, a free publication from the Washington Post, not the Post itself. I think that photo would be a violation of any reputable paper’s standards, but Express probably has its own more tabloid-y staff.

  2. @5: You’re lucky I know the guy on the right. The only other pro sports players I know by sight are Joe Namath and Babe Ruth.

  3. @5 If you were a BB fanatic like me, you would remember this:

    Oh brother. I don’t even know what the FIFA World Cup is. I’m guessing it’s soccer, which I hate just as much as any other pro sport. Every editor at Boing Boing detests professional sports, and we would sooner stream a video of a crumpled up paper napkin in the corner of a room than show some jackasses running after a ball. The only time we would ever post anything about pro-sports would be to make fun of them.


  4. I honestly don’t think this is doctored. It looks very weird yes, but if you look closely at the area near Phil’s elbow, it really isn’t in front of Tiger’s midsection, it just looks that way because of the glow of light hitting his shirt. It also appears that Phil isn’t standing far enough behind Tiger for him to hit his ball, but given that this is Golf photography, the shot was likely taken with a very very long telephoto lens (if you’ve ever been to a golf tournament and seen the rigs the photogs carry around you’ll know what I mean). The long lens would tend to compress the depth of the image like this.

    Neat optical illusion, though. I suspect that’s actually what made the photographer select this particular shot :).

  5. Josh, I thought the same thing initially. Follow the link and look at the bigger version (the pdf, maybe you did already), right at his elbow tip, you can see tigers shirt disappearing behind.

    Here‘s a zoomed version..

    It’s definitey ‘shopped imho (P!ICTBTP etc).

  6. Ahahahaaaaa, I’ve done equally silly things while photoshopping…usually if I’m tired. The eyeballs do tricks and focus is lost.
    OMG….photoshopdisasters is great fun!
    Thank you, ALEK.

  7. I agree with those who say that this is not a Photoshop blunder, but an optical illusion caused by a combination of a long lens and bad composition. Tangential objects (that is, objects that share an edge) are a no-no in picture composition because of the ambiguity it creates, and this image illustrates why. It’s the basis of a lot of trick photography.

    Besides which, I find it difficult to believe that someone could create an in-front-of-and-behind-at-the-same-time Escher effect by accident in Photoshop. Think of what it would take to do: You’d either need three layers, with one of the images duplicated in two of them so it could be both in front of and behind the other, and masked as needed, or you would need to erase or mask out the foreground image where it overlaps to make it appear to be behind the other. You’d have to be aware of what you were doing.

    Occam’s Razor says it’s unintentional trick photography.

  8. Rick’s Razor says it’s a bad photo and should not have been published, Photoshop or no.

  9. It’s just typical that you would attribute to a white man the supernatural powers being exhibited by a black man. Just like Jesus all over again.

  10. (This is a copy of a comment I made on the Photoshop Disasters entry.)

    Hi there!

    This is Chris Combs, photo editor at the Washington Post Express.

    This is a Getty photo and I ran it verbatim. I don’t have time for Photoshop.

    The one error to which our sports editor will likely admit is that it is credited to “Stuart Franklin/AP,” whereas it is “Stuart Franklin/Getty Images” that took the photo. Here is the picture on Getty’s site.

    You may also find it on editorial.gettyimages.com by searching for :
    “Stuart Franklin” tiger mickelson

    I can’t say that Stuart Franklin didn’t ‘chop the image, but Express didn’t touch it.

    Big fan of this site, believe it or not.

    Cheers, Chris Combs

  11. @ Mark Simonson: Just this morning I linked one of your articles to a friend of mine who suggested Arial for a promotional banner for our car club – and here you are responding to a comment of mine, on a blog neither of us ever comment on. Small world, I suppose.

  12. After looking at it the illusion comes into play with the unlucky line up of the “other guy’s” shirt and Tiger’s torso, and the lighting on the shirt. This lighting throws off the eye and makes it think that it is in front of tiger. The flatness due to the telephoto lens doesn’t help either.

  13. Ok, looks like my humble opinion was wrong. Not because Chris Combs said so, but because the Getty version isn’t cropped, so you can clearly see both men’s feet. Also, there are a couple of shots from the same series that illustrate the depth of field better.

    eg. 1
    eg. 2

    An unfortunate arrangement of objects, mixed with an innocent (but deadly) crop.

    No, no cream or sugar thanks, I like my humble pie with just a hint of bitter :)

  14. No, this is Photoshopped. If the effect were caused by telephoto compression, Tiger would be completely behind Mickelson, or vice versa, but in this case they overlap. Absolutely, 100% altered.

    That being said, the journalistic standard would be to label this as a photoillustration, and that would cover it. I did plenty of (better) photoillustrations for the papers I worked for, as well as standard photojournalism, but the illustrations were ALWAYS labeled as such.

    (And I shot two freelance assignments for the DC Post in the 90s.)

  15. DBarak, did you see the other Getty shots? The ones where you can see the feet? The depth of focus on this one just gets both men pretty sharply.

  16. Phil Mickelson may not be Tiger Woods (the #1 player in the world), but for crying out loud, he IS the #2 ranked player in the world! He deserves more respect in the article than “the guy on the left”, especially when his name is clearly visible in the photo’s caption.

  17. Other “The guy’s” in history:
    – The guy standing up on that rowboat crossing the Delaware River
    – The guy that had a pipe in his mouth and said “I shall return”
    – The guy on the Five Dollar bill
    – The guy with the wacky hair and all the Relativity stuff
    – The guy in Rome with the funny hat…..

  18. “he IS the #2 ranked player in the world!”

    Well I can tell you we’re all so very, very impressed and amazed at that thing you do.

  19. The getty images show that if this was photoshopped, it was done before the image got to the getty site.

    I still have to believe there was some manipulation… in order for the image to have been unmanipulated, tiger’s shirt would have had to have magically taken on a shape that just exactly matched the shape of the other guy’s arm. E.g. the shirt would have to have taken on an little indent right where the guy’s elbow was. Theoretically possible, but given that tiger’s shirt in the previous getty photos does not have such a profile, it seems very unlikely.

    Another inconguity is that in the two similar getty images, the one that looks faked has the background guy further away (notice his foot behind grass as opposed to in front of grass) and yet the background guy is sharper and more in focus. It’s theoretically possible that the photographer went to a smaller aperture to make that happen, but I think a more reasonable explanation was some compositing.

    And finally notice that the out of focus background looks different in between the two getty photos… again it’s possibly due to a different vantage point, but my bet is on compositing.

  20. Poor Mickelson. “The guy on the left” is pretty much all he’s going to be for all history, thanks to playing at a time when Tiger Woods is around.

  21. I don’t see race, so there’s nobody in the picture.

    However the background is…oh someone said…said that already…okay then.

  22. “he IS the #2 ranked player in the world!”

    Sorry, but .. err… in what game? I think I should remember by the club on the hand of the guy on the right, but anyway…

  23. You know what? The Getty image is real. Put your thumb on the image to conceal that torso/arm part. The seeming fakeness is totally an optical illusion caused by the coincidence of how that torso/arm border appears. It LOOKS like you’re seeing Phil’s whole arm in front of Tiger, but you’re NOT, it’s just a mind trick. Hide that section, and it’s abundantly clear the image is legit and the part you’re concealing is causing an optical illusion. This is actually by pure chance a brilliant illustration of a mind perception trick.

  24. If it is real (and I’m actually inclinded to believe so) it’s kind of nice to see Photoshopdisasters get “owned” for making fun of the photoshopping of an un-photoshopped picture. How many posts of nitpicking reflections does one really need to post?

  25. PhotoshopDisasters now includes the following edit on that post:

    [Edit: The image is from Getty, not AP. The Washington Post Express actually phoned me up to say there was no Photoshopping on their part.]

  26. Well, after reading all the comments, and knowing that Stuart Franklin is a well-known photographer who would know better than to do this, and after looking at the photo again and again, I believe it’s entirely possible it’s not a fake, but a very unfortunate twist of fate.

    What I think is the case is that by some odd chance, the edge of Mickelson’s shirt just happens to line up with the edge of Woods’ shirt, looking like it overlaps. The slight rim lighting makes it look like a bad Photoshop job.

    I’m going to have to go 60/40 that it’s not a hack job, based in part on the reputation of the people and organizations involved.

    One interesting thing that’s going to come from this is the discussion and debate that will likely occur in the NPPA magazine.

    Whether this photo ends up being real or fake, issues of photo manipulation and picture choice may come up, resulting in constructive discussion of the subjects.

    In that regard, PhotoshopDisasters has performed a beneficial service by choosing to examine this photo.

  27. The thing that really bothers me about this photo (besides the obvious Mickelson in front of/behind Tiger illusion) is that Mickelson’s eyes are not following the shot. He’s looking straight up while Tiger is looking forward. I mean, maybe Phil doesn’t really care to watch Tiger’s shot, but it seems strange to me.

  28. @Mark Simonson, uh, actually Occam’s Razor is meant to eliminate complicated theories in favor of the simplest one. So, actually, the idea that the photo is “unintentional trick photography” achieved through a convoluted series of coincidential conditions is completely contrary to O.R. It’s far more likely it was doctored.

    Occam’s Razor says this is a bad ‘shop job.

  29. Poor chriscombs, have you run about all day with your hands in the air shouting “It’s a Getty photo! It’s a Getty photo!” while photoshop nerds pointedly ignored you? It sure seems like it.

  30. I love how actual photoshop freaks took the time to discover that it’s legit & Mr. Combs himself (whatup C Diddy!) explined that it was a Getty photo, yet the Photoshop Disasters comments are still full of snarky speculation. Lame theories look even lamer when they’re wrong.
    On the other hand, when my paper used to have a composing department (we’ve been folded into advertising since there’s not much to paste up anymore), I used to spend countless hours intercepting pages coming from the newsroom (as was my job) and putting Stanley Kubrik’s face in odd places in photos before they went to the camera room: crowds, passing cars, anywhere I could hide him. It’s not unethical (as this photo would have been if it wasn’t legit), but the editor probably would kill me if he found out. And it’s probably an AP violation. Oh well.

  31. Stuart Franklin is a well-respected photographer and people should calm down and look at the entire set of photos in the Getty archive before making accusations (that possibly impugn Franklin’s reputation).

  32. It’s unbelievable that someone with the journalistic integrity of Stuart Franklin would stoop to using trick photography to fake a Photoshop fake and deliberately trip up the honest people at PhotoshopDisasters and BoingBoing!

  33. To anyone who follows golf, which would be the target audience, it would scan as a sight gag mashup , not a single photo. Pro golfers don’t moon around next to each other while they hit, they are busy with their own business.

  34. Dear friends,
    I would like to clarify something. Several people have been writing to my web address which is stuartfranklin.com complaining about some fakery etc. Please do not confuse me – the current President of Magnum Photos – with a sports photographer of the same name who licenses his work through Getty (I believe). I have little interest in sport except cross country running and no interest in photographing sport. You will need to take up your issue via Getty or AP. Cheers.

  35. Honestly, what would be the point in altering a picture to look like this? The picture we’re all looking at is far from a photographic masterpiece, with our without manipulation. It’s a candid shot of Phil and Tiger on the course.

    @CinemaJay — to me, Occam’s Razor would suggest that this is a candid shot that just happens to look like whatever it looks like, and not a deliberate anything at all.

  36. @Zuty, I can respect that. However, Occam’s operates under the general principal that the simplest explanation must true, rather than more complex. Since the image is baffling, the “simplest” explanation would be that it’s fake. However, it’s clear from Getty that the image isn’t doctored. But the criteria for O.R. says otherwise. (That’s all I was saying to Mark S.).

    Re-reading my post I can see how it would seem that I was advocating the photoshop theory. I meant merely to point out that his use of Occam’s was misapplied.

    To be honest, I can’t really tell if it’s photoshopped or not. Occam’s isn’t really the best measure by which to determine whether it has or has not been doctored.

  37. @CinemaJay — Wouldn’t “photog takes picture” be simpler than “photog takes picture and then chops it”? (Which is, I think, his original point.)

  38. Things to remember about Occam’s Razor:

    1. Occam was claiming that the simplest explanation for the universe was “God made it.” In other words, its very first use was a misuse. Abusus non tollit usum, but it’s important to remember that it can be misused, even with the best of intentions.

    2. The original version of Occam’s Razor was “Don’t unnecessarily muliply entities.” This is not the modern version.

    3. The modern version is “The simplest explanation that accounts for the available data is best” (emphasis added). This is just a matter of choosing simpler theories over complex ones, or ones that require vast quantities of additional math. Example: the Earth pretty much orbits the sun; it’s certainly possible to construct a Geocentric model that accounts for all the apparent movements of the celestial bodies, but it becomes extraordinarily complex! Therefore we choose the simple theory.

    4. When new data becomes available, you have to reevaluate the simplest explanation with regard to the new data. In this case, the uncropped photos are additional data, and clearly show that the boundary problem on the arm causes an optical illusion.

    I think a bit of photoshopping to take out part of Tiger’s shirt would have made this photo look less fake, and would have spared everyone a lot of energy. Oh the irony.

  39. Rats! I forgot the most important one:

    5. Occam’s Razor is not a natural law. A more complex explanation could be the correct one because of data you don’t have yet. William of Ockham never saw any dinosaur bones. Ptolemy didn’t have a telescope. Mario Pei…well, there’s no excuse for Mario Pei.

  40. I shoot a lot of photography and use a lot of Photoshop. I’m going to say that this is definitely an optical illusion caused by the flattening of persective that you get when shooting extremely long telephoto. If you zoom in and pay close attention to the focus of Tiger’s shirt, you will see that this sharpness is maintained all the way around the contour, which would not be the case if a blurry image was composited over the sharp one (the whole basis for this in front/behind/in front brouhaha) unless significant tweaking had been done by our hypothetical Photoshopper.

    I’d even posit that Occam’s Razor suppports the ‘real’ proposition over the ‘fake’ one. The ‘fake’ case isn’t the simple case. Not only would this have to be Photoshopped, but it would have to be Photoshopped in an detailed yet ass-backwards way that involves a lot more weirdnesses and effort than a simple perspective illusion captured by chance, which happens all the time. It’s a lot less likely that a Photoshopper would go to such great lengths to a) create such a blah image b) use multiple layers to put objects both in front of and behind other objects c) carefully edit the tangental areas to preserve the appearance of correct focus of each, even though they look like they’re supposed to be the other way around d) recreate a portion of a larger, readily available image that looks exactly the same except but without the strong optical illusion, because you can see their feet.

    You can’t just say “It’s faked” and claim Occam because you used only two words. You have to recreate all the steps needed to reproduce that fake result, and compare that to “a weird combination of perspective and alignment captured by chance with a single shutter press”.

  41. Bravo, PKMousie, and you show another point: those of us who know jack-shit-nuthin’ about PhotoShop (such as my humble self) don’t have the data about how hard it is to PhotoChop something like this. Therefore some of us picked the wrong explanation because it was simple and fit the data we knew about.

    One thing, though: Occam’s Razor is about the simplicity of the explanation, not of the activity the explanation calls for. We’re now evaluating the relative likelihood of two things: one, a freak perspective shot exacerbated by cropping; two, a complex and pointless PS job done apparently by the photographer, with the only goal, seemingly, an attempt by him to destroy his own reputation.

    Two does seem incredibly unlikely, but Occam doesn’t get into that. What does involve Occam is the fact that you have to bring in further explanation of what could possess the photographer to do such a thing, and why, if he wanted to, he would then go to the trouble of making it look one way uncropped, and an entire other way cropped…and cropped in a particular way that he didn’t do before selling it (or whatever) to Getty. THEN you’d have to explain how the photographer knew the WPE (whoops) the Washington Post Express was going to crop it that way, and on and on.

    Which is probably all what you were thinking anyway, but I tend to blather when I get worked up.

    Stopping now.

  42. I called Getty as part of our http://www.stinkyjournalism.org investigation. “Molly” was very professional and called me back. She said they (Getty Director of Photography [DOP] ) and another branch agency, Contour, are “investigating” the photograph. Washington Post, the mother ship for Express is also asking questions.

    We are running tests now and will soon report our results.

    The Express editor, who published the photo has been extraordinary open and is investigating. For MsM, it is usual and noteworthy (and praiseworthy) how they are participating here in comments in such a friendly manner. There is also an exchange of ideas about this matter on http://www.kantor.com/blog/2008/06/like-i-said-bloggers-arent-always-journalists/

    By the way, the Getty photographer, Stuart Franklin is NOT the famous Stuart Franklin who shot the now iconic Tienanmen Square photo in China. I know because I emailed him. He wrote back and said that it wasn’t him.

  43. Btw, I share Mark Twain’s evaluation of golf as a way of spoiling a good walk. I can imagine (barely) how people enjoy playing it; I still cannot imagine how people enjoy watching it. I know they do; I’m just incapable of wrapping my brain around how.

    I first saw Tiger Woods on a car commercial, and had no idea who he was, or why the other characters were looking so shocked to see him. I think it’s wonderful that he’s crashed the boundaries of the last sport that was really reserved for rich white guys, but…pay attention to the game? Know the SECOND-rated player from Adam? Naw. If Tiger had been an equally talented white guy named Fred Smith, I wouldn’t even remember his name.

  44. I posted this over at Photoshop Disasters, but I think it also applies here:

    “Many of these commenters are not interested in discovering the truth; they only want to push their agenda. If they had bothered to click on any one of the many links posted in this thread, it would be clear that this picture is part of a series, proving beyond a doubt that it is NOT photoshopped.
    Props to commenter eric, who resisted jumping on the bandwagon before the rest of pictures in the series were revealed.
    Illicit photo-manipulators must have gotten so good that this blog can’t find any examples that show it more clearly.”

  45. Wow. It’s true people jumped without thinking, but Andrew Kantor can really take his tone and shove it up his ass…and put an un-PhotoShopped picture up on the net.

    Suck my warty toes, Andy.

  46. I agree with #54 — it’s a trick of a long lens and unfortunately close — but not close enough — alignment.

  47. This is just another example of evidence that truth is stranger than fiction, and usually harder to explain.

  48. For everyone that is concerned about keeping photojournalism pure, definitely look further into the Stuart Franklin run Magnum Photos. As far as integrity, they don’t even allow cropping of their images. Some of the best and brightest of the documentary/journalism photo world are represented by the agency.

  49. I’m still not convinced the image is doctored. Granted, it was a strange coincidence that the two of them lined up in that way, but the image doesn’t appear to be faked.

  50. @Brianmc, this photo in question is a Getty photographer, Stuart Franklin which is NOT the same person as the famed, Magnum photographer, Stuart Franklin that you cite.

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