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October 27, 2012

Oh Doctor: Romney Instagram Etch-a-Sketches Campaign Photo

From the analysis at BuzzFeed, it looks pretty clear the Romney campaign doctored a photo of a rally in Nevada this week to make the event, and crowd size look bigger. Indeed, they are working off the original Romney Instagram post here, this link good for as long as the Romney camp dares to keep it online. (As of now, there are 1155 comments, the most recent about the photoshopping.)

Because the photoshopping is ridiculously amateurish, there isn’t a lot of work involved in backing up BuzzFeed. To highlight two elements they call out, for example, the fact the crossbeams at Henderson Pavilion no longer line up and that an extra letter now appears in Romney’s name hanging from above, check out the Getty photo below (featuring the candidate himself). As you can tell, the laws of physics have not been contravened, nor has Romnesia so affected the team that they’ve forgotten how to spell their champion’s name)

(click for full size)

What I don’t get is how Romney’s social media folks even thought to try this in the first place. If you’ve been following the campaign on Instagram, you know that a couple handful of people in the press pool are shooting the same events, the photos all posting about the same time. This was uploaded by Maeve Reston of the LA Times. (Notice, by the way, no double guard rails up those aisles.)

Talking presidential campaign optics, photoshop and desperation, of course we can talk about character, ethics and the tendency to mess with reality and digitally lie. If a wire photographer did such a thing, for instance, he or she would be headed for the abyss. I imagine whoever is responsible under the Romney tent, on the other hand, is more likely facing a tongue lashing for being so incompetent.


Certainly, this isn’t the first time such a thing has happened, however.

The instance that immediately comes to mind is a still frame from a Bush commercial in ’04. In it, his campaign alters the composition of an audience of soldiers, the scene captured during a speech at a military base. (You can read my analysis here, my thesis as to motive having to do with racial balancing and Karl Rove’s determination that year to incrementally up Bush’s percentage of the African-American vote). Not that I’m differentiating these two example on a moral scale, by the way. Of course, exploiting our troops is appalling, reflective of how Bush, Rove and Co. trumped things up to sell the Iraq intervention in the first place. At the same time, duping citizens, whether etch-a-sketching words or pictures, is duping citizens.

(screenshots: Buzzfeed via Instagram. photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images. caption: Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (L) speaks during a campaign rally as his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) looks on at Henderson Pavillion on October 23, 2012 in Henderson, Nevada. A day after the final Presidential debate, Mitt Romney is campaigning in Nevada and Colorado. photo: Maeve Reston/LA Times – Instagram.)

  • Catherine McCallum

    But, see, the poor quality doesn’t matter to the Romney campaign because the people they’re playing to will never know the difference, not even with (or because of!) progressive blogs pointing out the deception.

  • tinwoman

    so what does the unaltered photo look like? Can anyone reconstruct it?

  • Enoch Root

    When I look at that photo, I think: Wow, that’s one messed up pano stitch. Anyone who could say it’s a deliberate attempt at manipulation in order to deceive has never had a bad Hugin session.

    But still.. Releasing such a photo seems ridiculous. It’s as if they released a small face Mitt photo as an official one. (Type ’small face mitt’ into Google image search to see what I’m talking about.)

    • Katherine Southard Reece

      I don’t think it was intended to be a pano… when you look at what was duplicated there would have been no need for pano… a regular picture would have been fine

  • Katherine Southard Reece

    This was tweeted by the digital director of the Romney campaign… you’d think he’ be better at photoshopping. Here’s a link to the tweet.

  • Colin Nicholls

    This is nothing more than a panorama composite, made up of perhaps 3 separate photos taken from different locations in the arena. Sometimes, this result is the best you can acheive based on the source images. I hardly imagine anyone is trying to pass this off as an “original”. One look at the Henderson Pavillion seating chart will give you a better idea of how occupied the rally was. Looks like a good turn-out.
    Please find something more worthwhile to complain about … there’s plenty to choose from.

  • postwick

    OMG this author has no idea what he’s looking at. It’s multiple images put together into a panoramic with software. I’ve done this many times. In busy scenes, you get obvious areas were the image edges were merged but not very well. The trees with the “1″ arrows pointing at them are NOT the same. LOL

    This is simply a very poorly done panoramic made from three photos.

  • Michael Shaw

    It’s one thing for seasoned photographers, or people who work in production to write and say this is obviously (the attempt at) a panorama. It’s also hard not to see it once you you know its segmented.

    For some perceptual evidence of this, take a look at these two photos, one of LSU cheerleaders wearing crosses and then the photoshopped version with them removed. Now look at the doctored photo and try imagining you never saw them there.

    The thing is, there is no hint or indication this is anything but a regular photo on the Romney post. And to the extent people really stop and look at photos, I can’t imagine many people realized the difference. As some further evidence for this, there are over 1100 comments on this Instagram post and scanning through them, at least for the first three days before someone noticed something was odd about the image, there are more than a handful of comments to the effect of “awesome crowd!”

  • Photo Tours USA

    there is NO evidence that anyone in the Romney camp did this.

  • Pingback: Romney Campaign Instagram Photograph Raises Eyebrows

  • pak152

    er-uh you just reposted the link for this page

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