Whose Camera Never Lies?

c1860-LincolnAlthough “the camera never lies” is a well worn cliché, we – and  our customers – know it can. Unsurprisingly fakery is in the public consciousness. Coursera, the popular free online university, is currently offering a course with this title, documenting how commercial, journalistic, and historical images have been distorted. A recent exhibit at New York’s Metropolitan Museum, aptly titled “Faking It,” celebrated works where illusion trumped reality. A sister exhibit, “After Photoshop,” displayed the ubiquity of altered photography.

Even in this cynical age, it’s not always clear what is fake. For example, the iconic image of Lincoln on the right, is in fact a composite photo of John C. Calhoon, with Lincoln’s heade superimposed.

Even if your audience doesn’t know how to use Photoshop, Gimp, or other image editing tools, they are aware that images and video can be manipulated. The resulting “enhancements” in product shots and collateral can range from fibs to whoppers. Websites such as Four and Six rhetorically ask, “can any photo be trusted?”

But what happens if the customers’ cameras do the lying? Online sites such pixlr, picMonkey, and iPiccy, and many many others make photo enhancement – or as one site euphomizes it, “embetterment” –  cheap and easy. In a climate where marketers encourage and reward social media sharing of images via Instagram and Twitter, how many are bogus? Perhaps more to the point, how many which make your competitors’ offerings look better are biased?

What would you do, if an alienated customer posted an “enhanced” image showing how your product is inferior or injurious and the image became popular on social media?

Reputation management is problematic and there is no perfect defense. You should be monitoring what social media say about your organization. To this, you may also want to track what they’re showing as well.