My mom made portraits of all four of us kids when we were very young and hung them on the dining room wall. Mine was the only one with the Dennis-the-Menace cowlick sticking straight out of the back of my head. I looked like a Stygimoloch.
One day when my mother was replacing the faded construction paper backdrop, I begged her to fix the imperfection. After a lot of foot-stomping (on my part--I was around 10 years old at the time), she cropped it—and I knew immediately that I’d screwed up. This new and improved portrait was a fugazi.
But apparently Stalin-izing a photo for a more perfect version of reality is no big deal in the digital age.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi defended her decision to photoshop four congresswomen into the sort-of official photo of the women of the 113th Congress as, “an accurate historical record of who the Democratic women of Congress are."
An accurate record? Perhaps. An accurate depiction of reality? No.
There are a couple of important lessons to be learned from Pelosi's Kodak moment. First, if you plan to edit a photo, understand that the original will pop up moments after you upload it. The Internet never forgets. And it doesn’t like a cheater.
Second, if you must photoshop your pictures, tell your audience that you did. Be specific. And attach that disclaimer to the photo every time you post it. People will not be happy if they think they’ve been lied to.