The cover of TV Guide displayed this picture of daytime talk-show host Oprah Winfrey. This picture was created by splicing the head of Winfrey onto the body of actress Ann-Margret, taken from a 1979 publicity shot. The composite was created without permission of Winfrey or Ann-Margret, and was detected by Ann-Margret’s fashion designer, who recognized the dress.
Though photo manipulation has become more common in the age of digital cameras and image editing software, it actually dates back almost as far as the invention of photography. Gathered below is an overview of some of the more notable instances of photo manipulation in history. For recent years, an exhaustive inventory of every photo manipulation would be nearly impossible, so we focus here on the instances that have been most controversial or notorious, or ones that raise the most interesting ethical questions.
We’ll continue to update this gallery as more incidents come to our attention, so if you come across any notable ones you think we should include, feel free to send us an e-mail at
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Entries in Body Image (21)
This digitally altered photograph of Kenny and Bobbi McCaughey appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine shortly after Bobbi gave birth to septuplets. This photograph was manipulated from the original that appeared, unaltered, on the cover of Time magazine. Newsweek manipulated the photograph to make Bobbi’s teeth straighter, and were accused of trying to make her “more attractive”.
The cover of GQ magazine featured a digitally slimmed photo of actress Kate Winslet. Winslet said that the retouching was “excessive.” “I don’t look like that and more importantly I don’t desire to look like that. I can tell you that they’ve reduced the size of my legs by about a third,” said Winslet.
A digital composite of Martha Stewart’s head on a model’s body appeared on the cover of Newsweek as Stewart was emerging from prison “thinner, wealthier and ready for prime time”, as the headline reads. Newsweek disclosed the source of the cover image on Page 3 with the lines: “Cover: Photo illustration by Michael Elins … head shot by Marc Bryan-Brown.”
Famed Indian movie star Khushboo took legal action against the publishers of Maxim magazine for the publication of a doctored photograph. The photograph was created by digitally splicing Khushboo’s head onto another model’s scantily clad body. This photograph was published in the Indian version of Maxim under the heading “Women you will never see in Maxim - 100% fake”. Magazine editor, Sunil Mehra, said “We are deeply apologetic for causing any inadvertent hurt and offence to Khushboo.” Said Khushboo, “Indeed the punishment that is finally meted out to them should be a deterrent against anyone who tries to treat women as a commodity and exploit them as they please. I will not opt for any kind of out-of-court settlement,” she said.
A photograph of CBS news anchor Katie Couric was digitally altered from the original to give Couric a trimmer waistline and a thinner face. This photo appeared in CBS’ in-house magazine Watch! CBS spokesman, Gil Schwartz, said “the doctored image was the work of a CBS photo department employee who got a little zealous”. Schwartz added, “I talked to my photo department; we had a discussion about it; I think photo understands this is not something we’d do in the future.”
In an advertisement for IMAX 3D theaters promoting the movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the bust of actress Emma Watson was digitally enlarged. A similar advertisement in regular theaters was unaltered. Warner Brothers Pictures released a statement that said “This is not an official poster. Unfortunately this image was accidentally posted on the IMAX website. The mistake was promptly rectified and the image taken down.”
The biceps of tennis player Andy Roddick were conspicuously enlarged on the cover of Men’s Fitness magazine. Roddick commented that he was “pretty sure I’m not as fit as the Men’s Fitness cover suggests”. He also noted that a prominent birthmark on his right arm had been erased. Richard Valvo, a spokesman for Men’s Fitness, said, “We wouldn’t comment on any type of production issue.” Adding, “I don’t see what the big issue is here.”
The cover of Redbook magazine featured a heavily retouched (and thinner) image of singer and actress Faith Hill. Redbook was accused of contributing to the unattainable body image created by digital retouching. In response, Redbook’s editor-in-chief Stacy Morrison said, “The retouching we did on Faith Hill’s photo for the July cover of Redbook is completely in line with industry standards.”