Faketastic: Your smartphone photos are totally fake — and you love it

“At night for the past few weeks, I’ve been tromping around dark places taking photos using a new mode on Google’s $800 Pixel 3 called Night Sight. Friends in a candlelit bar look like they brought a lighting crew. Dark streets are flush with reds and greens. A midnight cityscape lights up as though it were late afternoon. It goes way beyond an Instagram filter into you-gotta-see-this territory,” Geoffrey A. Fowler writes for The Washington Post. “Night Sight is a super step forward for smartphone photography — and an example of how our photos are becoming, well, super fake.”

“It’s true — you don’t look like your photos. Photography has never been just about capturing reality, but the latest phones are increasingly taking photos into uncharted territory,” Fowler writes. “The iPhone’s “portrait mode” applies made-up blur to backgrounds and identifies facial features to reduce red-eye. Selfies on phones popular in Asia automatically slim heads, brighten eyes and smooth skin. And most recent phones use a technique called HDR that merges multiple shots to produce a hyper-toned version of reality. When I recently took the same sunset photo with an iPhone 6 from 2014 and this year’s iPhone XR, I was gobsmacked at the difference — the newer iPhone shot looked as though it had been painted with watercolors.”

“What’s happening? Smartphones democratized photography for 2.5 billion people — taking a great photo used to require special hardware and a user manual,” Fowler writes. “Now artificial intelligence and other software advances are democratizing creating beauty.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Fowler asks, “So if our phones are making up colors and lighting to please us, does it really count as photography?”

Well, since photographers have been dodging, burning, and more in darkrooms since the inception of photography, and doing far, far, far more than that since computer image editing tools became available and we still call it “photography,” the answer is: Yes!

Digital Photography Review: Apple’s iPhone XS/Max is a leap forward in computational photography – October 5, 2018
Austin Mann reviews iPhone Xs camera: ‘I’ve never worked with a camera that can balance light like this – not even close’ – September 20, 2018
Inside Apple’s iPhone Xs camera technology that rivals DSLR quality – September 20, 2018
‘Shot on iPhone Xs’ video showcases Apple’s amazing new camera – September 13, 2018

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” and “Corey Krall” for the heads up.]


  1. Geez! Why single out photos? Make up, dentures, colored clothes, stucco, hair styles, or any elaboration and accessory such as car body design that does not add to pure functionality could be considered “faketastic” too.

    I guess the point is that the author just discovered photos.

  2. When I was in graphic design school over 30 years ago, our photo retouching teacher showed us a beautiful night shot of a lighthouse on a rocky cove. The photographer won an award for the dramatic photo.
    Then he showed us what it looked like before he retouched it — a lifeless photo with no rocks, no detail in the water, no beacons in the night. Just a dull lighthouse. The final artwork was more a reflection the retoucher’s talent than the photographer’s. So it’s not a new story, just new technology getting us there.

  3. Similar to electronic music. 20th century composers would spend hours upon hours splicing and dicing reel-to-reel tape to create so called “musique concrete.” Now any 14 year can do the same thing in seconds in GarageBand. Same with synthesizers—what used to require exhorbitdantly priced gear and years of training can now be accomplished with a cheap app on any computer or iOS device.

  4. Having seen Peter Jackson amazing colouring and re focusing of 1st World War film my reservations are gone this sort of technology brings so much more than it loses … as long as we treat it sympathetically, sensibly and with awareness of whats happening.

    Sadly I do think a lot of companies and people will undoubtedly take it to ludicrous lengths where everything becomes surreal and lose all sense of reality as there is no fundamental line to cross here, but that is nearly always a downside of technological progress that we have to bite the bullet on. Though where that takes us in 25 years or so could be scary with all the lip sinking and face replacement tech thats developing… but thats another if related dimension I guess on this relatively harmless one.

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