When is not telling the truth, or intentionally misrepresenting the truth through misleading information lying? Always. Does it matter in the business world? You’re damn right it does and the Canadian competition bureau clearly states this on its website, as follows. “The misleading advertising and labelling provisions enforced by the Competition Bureau prohibit making any deceptive representations for the purpose of promoting a product or a business interest, and encourage the provision of sufficient information to allow consumers to make informed choices.”

Since the development of digital photography and the easy access to both consumer and professional software - both of which allow relatively accessible image manipulation tools and techniques - there have been numerous instances of professionals misrepresenting the truth through over editing an image. In respect to news and documentary photography, truth is paramount, and editing an image is restricted to modest adjustments such as correcting exposure and contrast, digital noise and dust removal for example. (However, lowering or raising the exposure or brightness of an image with the intention of removing an object in the shadow or highlight areas, would be unacceptable in the aforementioned areas of photography).

In the worst cases of unethical image manipulation, people or objects have been removed or added to make the composition more pleasing, and in less extreme cases over editing colours, contrast and other qualities have created what looks more like an illustration than a photograph. Professionals are, and should be, held to a higher degree of ethics than Joe Blow, who may opt to remove a deadbeat dad from an old family photo at the request of a relative. But businesses that offer photography, virtual tour and video services should be compelled by the laws of this country to tell the truth. Deception, whether intentional or a forgetful business practise is dishonest.

The general public is somewhat aware of how to manipulate an image, but many actually think it is easier than it really is to “Photoshop” an image. With that being said, why then is the general public not as aware of another kind of unethical image manipulation? Animating a ‘still’ photograph with an effect, such as the pan and zoom effect, does not create a moving image or video, as some businesses would have you believe.

Some image editing software, and all if not most video editing software, will allow image manipulation in the manner of adding an effect to a ‘still’ image. The best and worst effect is the dreaded pan and zoom effect. Anyone with a television and a penchant for documentary films will have seen this effect hundreds of times in their life, as it is a terrific way to incorporate static footage and ‘still’ images into a video or film. The most widely known term for the animation is the Ken Burns effect, and is named after the American documentary film maker, Ken Burns, who is well known for his use of archived footage or ‘still’ photographs.

Video is understood to be, and described by as, “the recording, reproducing, or broadcasting of moving visual images:” The key here is that video is MOVING visual imagery. “Still” is defined by as, “not moving; lacking motion or activity.” also defines “still” in terms of “photography” as describing, “an ordinary photograph that does not show movement as compared to a movie.” Why then do so many real estate marketing companies, that offer photography services, market animated pan and zoom slide shows, as Video?

Is it ethical, and does it adhere to the Canadian Competition Bureau’s outline regarding, “Misleading Advertising and Labelling”, to advertise that a companies’ end product includes video, if the product to which they are referring is a pan and zoom slideshow? Especially when the company also makes a point of advertising that they offer ‘still’ image or virtual tour (panoramas) packages, so that the realtor client understands the difference between an animated virtual tour and a straight up ‘still’ image.

Why then does the same company intentionally, or unintentionally muddy the waters, by not clarifying the difference between a slideshow of animated ‘still’ images and a true video? Their actions or inactions look especially suspicious when they don’t also offer video as an end product, and this leaves us wondering if the lack of clarification is really indeed an intentional marketing practise of disinformation.

Even Windows Live Movie Maker, free software that came loaded onto my Windows 7 driven laptop, allows the user to quickly and easily add a pan and zoom effect to a ‘still’ image, in a couple of clicks. More sophisticated software allows the user to select specific parts of an image to more precisely control the effect. After applying the effect, the image moves within a confined area, but the difference between this and video is quite obvious. A still image is a flat one dimensional object, and the perspective cannot be changed. In terms of a real estate image showcasing a room, a flat one dimensional picture does not allow the viewer to pass through a doorway, from one room to another. No matter how adept with image editing software, one can only move a ‘still’ picture so that specific parts of it are showing within the viewing area. However, with a video camera in hand, the videographer can pass from one room to another and the viewer will enjoy the changing composition from the perspective of the camera. A cheap way of attempting to ape this with animation of a ‘still’ image, is to instruct the viewing area to slowly zoom toward the adjoining room. If the image is not high resolution the image clarity will degrade with the zoom and become rather pixelated - a telltale sign that a zoom effect has been applied.

Do you mind if the genuine leather belt you purchased is made from plastic, or an imitation fabric that stains your waistband in the summer heat? Or are you the kind of person that doesn’t mind fabric balls of polyester collecting on your 100% labelled cotton sheets. Lying is believed by many researchers, to be part of our fight or flight, survival instinct. If telling the truth doesn’t result in the desired outcome, then maybe lying will. A ‘white lie’ might protect a friend or loved one, and is defined by as, “a harmless or trivial lie, especially one told to avoid hurting someone’s feelings:” A ‘lie’ is defined by as, “to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive,” and “to create a false or misleading impression.”

In terms of products, services and the way we conduct our business affairs, we have already collectively determined as a community, that we expect accountability, fairness, honesty and foremost truth, in order to create a level playing field and to protect the consumer. If you’re a realtor paying a marketing company for video of your listing, but getting an animated slideshow of ‘still’ images, then you are not getting for what you are paying. Companies that use “Misleading Advertising and Labelling” are accountable for their product, service and actions whether intentional or otherwise, and regulations are in place in Canada to protect the consumer from this unprofessional, morally bankrupt behaviour.

1,202 words, Copyright Protected by British Photographer, Adrian Brown.