Case #MMM010 - Photoshop Realism - Cloning Controversies - Radiant

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Monday Morning Misdemeanors is a series of weekly posts written by Graphic Designer, Derek Gyssels. In this series, Derek is going to hone in on a number of common problems that crop up in graphic designs and then give you the tools to avoid them which will give your designs a professional polish.

Here we are on another Monday morning and I can't believe I have completed ten Monday Morning Misdemeanors already. This week I am continuing on our voyage through Photoshop Realism. This week's topic is cloning controversies.


Allow me to start this topic by explaining what cloning is. In Photoshop ("PS") there is a tool called "Rubber Stamp". What this tool allows you to so is sample one area of an image then use a brush on another part of the image and paint, or clone, the sampled area. This is a great tool for many photo retouching exercises but it also causes many problems. To state it plainly the clone tool promotes laziness in many PS users as they look at it as a quick way to "fake" in elements or manipulate images. Now I don't work for Adobe but I think the intent of the clone or stamp tool was for retouching and fixing up little areas, not copying noticeable portions of your work. Lets look at a couple examples.


Clone Sample #1

Some of you may be familiar with this image as it was the source of a major journalistic issue back in 2006 involving a Reuters photographer and the new agency itself. I have provided the original and the modified images for comparison. For now I am only going to focus on the PS workmanship itself. In the bottom image I have added highlights that show where the cloning tool was used and left obvious repetitions in the smoke.

Clone Sample #2

Again we have another image that was the source of journalistic controversy. You can see in the highlighted portions that a missile was obviously added to this scenario. Much like the image before, smoke is completely organic and should not be repetitive.

Clone Sample #3


Here we have a snip-it of part of a Google map where some trees have obviously copied from somewhere else and then poorly cloned. I wonder what Google Maps was covering up here? I sometimes wonder how many things and places in Google Maps is covered or altered for security, or to put it another way, secrecy.

Clone Sample #4

I have to be honest I laughed out loud when I put the circle around the eye on this girls forehead because I know none of you need any help seeing the forgery here. This is a prime example of what the clone tool is not meant for. If I was given an assignment to add another eye to this girls forehead I would have attempted to use a combination of both eyes to make it look symmetrical. Here is a funny question for you. If we had a third eye on our foreheads would it have a tear duct and if it did, which side would it be on? Also, because this was done with the clone/stamp tool there is a bit of a halo around the third eye because it was cloned on the lighter side of her face and that light is conflicting with the shadow that starts on her forehead.


Like last week, I will ask the question does any of this matter? I will hold my position that it matters if we are being consciously deceptive. In some of the above images there was an attempt at being deceptive. There are techniques that could be used to create more convincing images but in saying that when we get caught does it mean we should be more ethical or become better liars? That is a heavy thought for a Monday morning but truth is truth seven days a week.

Here is a good example to close on that may be a little more relatable. If you are using the clone tool to fix up some grass in an photo for an ad your in a safe place. However if your photo is being used in an ad for some fertilizer and your trying to improve the look of the grass because the fertilizer didn't work very well on the test plot your getting into deception. So don't be lazy in your creativity or execution of visuals. Where there's a will, there's a way.