BP Photoshops Crisis Center Photo With Stunning Ineptitude

BP used Photoshop to alter this “crisis center” photo, so it would seem busier. Already pretty egregious, right? Wait’ll you see how badly the job was done.

BP Photoshopped Crisis Center photo


On BP’s “Response in pictures” site, one photo, purported to be taken on July 16, 2010, sat for days, unquestioned. The photo shows BP’s Houston Command Center, a desk with some massive monitors, lots of complicated things happening on them, and employees monitoring the situation in the Gulf. But all is not as it seems.

Yesterday, AmericaBlog took a good, hard look at the photo–but in retrospect, a mediocre, slightly firm look would have sufficed. The photo was altered in Adobe Photoshop CS4 (last year’s model, it should be noted). That’s bad enough–the last thing BP needs is to cover up anything they’re doing right now–but what really stings is how insanely incompetent the editing was. It’s insulting to anyone who’s played around with Photoshop: any 15-year-old DeviantArt user could have done this job without detectable artifacts, and BP’s “professional photographers” did a ridiculously amateur job.

Even worse, metadata on the photo suggests it may have been taken way back in 2001–look at that “Created:” date in the bottom left corner of the above photo. Now, that kind of metadata isn’t necessarily reliable; many amateur photographers simply neglect to change the date on their cameras after purchase, which leaves the metadata inaccurate. And whoever took and/or edited this photo is decidedly an amateur. But it’s also not necessarily wrong, which would make the an incredibly misleading fake–it would mean BP is reusing a nine-year-old photo that’s of a totally different subject than claimed.

The story was picked up by Gizmodo and the Washington Post, which forced BP to respond. BP explained that three of the screens in the Command Center were blank in the photo, and the photographer stuck three static images in there instead. The spokesman provided the original photo and claimed “there was nothing sinister in the photo alteration.” It’s not too encouraging that BP is shifting blame to a photographer and somehow claiming the company had no knowledge of heavily altered photos it posted in its “good press” area.

Dan Nosowitz, the author of this post, can be followed on Twitter, corresponded with via email, and stalked in San Francisco (no link for that one–you’ll have to do the legwork yourself).

About the author

Dan Nosowitz is a freelance writer and editor who has written for Popular Science, The Awl, Gizmodo, Fast Company, BuzzFeed, and elsewhere. He holds an undergraduate degree from McGill University and currently lives in Brooklyn, because he has a beard and glasses and that's the law.