Fake EXIF Data Helps Photographer Overcome Megapixel Myth

Here’s an interesting snippet from an article published today by David Pogue of the New York Times that describes a trick one photographer uses to overcome the megapixel myth:

A few years back, one of his clients, a stock-photo company, rejected his submissions because they didn’t meet the company’s minimum-resolution requirements. All photos had to be, for example, 10 megapixels or higher.

Tom knew that his five-megapixel photos (or whatever they were) would print perfectly well; he knew that the megapixel myth was at play. But he couldn’t convince the stock agency that its megapixel requirement was based on mythology.

So he took a photo file from a buddy who owned a fancy high-end Canon SLR, pasted in his low-res photo, and dragged it out bigger, so that it filled the full area of the higher-resolution photo. (Why did he start with his buddy’s file? So that the metadata—the invisible information about the photographic settings embedded in every digital photo—would indicate to the stock agency that the picture was taken with that high-end camera.)

Not only was the stock agency fooled, but to this day, many of its customers have used Tom’s phony high-megapixel photos in professional publications. They’ve all been delighted by the quality.

It would be interesting to find out how widespread this kind of fakery is in the photo industry.

Image credit: exif data by jbylund

  • Devin Coldewey

    Seems like an experienced pixel snooper would be able to spot the resizing algorithms, though to be honest I’m not sure they’d be distinguishable from soft focus in many cases.

  • George Birbilis

    I don’t guess the agency ever looks at the cam model in the EXIF, they just care for the width & height of the image in pixels (so that when printed at high DPI, say a big poster or for a wallpaper it doesn’t show bad). There are several algorithms for upscaling and for downscaling, the simpler one for upscaling is to make the pixeld bigger (say 4 times replicate), but could be detected easily. In fact an algorithm could be made to calculate the effective resolution of the image by detecting this

  • Happy Tinfoil Cat

    Many stock agencies price the photo per size. This is an issue between the agency and their customer. A matter of trust. Even if your photos met the minimum requirement, you could always sell it for a lot more if it met the larger sizes. Sounds like fraud to me. Any photographer caught doing this would probably have all their stuff kicked off the site, possibly even have their account drained with charge-backs. The actual photo may or may not be adversely impacted depending on its content. Megapixels are relatively cheap nowadays so I don’t see why people wouldn’t just use qualified gear, even if it may not make a significant difference.

  • IcemanYVR

    This is a problem photographers faced several years ago when digital photography was still in its infancy. I had an image my agency was after, but it was shot on a 6mp D100. It looked beautiful on a 24×30″ print. My agency rejected it because it was only 6mp… when I mentioned I had also shot it on slide film they were happy and asked me to send it in. I had the digital image burned to slide and sent it in. They were very happy because the slide was so clean… end of story and a nice sale.

    Forget fraud, this is what we had to do when digital imaging was in it’s infancy and photographers were facing stereotypical myths about megapixels etc…

  • Anonymous

    If it is a good upscaling algorithm, I think you’d need to pass it through a signal analyzer to be sure it has real data. when it comes down to it though, it’s probably hard to get true resolution to the pixel because of lens resolution limitations or camera movement during exposure.

  • Martin Loyer

    I personnaly hate leavinf EXIF data in my pictures. I’m using ExifTool to clean unwanted data (Camera maker and model, date, time, aperture, length,…), but keep the essential: title, subject, keywords, website, copyright.


  • Chuck Vosburgh


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