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Are they giants? The story behind a photo of POTUS and FLOTUS that baffled the internet

Joe Biden and Jill Biden seemed disproportionately bigger in size compared to Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter in an unedited photograph

On May 4, The Carter Center, a non-governmental, not-for-profit organization founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, posted a photograph with the US President, his wife and the Carters. In the picture, First Lady Jill Biden was kneeling next to 96-years-old Jimmy Carter while President Joe Biden was kneeling next to 93-years-old Rosalynn Carter. But in the images, Joe Biden and Jill Biden seemed disproportionately bigger in size compared to Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter.

As soon as the photograph made it to social media, the netizens were baffled to see the difference between the body size of Bidens and Carters.

The photograph attracted a lot of comments, some confused and some hilarious, while many people tried to explain what could have been the reason.

Having the privilege of being a professional photographer and a Multimedia graduate, I would like to take the liberty to explain the science behind the distorted photograph in the simplest possible way.

Is poor editing behind the distortion in the photograph?

No, in fact, the photograph has not been edited at all in terms of dimensions or angles. The person who uploaded the picture on social media either did no editing and uploaded it SOTC (Straight Out Of the Camera) or did minor colour corrections before uploading it. No major retouching has been done on the photograph.

So what is the reason behind the distortion?

As simple as it can get, the reason is the lens. The person who clicked the photograph used a wide-angle lens. The room in which they are sitting seems to be a smaller room. In such cases, photographers often use a wide-angle lens to fit everyone in a single frame as they have to click photograph from a close distance. Though wide-angle lens help achieve the objective, after a certain point (for technically savvy people in terms of photography, under 18mm focal length), the outer edges begin to warp or bend. Also, a strong flash seems to have added to the optical illusion. Flash, when bounced at the subjects often kill the natural shadow in a small confined room that adds up to the illusion.

Here are a few examples that you can easily find on the internet.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay
Image by photochur from Pixabay
Image by Hjörleifur Sveinbjörnsson from Pixabay
Image by jplenio from Pixabay

Is there any way to fix it?

If you are not familiar with photo editing software, you better find a place where you can click the photograph without switching to a wide-angle lens. For technically savvy people, the focal length of 50mm on a full-frame camera and 35mm on a crop frame camera would be ideal for portraits and family photographs. While using flash in confined spaces, it is better to bounce it at the roof rather than bouncing it towards the subject.

For those who are a little bit familiar with photo editing software like Photoshop, such photographs can be fixed by spending little time on the wrapped edged. In Adobe Photoshop, there is a tool called Adaptive Wide Angle Lens that can fix it quickly. Alternatively, one can use online tools like photo-kako to fix the image online.

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Anurag
B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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