Samsung used my DSLR photo to fake their phone’s “portrait mode”

By Dunja Djudjic

Earlier this year, Samsung was busted for using stock photos to show off capabilities of Galaxy A8’s camera. And now they did it again – they used a stock image taken with a DSLR to fake the camera’s portrait mode. How do I know this, you may wonder? Well, it’s because Samsung used MY photo to do it.

How I found out

A while ago, while I was trying to find a suitable alternative for Flickr, I ended up creating a profile on EyeEm. Since they’re partnered with Getty, some of my images were selected to be sold through Getty’s collection. I totally forgot about it, until a few weeks ago when I got an email from EyeEm: Congratulations, you sold a photo!  Awwww, I made my first sale on EyeEm! For some reason, someone bought this portrait of me goofing around:

Curious as I am, I performed a reverse image search a few days later, just for fun. I thought that, even if I get to see the image online, it could be included in a blog post about outdoor activities, nature, autumn… Maybe even makeup. But to my surprise, there was only a bunch of search results related with Galaxy A8 Star. I clicked on the first link, scrolled down, and saw this:

My first reaction was to burst out into laughter. Just look at the Photoshop job they did on my face and hair! I’ve always liked my natural hair color (even though it’s turning gray black and white), but I guess the creator of this franken-image prefers reddish tones. Except in the eyes though, where they removed all of the blood vessels.

Whoever created this image, they also cut me out of the original background and pasted me onto a random photo of a park. I mean, the original photo was taken at f/2.0 if I remember well, and they needed the “before” and “after” – a photo with a sharp background, and another one where the almighty “portrait mode” blurred it out. So Samsung’s Photoshop master resolved it by using a different background.

What I did

Since I’d made my first sale on EyeEm and saw the image on Samsung Malaysia’s website right after that, I didn’t even assume that they’d stolen the image. I mean, why would they? It’s not expensive for a huge company like that to buy one stock photo. Although, to be honest, I think that they should have paid more for a better retoucher. But just to make sure, I got in touch with EyeEm, asking whether Samsung bought the image from them.

A wonderful lady from customer support told me that the sale wasn’t registered on EyeEm yet. However, she explained that sometimes buyers have subscriptions with Getty Images, meaning that they will be billed later for their photos. “Photos can be used months before we get sales data for the photo,” she added, and promised to keep me updated.

After this, I contacted Getty to check whether the sale was made through their website. I never got a reply.

I tried getting in touch with Samsung too, but it’s impossible to do it via its website unless you have a problem with some of the company’s devices. I sent a message to Samsung Global via Facebook, explaining my problem. All I got was a bunch of generic messages teaching me how to use Samsung smartphones. Thanks, Samsung, but I use Huawei. At least they do a better job faking smartphone images with photos shot on a DSLR.

Conclusion

Sadly, it’s nothing new that smartphone companies use DSLR photos to fake phone camera’s capabilities. Samsung did it before, so did Huawei. And I believe many more brands do it, we just haven’t found out about it yet. I’m pretty sure that Samsung at least bought my photo legally, even though I haven’t received the confirmation of it. But regardless, this is false advertising.

It’s undeniable that smartphone cameras are getting better (and there are more and more lenses with every new phone). But, we definitely shouldn’t trust the ads showing off their capabilities, or at least take them with a grain of salt. Although, to be honest – I doubt anyone would believe an ad with a Photoshop job this terrible anyway.