When the Syrian Arab News Agency released an article yesterday on President Bashar al-Assad swearing in the new (and presumably more compliant) governor of the volatile province of Hama, The Guardian's photo expert, David McCoy, noticed something strange. The story's photo, which showed the two men awkwardly staring at one another (or Assad giving the governor his "directives," as SANA put it), appeared to be two pictures "merged to make it seem like the men are in the same room." If McCoy is right, Syria's state-run news agency would join a long line of state-run news agencies whose sloppy Photoshop jobs (or allegedly sloppy Photoshop jobs--the agencies rarely fess up) have undermined their propaganda efforts.
Let's start with the Assad photo, which you can find in high-resolution here. McCoy explains that if you focus on the floor, you'll notice that the right side of the picture "has been stretched downwards" to align with the left side, which isn't distorted. The two men aren't looking directly at one another, he notes, and "Assad appears to have had the edge detail on his hair smoothed out, in contrast to the harsh, overly sharpened edges visible elsewhere on his body." The Washington Post's photo editors add that one of Assad's shoes seems to be sticking out in front of the table leg, and throw around technical terms like "lasso tool" and "feathering." We'll let you just look at the picture.