I recently found an image of a tweet shared on Reddit showing CNN using a photo of Darell Brooks (the man who recently drove an SUV into a parade crowd) that makes him look more white. Presumably, that would be to fit a political agenda. The tweet also claims this what not the first time they've done this.

Did CNN use "lightened" photos of Brooks, and is this something they have a history of doing?

The original tweet:

Tweet: "CNN is lightening skin color again, folks." Underneath, two images of the man, on the right is CNN's. CNN caption: "Brooks: what we know about the (cut off)"

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    It's unclear what this Q is asking with "used". Did CNN alter the photo or just find one that happened to be that way? Nov 25, 2021 at 6:31
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    What is the source of the non CNN picture? Do we know it is not 'artificially darkened' to make him appear more dark than he actually is (whatever 'actually is' means)?
    – quarague
    Nov 25, 2021 at 18:17
  • 3
    Are tweets notable enough to be on topic for Skeptics.SE?
    – coagmano
    Nov 25, 2021 at 20:41
  • Comments are not for pseudo-answers; that conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Oddthinking
    Nov 26, 2021 at 0:50

2 Answers 2



The source: https://edition.cnn.com/2021/11/22/us/what-we-know-about-suspect-in-waukesha-parade-tragedy/index.html

credits 'Waukesha Sheriff's Department'.

The NY Post has an article where they say of the same photo

Darrell Brooks, the suspect in the deadly Christmas parade attack in Waukesha, Wisconsin, was captured in a glaring new mugshot ahead of his first court appearance Tuesday on charges of intentional homicide.

The 39-year-old bearded suspect is seen in dreadlocks and wearing a green jail vest in the wide-eyed mug, which was taken Tuesday morning.

The images are identical. The source is Waukesha Sheriff's Department, not something CNN have altered.


enter image description here

NY Post:

enter image description here

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    "The reference to the mugshot being 'glaring' by the NY Post demonstrates that they are aware that the image is washed out/excessively pale" Are you sure? It could just be a reference to his expression, glaring at the camera.
    – nick012000
    Nov 25, 2021 at 5:40
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    Image glare is something I'm sure that newspapers are very familiar with on a daily basis. The adjective 'glaring' would appear to refer to the mugshot (the image), not the expression in the mugshot.
    – thelawnet
    Nov 25, 2021 at 5:45
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    Ok, but that's not relevant at all, so I have removed it from the answer
    – thelawnet
    Nov 25, 2021 at 10:00
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    Exposure metering on skin is always hard, and spot metering on dark skin will tend to overexpose the image. You'd hope that things are set up better than that when taking mugshots, but apparently not
    – Chris H
    Nov 25, 2021 at 16:29
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    @vsz it's the mugshot taken after the crime. What other image would you use for a story about the crime?
    – llama
    Nov 25, 2021 at 20:37

As thelawnet's answer says, CNN seems to have used a digital image from the Sheriff's Department without any level adjustment.

"Again" may refer to an incident from June of 2020, when some social media posts accused CNN of lightening a photo of a man whose name I won't mention because I can't find evidence that he has been convicted of a crime (he was charged and the trial may be ongoing). According to Reuters, PolitiFact and others, CNN never actually ran that image at all, lightened or otherwise.

There is a broader issue here: there simply isn't any correct brightness of a person's face in a photograph. Here are two photographs of the same person taken in the same light at almost the same time:


Here is the right-hand photo with its levels adjusted to roughly match the tone of the left-hand photo:

When you adjust levels in this way, you are not making the image lighter (or darker) than reality. You are just approximating (with poorer quality) what would have come out of the camera if the exposure had been set differently. When photographers talk about "correct" exposure, they don't mean capturing the true brightness of the scene; they just mean that the photograph best exploits the limitations of the medium. The best exposure for a dark-skinned subject is brighter than the best exposure for a light-skinned subject, because the dynamic range of the final image is limited and you ideally want to use as much of it as possible.

If the digital mugshot as supplied by the police was overexposed, then CNN reasonably could have darkened it, and arguably should have (though there is a limit to what you can gain from this without a camera-raw source image). There is nothing deceptive about that. But I don't think that this mugshot is overexposed. It's just badly lit. There aren't enough shadows, so it's difficult to see, e.g., the shape of his nose. That can only be fixed by taking another photo in better light.

  • the first case seems to have been 2015, where fake images claimed that the mixed race school shooter Chris Harper-Mercer had been lightened and had his nose reshaped by CNN truthorfiction.com/…
    – thelawnet
    Nov 26, 2021 at 12:29
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    Please provide some references for the second half of the answer. I think a frame challenge is appropriate, but not if it is just your opinion.
    – Oddthinking
    Nov 26, 2021 at 13:48
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    A someone who takes photos which need to be color-matched (within reason) to an actual object, I would say that color or brightness correction of the blown-out image without an exemplar for correct matching is just as much a fiction as the blown-out image.
    – Yorik
    Nov 30, 2021 at 17:17

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