Yearbook Photoshopping

Some Dallas area students got more than they bargained for when their high school yearbooks arrived.

School officials say they are appalled by altered photos — including heads on different bodies — in hundreds of McKinney High School yearbooks delivered this week. Besides the head and body switching, some necks were stretched, one girl’s arm was missing, and another girl’s head was placed on what appeared to be a nude body, with the chest blurred.

A spokeswoman for Minnesota-based Lifetouch National School Studios Inc. said the alterations were “an unfortunate lapse in judgment” by an employee but didn’t believe it was malicious.

The high school had required Lifetouch to make heads the same size and eyes at the same level in all student photos, company spokeswoman Sara Thurin Rollin said Saturday. The request was “unusual and definitely very particular, but that’s not to suggest what happened here is acceptable,” she said.

One wonders how doing this sort of thing to a high school yearbook could be anything other than malicious. Still, one presumes this was a poorly paid individual having a good time.

What’s more peculiar is the “all heads are created equal” directive from the school. Why on earth would they do that? Indeed, if the heads all have to be the same size and the eyes all at the same level, some rather significant manipulation is going to have to be done, stretching some heads and shrinking others. To what end, exactly?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. carpeicthus says:

    As a professional photographer, I can vouch that people make requests all the time without quite understanding what they really mean.

  2. Michael says:

    How do you get from resizing and cropping to “another girl’s head was placed on what appeared to be a nude body, with the chest blurred”?

  3. James Joyner says:

    How do you get from resizing and cropping to “another girl’s head was placed on what appeared to be a nude body, with the chest blurred”?

    I’d guess that, since the perpetrator was having to play with the images anyway, he thought he’d have some fun.

  4. mq says:

    Why is it that the thought of everyone’s head being the same size and all gazes leveled off really creeps me out? Can you imagine looking at a page of pics where every single person’s head was digitally manipulated to be the same size and were all looking in the same direction?

    But really, what’s the point in doing that? You know you’re going to get caught and lose your job….

  5. The head size requirement is very similar to that made by the State Department for any photos submitted when you request a US passport. Asking for some basic uniformity in presentation doesn’t seem to be such an odd request. I would guess ithe request was made in spirit to eliminate some of the tomfoolery highlighted in this story. Having been a yearbook editor many years ago, I can understand it.

  6. Rob M says:

    I teach at a high school in Florida and we are dealing with this same issue. A student editor of the yearbook manipulated another students photo, giving the other student a “joker” like facial expression.

    As of right now I do not know what the administration is going to do.