Manipulating images to make them less identifiable


Manipulating images to make them less identifiable

What makes an image identifiable? The faces in it. Details that identify a location – common landmarks, street names, unique features.

Content producers need to determine before they start capturing images and footage if they want to make their content less identifiable as they take the photograph or the footage, or if they will manipulate the images and the footage for anonymity non-identifiability after they have captured and stored them.

The most safest option is for digital stories to to obscure images and footage as they are being captured. This means, even if someone gets access to the raw footage or images, the people in it are not going to be identifiable, and there will not be an original image or footage stored somewhere online or offline that they may get access to.

 There are some techniques that a storyteller can use to make the people in a photo or a video footage anonymous:

  • Don´t capture people´s faces but rather capture their hands or their feet as they are being interviewed.
  • Use the silhouette effect – to place a strong light source behind the subject as described here:
  • Keep identifiable location markers (street names, identifiable buildings) out of focus in taking a photo or a capturing footage
  • Use filters available on Instastories, Tik-tok and Snapchat to make videos less identifiable.
  • ObscuraCam  is a tool developed by The Guardian Project that allows users to capture photos to make them less identifiable. This app can also use this appbe used to obscure existing photos.

Take a photo or open the image the you want to edit in ObscuraCam. Then click on the image.

What you will see is a movable and resizable box that will let you control what you want to obscure.


You will get the following options for obscuring the photo:

Pixelate: this will pixelate whatever is captured within the box


Invert: This will pixelate whatever is outside the box


Redact: This will delete whatever is in the box


Mask: This will add a mask on the image in the box


Then save the image.

ObscuraCam is especially useful if the storyteller opts to take anonymous or less identifiable photos from the start.

Note: If the storyteller opts to anonymise, meaning to make images less or non-identifiable after they are captured, they will have to take extra steps in storing their raw images and video footage more safely.

Using GIMP to create less or non-identifiable photos

Open the image to be manipulated. Analyse what you want to anonymise or make less or non-identifiable. Do you want to anonymises identifiable make faces less or non-identifiable? Or do you want to make certain elements in the photo that will make the locations or surroundings less or non- location identifiable?

Go to Tools >> Selection Tools then choose a way to select a part of the image you want to obscure.



Then go to Filters >> Blur then select Pixelise. The section selected will be blurred.



You can use the other filters to obscure images.