Sex, Lies and Photoshop

retouched eyes

With so much falsehood in fashion advertising, just how much are we affecting the minds of the younger generation? Magazines, billboards and other print media push an unattainable fantasy world upon us. So when laws are being considered to have publications clearly label ‘Photoshopped’ images, personally, I’m all for that.

airbrushed model
Image source

French public health officials want to combat eating disorders by having magazines say to what extent their photos have been retouched.

“These days, altered images are ubiquitous; the fairytale world threatens to engulf our own. The illusion is more complete, too — with digital technology it’s harder to see the smoothing. Stalin would have drooled at the possibilities.”
— MORE HERE IN DAVID BYRNE’S JOURNAL

The New York Times has featured a short video (less than 5 minutes long) explaining why magazines should be more transparent (video produced by Jesse Epstein of Wet Dreams and False Images).

I’ve previously mentioned the topic, with the twisted reality of fashion advertising, and it’s one I believe should be given a lot more attention.

Here’s a related video that clearly outlines the ‘Photoshop effect’.

Visit YouTube if you can’t see the embedded video above.

Further discussion on image retouching

  • The Photoshop effect
    “…whenever one of my videos begins to do well on YouTube, the commentators berate me over my weight.”
  • Women who say no to Photoshopping
    “Retouching. Photoshopping. It’s everywhere. Want to be considered beautiful? You must have no pores, no wrinkles, no moles, NO PERSONALITY.”
  • Has photo retouching gone too far?
    “Remember Jessica Rabbit? I wanted her va va voom figure, long red hair and white skin as a girl, but I knew she was a cartoon. There was no illusion of reality. Is what we are seeing in print these days any more real than Jessica Rabbit?”
  • Kim Kardashian Photoshop controversy
    “So what? I have a little cellulite… just because I am on the cover of a magazine doesn’t mean I’m perfect.”
  • Striving for perfection is dangerous
    “If we are never exposed to the imperfections of celebrities, how can they possibly serve as healthy, responsible role models?”

Your thoughts

Should magazines disclose to what extent their images have been retouched, or should we carry on as we are?

I don’t agree with those who blame the media for every teenage girl with an eating disorder, but there should at least be some accountability for fueling the fire.

Some people want to ban retouching entirely, but any form of media censorship isn’t good in my opinion. I’d like to see a high profile fashion magazine publish an issue without any retouching at all. Now there’s a publicity generator, and it would go some way to dissolving the myth of fairytale beauty.

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Update: 17 April 2009
French Elle has published a ‘no makeup’ issue — causing a stir.

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65 comments

  1. Reminds me of the Dove ad, from their Real Beauty campaign, Model Evolution.

  2. I think retouching has started to go a little overboard. People are usually fairly dismissive about it causing eating disorders, but I tend to disagree. I think an awareness label is a great idea. But more importantly, maybe we could ease up on the retouching. I mean… I’m all for getting rid of a few zits that you don’t want the world to see, but it gets pretty ridiculous when you alter their entire body.

  3. Brandon Hale

    I agree with you David. I believe it does have a negative impact and influence but I can’t take the position that every young girls weight issues (either obese or anorexic) are the media’s responsibility. A retouching awareness label may be a good option and I wouldn’t be critical of it if that comes about.

    I’m of the mind that as this issue becomes more relevant to people we’ll see a trend like the aforementioned Dove ad where focus is put back on reality because let’s face it… at that point… reality will be the new “retouched image” because it will be fresh and bold in a world of mediocrity (all photoshopped images all the time).

    On a side note, I’ve read your blog for a long time, David and you are one of the most influential designers in my career and design pursuits. I do not get to design branding much anymore but your philosophy and approach have helped me make stronger decisions in my design career. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, philosophy and opinion. It means a lot to me personally.

  4. Wanted to comment that the Dove campaign has done a great job at capturing this whole controversy in their actual commercials. Check the commercials out on YouTube if you can. One in particular shows a woman at a photoshoot and then time-lapses the photo, revealing all the touch-ups until arriving at the final end product. Most people are very amazed at the difference between the photo from the shoot and the photo that is used in the print ad.

    Also, these ad campaigns are pretty much going against the self-esteem workshops we teach children and young adults in the home or at school. We want them to love themselves as they are, in their own skin. Yet, with photoshopped ad images everywhere, they are not only “fixing” the model (which may or may not affect his or her own self-image), but they are also encouraging the consumer to idolize something or someone that does not actually exist in the same form (as portrayed in the ads).

  5. This is so sad.. girls struggle with so many issues, and magazines and models aren’t the soul culprit, but it certainly contributes.. articles such as this and others should be made a weekly announcement of sorts.. that way, everyone realizes that it’s fake and accepts it for what it is so maybe the young children don’t have an unreal expectation of what they should look like (not just girls thinking sickly thin is a standard, but also boys thinking all “real” men are cut and muscled). It certainly helps me knowing that even the celebrities don’t look like that :)

    As far as the video, it’s common knowledge that covers and images are photoshopped, but I don’t think the extent that it’s taken is well-known. I understand adjusting contrast, saturation, cropping, and editing out blemishes and such, but the extent to which the cover with Faith is disgusting.. look at her arm! and they made her so much thinner that they had to add her right arm in.. sheesh..

    Thanks David! :)

  6. I am certainly for minor retouching and really do beleive it is important espesially for high fashion mags and stuff like that, but can you imagine if they didn’t retouch some of the models and photos, it would just give people another reason to complain about why they look so average… Anyways thats just my opinion…

  7. I have been seeing these photo retouch photos quite often lately, its always interesting seeing the before and afters.

  8. Thank you so much for this article, David.

    As a 21 year-old woman, it doesn’t matter how much I’m complimented on my looks, I have problems with my self-esteem because I can’t avoid being bombarded with beautiful pictures on the front of magazine covers.

    I’m fine with color correction and blemish control on magazines, but as soon as they start making women taller, thinner, and more firm, it’s absolutely damaging.

  9. here’s a famous tvc talking about woman self esteem.
    Dove evolution

  10. Photo retouching has been going on for such a long time, I actually find it incredible that people haven’t cottoned on to the fact that the majority of photographs have had blemishes taken out or fat removed from thighs etc. I actually do agree with you about being clear when a photograph has been retouched, but this is probably never going to happen. Media people will tell you that people would stop buying magazines (etc) if they didn’t retouch the photographs, but I disagree with this, and its definitely worth an experiment to see if this is the case.

    But, I don’t believe that these images drive young girls to eating disorders, It has to be a hell of a lot more complicated than that, I’m sure it doesn’t help as such, but there must be more than one reason for girls to go down the anorexic route – such a distressing mental illness cannot be the responsibility of the media, it cannot possibly be as simple as that!

  11. Reminds me of the Sunscreen Song by Baz Luhrmann – “Don’t look at beauty magazines, they will only make you ugly”. I was going to mention the Dove ad as well but Armin got there pretty quickly!

    A hot topic David however I do believe in minor adjusting but these days it has gone so overboard. Also a mag without retouching would be interesting… but they could just use old photography techniques anyway?

    And happy 30th again (sorry had to sneak that in) :P

  12. Maybe there should be a contest to successfully un-retouch(?) a image in Photoshop. The submission most resembling the real image wins!!

  13. I think as long as the discussion is happening, and people like you are talking about it, thus getting others to talk about it, then then there is no need to force magazines into a disclaimer (that no one will read or care about anyway). It has gone pretty far though, and maybe I’m wrong.

    Another interesting aspect is that not only has digital retouching technology gotten so good that “it’s harder to see the smoothing. Stalin would have drooled at the possibilities.” But also plastic surgery allows for people to alter there own bodies in order to emulate the unrealistic body images they see in the media. I suppose fiction can often lead to fact.

    Shop’d Madonna:
    http://www.bestweekever.tv/2009/03/27/before-and-after-photoshop-is-madonnas-best-frenemy

  14. It’s fine to remove a zit (those come and go on everyone) and adjust the lighting. But of course photo retouching has gone too far. I don’t know who in their right mind could disagree with that.

  15. I see no harm in minor retouching for publications, but this is out of control. I personally don’t like the idea of this much editing. I agree with Rob Russo, removing a zit is one things but adjusting body weight is another. I don’t think they should disclose altered images, I think they should do away with them. I’ve known too many people with eating disorders, both women and men. I think we all have a responsibility to contribute to the health of society, not destroy it.

  16. I think there are boundaries in most industries that are obvious. Most of the time touchups are to bring the most out of their product. You dont sell apples by grabbing the seconds and slapping them in your supermarket catalogue – Just like food people get touched up.

    On the other hand there are things that shouldnt be done. Photoshop them skinnier, taller, and other things that can’t be done naturally in the same time. Make up artists miss some definition, or camera has too much light…Touch it up. But there is no need to go beyond that.

    It’s a touchy subject – But the people who call the shots should put some boundaries up as to what is acceptable and what is not. Give consequence fore going beyond that. If an advertiser isnt a lout to lie, dont let the people who touch up the photos do the same.

  17. I couldn’t agree more David. It’s hard to take a photo for what it is in this day and age. The problem is that if the retouching wasn’t done, the photo would stand out because retouching has become the norm.

    I don’t know if stopping the process of retouching would help keep others from trying to attain an unhealthy image. I think the best thing to do is to educate the public about the process so they are aware that this is going on and to what extent image is being manipulated.

    I applaud those who bring this issue to light. For that, I commend you David. It’s hard to believe that Dove doesn’t have monetary motivation for their campaign, but I love that it brings the issue to light. They could have gone along with the norm, but I am happy that they have chosen to go against it.

  18. Hello,

    I have done some very popular tutorials on this, I’d like to think that people are more aware of what a retouched photo looks like. I know how to do it thus I can spot it. I have no real issues with minor touch-ups, small things that don’t alter from the persons real appearance but rather adjust things that could have been done on set but for whatever reason were missed. I find it intriguing to see how far magazines are willing to go.

    I think that the less the better. However as for Redbook, thats past the stage of acceptable manipulation and in the relms of a matte painting.

    Anyone who opens vouge can tell the photos have been heavily edited.

  19. I work as an art director for a community college in the United States and have developed a policy at the College (as part of our visual identity standards) which states:

    Cropped and color corrected photography is allowed. However distorted, blurred and/or manipulated photographs are unethical and therefore forbidden.

    We do this as we would not want to offend students who had their photographs taken only to see themselves on the front page of a magazine with a facial feature erased (a pimple or birthmark perhaps). In addition, digitually manipulating photographs distorts reality.

    I use Photoshop many hours through the day and support manipulating photographs if they are to be used for a fictional purpose (a sci-fi movie, tv show or fantasy story). However, to mislead the public through altered imagery in product ads and fashion magazines is wrong on all fronts.

  20. Nathalie Harfouche

    It is quite easy to criticize magazines regarding the retouching issue. I partly agree actually.
    We see women struggling with food disorders, daily, around the world, because of the image projected by super retouched models. And although many women and girls are aware of this, they’re not quite “permeable” to it. We see women spending fortunes on facial creams and make up, every day.
    Nevertheless, I think that women are not buying magazines to see reality. Magazines stand partly as an “escapism” tool, and so do the images in them. And if the images projected in these magazines make us seek improvement on ourselves, our homes and lifestyle, then that’s ok. The trouble is the thin line between that… and obsession.
    Maybe the magazines should be forced to notify the reader when a photo is retouched, as tobacco companies are made to warn about health hazards on their cigarette packs…I realize the analogy is a bit off here, since these images don’t pose a health hazard…but they might, in a way, take off some of the immediate pressure off women. Dove’s real beauty campaign rocketed their sales for a period of time because its timing was perfect. Women were saturated with the image of perfection, which is non existing in reality, and this was the pin that burst the bubble. But then this phenomenon slowly started to melt away, and women are drawn back again to what is most attractive to the mind…beauty and perfection. Was the “natural beauty campaign” not sustained long enough?Are we going to see this concept evolve?was there anything left to say after that to keep the consumer hooked?….Not really.
    Its redundancy is not helping, hence, the consumers are drifting away from it.
    And so am I…from my point I mean… :)
    Bottom line, I think creating more awareness on that matter would be a good idea. Stopping the retouching might not be the solution.
    One would then tend to think: Ok, let’s not retouch this beautiful Chloé handbag, or let’s not enhance the light and shadows on this LV Bag, let’s not work on the dew droplets on this coke can, let’s not create an ambiance around any product, for the purpose of keeping it real and natural….

  21. I agree with the previous comments but have something to add. The large majority of people already know that the images they see in the media have been retouched so I think adding a disclaimer is useless. When the surgeon generals warning became required on tobacco ads in the US it was news for a bit and now they’re overlooked. We know cigarettes are bad for you. We know these images are retouched. Unless they’re willing to add some pages in the back containing the original images to compare, it won’t have enough impact to make a change in today’s retouching.

    I think a better solution would be for someone of influence to create a new trend. Imagine if Ashton Kutcher started his own publication where every image was edited only to correct lighting, blemishes, etc. We’re in the middle of a movement for healthy and green are trendy because celebs have made it that way. This could make people aware of the issue without trying to force an act of congress.

  22. One of the commenters to my article said that “The truth is that photography makes mountains out of moles. It emphasizes every tiny flaw that you have. It is an established fact that even those women who are very happy with their reflection in the mirror, hate their photos.” The commenter provides retouching services, so obviously they are biased. However, I thought they did make a good point, especially when it comes to closeup photography.

    I think it’s OK to do a gentle retouch that erases temporary imperfections such as pimples; I guess it’s OK to soften lines and wrinkles. But fashion magazines have gone too far. Their photos don’t look like photos of humans anymore. They look like aliens.

    Thank you for the link love!

  23. This is a very difficult question, personally I like to see everything retouched and untouched photography, some information about the level of retouching would be interesting, but most avid readers of this style of magazine are also exposed to publications dedicated to showing celebs at their most unglamourous. Most people are aware of what is real, and the people who buy these magazines and follow fashion are probably more aware than any of us.

  24. Tough question… maybe teen magazines should have to mark the images due to the more vulnerable audience.

    For people who are not Australian, the little girl in the 2000 Olympics hit 18 awhile back and one of the mens magazines put her on the front cover.
    Here is the Niki Webster before and after shoot:
    http://www.sandstorming.com/images/nikibandafter.jpg

  25. Great article, but I would like to make a few points/comments. Everybody knows magazine photos are photoshoped to some degree, but most people do not how much retouching is done. To support the photographers, it isn’t always the photographer or the studio’s digital department that are to blame for retouching to the extremes. Yeah skin is smoothed and unnatural poses are distorted to improve the image, but this is what the client (the magazines) that want the perfect photos, because that is how they sell their product. If photographer’s stopped retouching photos to that degree, clients and potential clients would pass them up to go down the street to the photographer that retouches ‘magazine style’.

    Putting a retouched label is lame, and you might as well put an Adobe Photoshop Logo (advertising in my opinion) on each cover.

  26. Michael Gury

    Retouching in fashion and celebrity (e.g. movies) photography has existed since the dawn of photography. It used to be by guys physically painting the prints, spraying them, touching them up. Then there are the lights, lenses and lens covers during the shoot. Photoshop is just a mechanized process of what has gone on forever.

    Staged fashion/celebrity photography is all about fantasy, and the entire magazine industry is dedicated to making money off of that. No cautionary note in mice type in the publication is going to change anything today any more than it would have changed women wanting to look like Marilyn Monroe in 1958. Or men wanting their girlfriends/wives to look like Marilyn Monroe.

  27. This is also a common practice in the adult industries.

    Hopefully the rise of HDTV shows people what is real: http://www.slate.com/id/2094788/

  28. I still remember a few years ago when Dove was one of the first company to expose the fact big and loud with a full blast campaign called “Evolution” which shocked the whole world and attracted years of follow up publicity.

    We all knew even back then what “photoshoped” meant, but very few people actually knew how far we could go. My girlfriend got shocked when she first saw it.

    For those who didn’t see the Dove “Evolution” clip, you may find it on this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYhCn0jf46U

    Back on topic, I think there should be a disclaimer somewhere on those ads or cover maybe not as extreme as the tobacco industry (especially in Canada check this out: http://www.canadiandesignresource.ca/officialgallery/wp-content/uploads/2006/04/dumarier%20small.jpg) but definitely something. Let me tell you, I live in California, next to Beverly Hills which is the mecca of plastic surgery and what I witness everyday here is scary.

    Cheers

  29. Off topic, but I had to share since Dove Evolution movie came out in a few comments including mine….. does anybody remember the parody made for CampaignAgainstRealLife.com?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-kSZsvBY-A&feature=related

    Back to serious stuff now!

    Cheers!

  30. I definitely agree that whilst “Photoshopping” is perfectly Okay, I feel it is equally important that some sort of standardised “Touched-up in Photoshop®” badge should be implemented. This badge should be legally enforced, as I believe that magazine editors have the right to make images look their best ― but not at the expense of devaluing natural beauty.

    I believe in image enhancement for people, nature and anything else, as we cannot truly replicate what we see on a paper or screen. What I don’t believe in, however, is the deception of it all ― when 14 year old girls starve themselves believing what they see on magazine covers is “real”.

  31. Wow, so much hatred towards retouching.

    I agree with Gregory WIlson and Michael Gury’s comments. Adding a label to the covers would be lame. While you’re adding a disclaimer, make sure you add another disclaimer that tells me which models are wearing make-up, too.

    Oh, and I also want disclaimers on every restaurant menu saying which foods might make me fat. I also want disclaimers on CDs that tell me which instruments were overdubbed and which songs used pitch correction. I’m also disappointed by with movie industry, they should be telling me which actors aren’t really shooting lightning out of their fingertips! A little extreme, but you get the point…

    In the words of the almighty Photoshop guru Scott Kelby, “I use photoshop to make people appear as beautiful as they do in real life.”

  32. Nice post, I believe 100% that all photos are photo shopped before being printed. I may think about looking into that as a profession, not bad.

  33. Retouching is one more thing on the long list of social illusions we are all becoming part of. Is it one of the things leading the way, or just another symptom of our “You can have it all” cultural mood?

  34. Bit late to the comment party but felt i had to throw my two pennies in.

    Magazines and publications have gotten out of hand with touch ups in Photoshop. It shouldn’t be allowed. How refreshing would it be to browse a non-touched up magazine? Exceptionally refreshing I think.

    Photoshop beauty should be scowled upon. Real, natural beauty should be praised.

  35. I think that Photoshopping in magazines in the US is now completely mainstream. I doubt there are many images of people in glossy magazines that are left untouched.

    Personally I feel that most of those magazines have absolutely nothing to do with my life and I feel zero pressure to look like any woman in them because I know they don’t look like that in real life. Anyway I’m married now so I don’t have to make any effort. (JOKE!!!!)

    I’ve noticed that some of the trashier magazines (e.g. Heat) on this side of the pond also do retouching – but to make the “star” look worse. Every so often them seem to have a cover exposing celebrity armpit sweat or celebrity spots and to my eye, they look photoshopped. So I’m not sure which is worse.

  36. Ross Fortune

    I find this silly. Atleast 90% of all readers know its made-up so why this hype. I guess there are other important things that the media industry needs to attend to..

    cheers

  37. Quite the difference of opinion here, which is always healthy. Many of you feel that adding a tagline to images won’t make any difference, and that it would lead to disclaimers on everything. My opinion is that disclaimers can be necessary, and that it’s better to be transparent than to hide behind a proverbial mask.

    Sure, a lot of us will know that images are Photoshopped, but a whole lot more don’t know the capabilities of image-editing, and our minds are easily molded.

    Jennifer makes an interesting point about how Heat magazine is changing ‘celebrities’ so they look worse than usual. Same idea, equally wrong in my view.

    Thanks very much for all your comments, and sorry that I can’t address you personally at the minute. I’ve very much enjoyed reading your thoughts on the topic, but for now, must get back to work.

  38. unfortunately, assigning blame is a little bit of the chicken-or-the-egg. Do the big Hollywood studios mandate such behavior from a marketing perspective or are their casting practices of dumping all but the elite bankable women stars as they “age” to blame? Are the publishers to blame? Are the stars themselves to blame? Is the general public to blame?

    It is sad that when we age, our images, either internally or externally, can’t age with us. But the lengths to which we will go to preserve our child-like self-images is truly scary — look at how the retoucher nearly removed all the bones from Faith Hill’s forearm and elbow: not only is it unhealthy looking, it’s not even anatomically correct!

  39. Hi David,
    Great topic, not an old one though…which is somewhat of a shame. Photo retouching (well, digital) has been around since the early 80’s (late 70’s maybe) and has been used for this and other purposes.

    I remember prepress houses running Paintbox, and Scitex imaging workstations when I was in publishing. Silicon Graphics computers running Barco Creator became available in the late 1980s. Then Photoshop took over…I ran a digital prepress dept in a publishing company and we did this very thing on the Low Rider covers and calendars.

    Not condoning but just saying that it’s been around but now we are definitely seeing the adverse effects. I am just glad that the public and taking a small interest in it.

    Also, would like to thank you for bringing up this topic for personal reasons.

    Pam

  40. As a portrait artist, I have found that people never want me to paint them exactly as they are, they want the illusion that all is good with their world, they are beautiful, (or goth, or whatever ideal they aspire to), smart, successful… No one comes to me to have their picture painted with them in the kitchen, juggling 2 kids lunch, a blackberry beeping, the cat barfing a hairball, and a meeting in 10 minutes! (tho I would love this assignment! the color! the interest! WOW!) Its a dance of illusion, playing god, creating something someone wants to be, something “beautiful – I see this as “wrong” only if the society supports the lie that it is “real”.

    I recently had a head shot done and retouched the begeebers out of it, then backed it off alittle so that when people met me, they would believe it was me! Real is beautiful and as you get older you begin to know that.

  41. Tony Gore

    UK Channel 4 did a series this week “Sex education v pornography”. the girls were complaining how the boys images had ben warped by pornography, and the boys views of womens bodies were totally changes by breast implants etc.

    http://www.channel4.com/programmes/the-sex-education-show-vs-pornography/catch-up

    We knowing adults may be aware of everything being Photoshopped, but despite being computer literate, the kids do not realise how it is subtly used.

    After all, we know that there is a lot of rubbish printed in the newspapers (in the UK, the Sun and the Daily Mail are probably the biggest culprits) but that does not stop people believeing it “becaue they read it in the newspaper”.

    In the ads for beauty and health products, the ASA (Adevrtising Standards Authority) have started to take a stance when statistical claims are made because the sample sizes are so small as to be insignificant.

    At the very least, photos that are not retouched could have a green triange and those that are, a red circle. The kids can play “hunt the real picture”. But there is a downside to this suggestion – will people slim too much to be able to get the green triangle on their pictures? Or will the true photographer’s art of choosing angles etc take back over from Photoshop?

  42. Stevie,

    It is sad how our images can’t age with us. In some cultures (though I can’t remember which), it’s seen as an attraction to have wrinkles — they signify wisdom.

    Pam,

    You’re more than welcome. Thank you for contributing to the discussion.

    li,

    Should you ever get that assignment (juggling two kids, Blackberry beeping, cat barfing a hairball etc.) please do share the result. Off-topic, I’ve never seen ‘beegeebers’ spelled that way. It leaves me with a weird picture of Bee Gees groupies.

    Tony,

    I watched a couple of those episodes, and thought to myself how good it was that the information is out there on terrestrial television. Thanks to you, too, for commenting and posing some questions.

  43. People are forgetting about all the retouching that goes into other products like food, car, home, and virtually anything photographed. Nothing we see in ad’s, mags, or television should be taken without a grain of salt. The main focus of a model is to sell a garment or product where retouching helps sell the photo. Minimizing flaws helps connect one with the fantasy of attaining said product, much like news anchors usually have great smiles and not a gold grill.

    An over photoshopped image is easily as distracting as one that isn’t. Advertising is much about brainwashing and enticing people to live in the fantasy world you’re creating, or to help sell something. I don’t believe ostracizing or abolishing retouching is a solution to problems where mere education is lacking and needed.

  44. I agree that it’s out of control but banning retouching is not the answer. Banning doesn’t work, just look at the war on drugs. The last thing we need is yet another aspect of our lives that the gov’t is in charge of regulating… what with it’s infinite wisdom and judgement.

    Plus, you can’t put a ban on fantasy representation without drawing lines in the sand that not everyone can agree on. After all, there are a lot of things that go into creating a fantasy… make-up, hair styling, even the studio lighting and set. There was an unrealistic portrayal of women long before Photoshop even existed. As far as advertising is concerned, this is a slippery slope because advertising is all about selling desire, not product. So whether you’re showing women, cars, or software, you’re creating a fantasy picture or circumstance to stimulate desire in the viewer.

    I’m not sure the argument for eating disorders (of the weight LOSS variety) being linked to advertising holds a lot of water because a) those disorders have declined in the US over the last 200 years and b) obesity in adults has sharply increased in the last 50 years. If anything, you could argue that a busier lifestyle combined with the high prevalence, awareness, and availability of fast food has added to the obesity rate because fast food companies have neglected the nutritional value of their products for so long.

  45. Hello David,
    I really think this is where parenting has to come in. They have to make sure to raise their kids with strong self confident so they don’t get influenced by all these fake images. I know parents job becoming harder and harder as technology develop but ….what can we do. If there is upside, there is downside, too.

    David,this is my first time commenting but I’ve been fan of your blog for awhile. This is a great topic.

  46. What’s ironic is the constant bombarding of “love your natural self” by the media when they themselves succumb to the idea of artificial beauty by over-the-top retouching of photos.

    With that said, I’m not against minor retouching like smoothing the creases, etc, but if it goes over the top like 36DD breasts etc – that’s where you have to draw the line.

  47. Hi David, I just want to share this mag “ELLE” which started to promote a organic beauty covers.

    http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/beauty/yay-french-elles-amazing-no-makeup-issue-and-why-american-mags-need-to-step-it-up-446538/

    Regards,
    Rongen

  48. Thanks for joining in the chat.

    Rongen, I’ll update the post to include your link. Great find, cheers.

  49. Having worked in TV for many years, it has been obvious for me for a long time that
    1 the camera “loves” person A and isn’t impressed by person B, even when B is better looking than A
    2 beauty in either case does not = pleasant, sexy, charming or interesting

    As such, I don’t connect advertising images with reality. Photoshop all you like – they’re all Jessica Rabbits to me.

  50. Hey Andrew, wana get married! Grinning! I agree completely and that leaves all of us photoshoppers to go about our adjusting in a guilt free manner, eh?
    Smilin, LI

  51. Absolutely! Only a fool would believe ads – and with the Obesity problem growing, the disconnect between advertising image and user is even more dramatic.

    Mind you, unlike in a totalitarian regime, in a capitalist economy, it’s easy to stop advertising that you don’t like: just boycott the product AND the media that displays it..

    Consumer action could get rid of this advertising within a few months – if it really wanted to. The fact is, the users DON’T want to, so, Photoshop away!

    Now I’ve sorted that out for the world, my next task is to build a groundswell – to have the ball removed from gridiron.

    Then both players and fans can get more of what they really want: a tribe of he-men committing near-lethal acts of violence towards each other in a legally sanctioned sports code.

    Are you in?

  52. Rebecca

    Very interesting and eye opening article. I never really thought about what goes into all those models pictures and frankly I’m alittle relieved.

    How about a mandatory page in the back of all magazines that has a thumbnail of ALL of the ‘before photoshop’ pictures in the magazine. That would be the first page I would turn to. It’s interesting to see the before and after shots.
    A warning label is laughable. It doesn’t work on cigarettes or guns and they are alot more dangerous than photoshopped photography. Face it, magazines are created to sell merchandise and make money and handsome, attractive models are part of the reason we all buy them.
    A before page would let viewers see what a model really looks like and just how much photoshopping had to be done to achieve the look.

  53. Very interesting that. Can I ask what tool the guy is using in Photoshop?

    Thank you

  54. Andrew, li,

    My first davidairey.com-inspired wedding! What an honour. ;)

    Rebecca,

    That ‘untouched’ page at the back would have me interested alright.

    Graeme,

    You’ll have to be more specific there buddy.

  55. Hello Dave,

    It’s the tool the fella was using when he was ‘slimmimg’ the girl. Big circle with a dot in the middle and he was using the outline of her to make her look ‘slim’ I suppose.

    Thanks Dave

  56. The “big circle with a dot in the middle” is his brush cursor. ;) I think the tool being used at the time is the clone stamp tool, but don’t quote me on that.

  57. I just saw a magazine on the rack yesterday at the store. Paula Deen was on the cover. She looked all of 30 years old. I think we’re going a bit too far…

  58. Greg Scraper

    I tend to feel that pictures shot like that in a studio situation don’t actually convey reality; that is to say, a 2D representation of a 3D object that is generally seen in motion gives a viewer more time to notice flaws that may or may not be emphasized by the camera, lighting situation, the model’s pose, the relative simplicity of the background, etc. What you get when you do that is a sort of hyper-reality, where a situation that was designed to be viewed for just a passing moment is drawn out and analyzed.

    What photo retouching attempts to do is to correct that error. I agree that it can be taken to extremes by people who aren’t adept at photoshop (which I believe is a catagory that 90% of photoshop users fall into). But overall, it’s a coping mechanism for the inability of the photo to convey an accurate representation of reality. I don’t think anyone set out to make 14 year old girls have eating disorders. Besides, you think what’s done to people is bad? You should see what’s done with food.

    Another way to try and reverse the effects of hyper-reality is to use natural outdoor lighting and a camera with a good lens and filter. But even with that, we’re still left with two dimensions trying to represent three.

  59. it is a very sad state of affairs with all the photoshop going on sadly we have to also pratice photoshop on a lot of the models that come to our studio

  60. As a father of two girls I am worried that they will be manipulated by the media into thinking that they need to aspire to these cultural icons. The media and photographers are to blame editors and big business structures push a unrealistic aspirational idea into the young minds of pre-teenagers and hope it sticks that the models being depicted are to aspire to so pushing a lie to maintain a state of mind in female population that they cannot achieve without the media corporations idea of beauty. Big business thrive when people are not challenging them how many Coke adverts have people with size 12+ people in them or Macdonald’s advertising need i go on as Bill Hicks said if you work in advertising go Kill your self.

  61. Been reading some of the comments here and found them the usual oh we only use it a little,(photoshoping) bullshit, You individuals from photographers to designers to photo editors and media in general are propoganist for an elite.
    Big corporations need your skills to sell a lie the lie is that the product they sell is what they the consumer want by design you furnish ideals which nobody wants from TV to magazine advertising to billboards you push a message of you can never have enough greed is good and that perfection can be achieved all advertizers are liars and murders!

  62. Paul Hendrickson

    We now live in a world where everyone is overly conscious of their looks. Somehow we seem to have forgotten that the inner beauty is what is truly important. Digitally enhancing your photographs, plastic surgery or wearing makeup do not make you better person.

  63. Hi

    A retoucher for over 20 years it is interesting to read some of the comments. Liars and murderers! Hmmm. Perhaps a balanced view is needed.

    Do we ban make-up? Foundation, eye-shadow, lipstick. Or body-shape changers like corsets, elasticated knickers, tanning machines, or cosmetic alterations like liposuction, dentistry, plastic surgery. Clearly, all these are attempts on creating the “perfect look”. Not exactly healthy activities are they.

    Young people are well aware of what retouching is and does probably more so than the older generation. Most of them have simple software on their phones which do a similar job. So lack of knowledge is a lame argument.

    I think to aspire to something is a good thing. If an image inspires you to go out running and eat in a healthy way it can only be positive. Basically we are talking about a tool which can save time nothing more. As to it’s abuse, we should give ourselves more credit as the human eye can pretty much spot something fake or wrong looking.

    Poor Julia Roberts, she was overcooked by some young creative and it was spotted, bad retouching, time to move on I think!

  64. Big Ron

    To Simon Costello
    Firstly make-up is it really needed, I suppose you might need it being a limp wristed liberal ”
    Do we ban make-up? Foundation, eye-shadow, lipstick. Or body-shape changers like corsets, elasticated knickers, tanning machines, or cosmetic alterations like liposuction, dentistry, plastic surgery. Clearly, all these are attempts on creating the “perfect look”. Not exactly healthy activities are they.”
    To the above mostly yes, we do ban them and what is this perfect look you seem to be banging on about you and your entire profession if you can call it one, are like destroying the youth of our nation I do hope that none of you ever meet me as I TRULY WOULD LOVE TO MAKE YOU A MEMBER OF THE PAVEMENT SOCIETY!

  65. Lewis Edwardson

    This is ridiculous. Women need to get over themselves. I see plenty of guys in advertisements, movies, magazines, etc that look better than me, and that’s never hurt my self-esteem before.

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