Sunday, December 4, 2011


Print ad photo retouching.  I've been meaning to write about this for a few days now, just got distracted.

This topic came up in the news again this week because there is a new tool in photoshop that can tell you when and how much a picture has been retouched.

Which is good and all I suppose.  I have to assume that there are people out there with enough influence to run new print ads through this and see how much tweaking has been done.  That they will "out" the advertisers and magazine companies.  That they will make sure to hold them accountable for the artificial messages they are sending.
Clearly retouched
It's not news that models and celebrities are routinely airbrushed and retouched.  It's been happening for as long as that software has existed.  Hips have been narrowed, thighs have been shrunken.  Lips made fuller, breasts made bigger.  Wrinkles and fine lines have disappeared, freckles and moles too.  Sometimes ribs vanish, and occasionally heads mysteriously appear on bodies they've never actually been attached to.

A before and after gallery can be seen here.

Many of the celebrities who've been revealed to have work done post-shoot admit it.  Some of them seem upset, but not all of them do.  Some of them wish that the original photos had been used, others are grateful for the smoothing of their cellulite.  Occasionally someone is outraged about the changes.

The bigger issue isn't how the celebrities feel about it though.  It's about how we, the consumers of these print ads, the readers of these magazines, the unwilling sheep fawning over the false perfection feel.

In a word, unworthy.

On some level, I think that most people probably understand that these images aren't representative of reality. That they are manufactured and artificial, created to make that level of beauty unreachable and unattainable.  To make us all wish that we could be them.

Except they are not real.

Even knowing they aren't real doesn't remove those idealized images from our subconscious minds.  Or the subconscious minds of our daughters, most of whom don't yet have the ability to distinguish real from fake at that detail level.

We are taught to believe that we need to be taller, thinner.  Our skin needs to be flawless, our hair needs more volume.  We need poison injected into our skin, we need anti-aging cream, we need surgery to fix our flaws.

We live in a world now where women and girls are no longer holding themselves up against actual models and actresses, but against retouched supermodels and airbrushed actresses.   Where even the most beautiful women in the world aren't good enough, and have to be edited before the pictures can go to print.

If the most beautiful women in the world are still that flawed, what does it say about the rest of us?  And what message does that send to our little girls?

I applaud companies like Dove, that have made strides in their advertisements to depict real women.  With real skin and freckles and curves.  That encourage women to find their own beauty and not fall victim to the media's portrayal of it.  That tell us to teach our daughters that they are beautiful.
I hope that this new photoshop software goes further to level the playing field.  I hope that these companies will understand that they won't be able to get away with undermining our self-confidence anymore.

And I hope that my little girls will grow up in a world that rejects artificiality and appreciates real beauty.

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