Skip to main content

To Photoshop Or Not To Photoshop?

To Photoshop or not to Photoshop, that is the question being raised by many. Photoshopping seems to be the latest hot topic that is creating buzz in the media. The fashion industry has been photoshopping their images for years. With eating disorders and low self-esteem a huge issue with young girls that continues to be on the rise, more people are coming forward, speaking out against photoshopping and the negative impact it contributes to this issue.

A few months ago, Vogue unveiled its February 2014 issue featuring actress Lena Dunham on the cover. Many applauded Vogue for placing someone on their cover who was not the typical “Vogue girl”. Lena Dunham represents someone who tells the world to accept her as she is, flaws and all. She celebrates her uniqueness with an attitude of “I don’t care what you think of me”. It’s refreshing and admired by many.

Then of course the Jezebel story went live. Jezebel, an online women’s news and culture magazine, expressed their disappointment in the images shown in Vogue, saying the images were obviously photo-shopped and offered $10,000 for the untouched images. While Jezebel brings up some valid points regarding photoshopping and questions why magazines feel the need to “fix”women by altering their images dramatically, the $10,000 image “bounty” was viewed as misplaced to many. Some people offered better ways, in their opinion, to use the $10,000, such as donating it to a charity or organization that focused on positive body image for young girls.

However, this can be a broad debate so lets take a look at it from both sides. Some would say a little photoshopping is not a bad thing. Whiten some teeth, remove a tattoo, hide some stretch marks and/or scars. It really depends on what the image is being used for. For example, if it’s a conservative retailer, they may not want any tattoos showing. If it’s a swimwear campaign, the retailer or brand may want the stretch marks photoshopped. In their mind and from their perspective, it’s about marketing that product to consumers. But when is it too much?

Jezebel cited some examples of photoshopping where there were images of celebrities in magazines where limbs were photoshopped to the point of them being removed as well as waists being more defined and bodies photoshopped so they look slimmer. And I am sure every one of us has looked at a magazine cover or image on a retailer site and said to ourselves, “That looks photoshopped”.

The positive side to no photoshopping was evident a few months ago with the launch of two campaigns featuring models that were not photoshopped. The first campaign featured British plus size model Laura Catterall in a swimwear campaign for Cosmopolitan Australia.  At size 14, she is on the smaller side of the plus size modeling range.  However, this image in particular caught my eye, especially since it’s Cosmopolitan of all magazines.

She still looks beautiful, tummy rolls and all.  And gurl! She is working that swimsuit.  The other campaign that had people talking came from retailer American Eagle. Their Spring 2014 Aerie Real ad campaign featuring all un-airbrushed models with the tagline “The Real You is Sexy.”

Granted, the models in the campaign look to have minimal flaws.  However, kudos to American Eagle for using larger straight sized models and not photoshopping what we consider normal things such as a tummy and tattoos and for using the campaign to promote positive body images. Considering that their customer demographic is 15 – 21 yr-old women, this is clearly a fantastic way to convey positive body image through imagery.

This brings up the important lesson of body image. The important thing to take away from this is that we should not be looking to models and that we see in the magazines as a way of defining what the perfect body is.  Instead of trying to mirror someone else, which is an unrealistic goal, we should instead be embracing our own individual beauty no matter what size we are. Change starts within each of us first.  Then we can be better examples and mentors to young girls out in the world. Well all you girls can.  I don't think any girl would look at me and be like "Damn, I wanna be just like him when I grow up".  

I think the biggest thing to realize for girls out there is that you cant let someone define beauty for you. You are your own definition of perfection. Each of us are. These models are like characters in your favorite books or movies, they are based on real people, but in the end, those images are only fictional. Noticing that difference is the important thing here.