Little Photo Shop of Horrors

Today I had a photo shoot.  I was running low on foundation so yesterday I went and the brand I used had discontinued my  typical foundation so I got something new.  The woman at the make-up counter put it on to show me how great it was and I came home.  I washed it off and went to bed.  And woke up with hives.  Freaking hives. Huge red hives.  All.  Over.  My.  Face.

The problem that this created for me is that I typically ask not to be photoshopped at all.  I figure if I’m going to put images out there they ought to include my splotchy skin (pores and all ) and fat rolls and everything.  A drop in the photoshop ocean maybe, but at least it’s a drop.  Except that I want my hives photoshopped out of these pictures and I  really struggled with it this all morning.  In the end I decided to get the retouching for the same reason that I’m generally against photoshopping – because I don’t typically have hives and I want to see pictures that are reflective of what people look like when you meet them on the street.

It is almost impossible to look at our media and see a person as they look in real life.  It’s not just the poreless skin.  We’re talking about people who are missing arms, missing hips, have legs so small that they can’t hold them up.  It’s ridiculous.

And we’re starting to consume these images earlier and earlier:

Here’s Mylie Cyrus – the actress who played the  Disney Character “Hannah Montana” :

And here she is on the promo materials:

What chance do little girls have of holding on to their self-esteem when their heroes are all photo-shopped to hell?  How many adolescent girls struggled with their crazy skin and pre-braces teeth wondering why they couldn’t look like Mylie Cyrus

And worse than that is the defense of photoshop by the people who are doing it under the guise of showing people in their “best light”:

When Self magazine took criticism for their out of control photoshopping of Kelly Clarkson while having the absolute brass cajones to print the words  “Total Body Confidence”  on the same cover, Editor-in-chief Lucy Danziger wrote in her blog:  “Did we alter her appearance? Only to make her look her personal best…But in the sense that Kelly is the picture of confidence, and she truly is, then I think this photo is the truest we have ever put out there on the newsstand.”

Now, knowing how much photoshopping Self does, it’s certainly possible that this was their truest image ever, but that just makes it more horrifying. And since when does our personal best include a computer?  Are we going to be issued Predator-esque costumes so that a computer can always generate our “Personal Best” ?

Even if we consciously know that the images we see aren’t real, I’m not sure that it’s possible to avoid some level of subconscious conditioning when we see thousands of images a year that give us an unrealistic picture of what people look like. So, just to keep it a little real here:

You are not the only one with uneven boobs
Yoga might be great for your body, but it doesn’t take 40 years off
If you worry about the size of your hips, be grateful that you have both of them!
This poor girl lost more than inches off her waist and legs – thanks to photo shop she also lost part of her right arm and her belly button. 
I’ll bet that  right now you’re head is on your very own body.     Lucky you!

I think that the best we can do is remember ourselves (and teach our kids) that the images we see in the media are basically cartoons, computer generated, impossible to duplicate, and in the end not nearly so fetching as an actual flesh and blood person with pores, a bellybutton, and two hips.

7 thoughts on “Little Photo Shop of Horrors

  1. I don’t blame you for getting your hives photoshopped. I don’t see the harm in doing some basic retouching on professional photos, which was done to me on my calendar shot.
    Official calendar shot

    You can tell it’s retouched, but it still looks like me. Now if they slimmed me down, I wouldn’t approve too much of that. So I have some things I find ok when it comes to photoshopping and there are also things I think that cross the line.

    I think it is important to teach our kids that these images aren’t accurate representations of what the person looks like, but we also need to know what to tell our kids when they see girls in their class who naturally have flawless skin and posess the standard traditional beauty. Many girls and women roll out of bed looking like they just stepped off of a magazine cover, and instead of telling them that it’s all fake, we should teach them what specifically is beautiful about their own body. And we need to teach them how to avoid comparing.

    1. Hi Ashley,

      I get where you are coming from and I know a lot of people who feel the same way that you do. For me, except in extenuating circumstances (like someone has a black-eye or whatever that makes them look different than they do day to day), there is harm in basic retouching because it means that all of the images that are coming at us are not real and I just don’t understand what is wrong with the way that we actually look?

      I think telling kids that almost every photograph that they see is fake is important, and different from talking to them about not comparing their bodies to other people’s and how we help them deal with the girls in their class. The media uses these photos to sell everything from magazines to make-up, hair care products, allergy pills – everything. We are sold the idea that this lotion or that foundation will make us look liek the model when even the model doesn’t look like the photograph. There are definitely women and girls who fit traditional standards of beauty, but I doubt that there are many who look like the re-touched images on magazine covers, if the women who make it as models and actresses can’t uphold the standard it seems like it’s a fairly elite club. Just my 2 cents.

      Thanks for the comment!


    2. Fantastic shot! (Though I have to say I keep looking at the python–I love snakes. 🙂 ) How long have you been playing?

  2. I think you are justified in having the photos retouched because it would really suck everytime you looked at the photos and instead of thinking “What a great time I had that day,” you might think, “Bleh – that was the day I had those terrible hives.” Who needs a photographic reminder of any sort of malady?

    Ragen, you are right, it is not really possible to avoid the subconscious conditioning of retouched media images. Even though I consciously know none of the photos are real representations, I can’t help but feel just a little bit down after going through a magazine (and thus I am in the process of letting my few women’s magazines subscriptions lapse – they don’t cater to the almost-middle-aged anyway).

    I believe the media and advertisers retouch photos not because they think WE want to see these perfect celebribots but because they KNOW it makes people unhappy. And if people are unhappy, they’ll spend money to get happy. If everyone is happy and satisfied with themselves, it’s just so much harder to make money.

    1. “I believe the media and advertisers retouch photos not because they think WE want to see these perfect celebribots but because they KNOW it makes people unhappy. And if people are unhappy, they’ll spend money to get happy. If everyone is happy and satisfied with themselves, it’s just so much harder to make money.”

      This. THIS. THIS!. Just sayin… 😀 Amen. Conspiracy nailed!

  3. I think retouching to remove something unusual is OK.

    No offence to you Yanks, but I actually find American magazines ghastly, because of the extreme Photoshopping. I’m sure you get used to it, but when you see a face that’s been completely artificially altered in a way you’re not used to, it’s extremely weird. I picked up some magazines in an American supermarket the other year and was shocked at how plastic and strange the faces were. It didn’t make me want to look like that at all!

    The German and French magazines are great, because they feature women of all ages and they either don’t Photoshop, or use it very judiciously. As a result, you see sexy women of all ages, which has made me feel better about leaving my 30s.

    What’s very disturbing, I think, is women using botox and surgery to Photoshop their own faces – using so many artificial fillers and plumpers, that they’ve become weird and plastic looking. So there’s this vicious cycle of artificial image leading to artificial women, reinforcing the artificial images.

  4. It makes me sad to see this crazy Photoshop retouches. A few adjustments are fine, even amazing, but destroying someone’s image is very much like murdering their essence.

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