Photoshop Beauty, the Media and the Real Women

Our society definitely has an unhealthy obsession with beauty and sexuality – especially when it comes to women. Where else is this reflected better than the Media which constantly pursues us with images and advertisements featuring women (usually young and scantly clad) as objects of desire.

Often Photoshop is singled out as the main perpetrator – messing with the reality and making us all have unrealistic expectations. That might be true in some cases.

But most of us know that all women in magazines are photoshopped to some extent and refuse to be deceived. Actually top models are usually photoshopped less than you’d think as they are required to have the perfect figure and flawless skin, which makes it very easy to get a great image. But it’s not only photoshop. The main ingredients are amazing makeup, styling and lighting which can transform even an ordinary looking girl into something extraordinary. All these things combined are what makes the images in the media, whether editorial fashion spread or an ad campaign pop.

It makes you stop and look at the girl on the billboard, want to do her or want to be her – things you can easily do by buying the item she is advertising – either for yourself, or your girlfriend. Simple psychology.

And it works. If it didn’t they wouldn’t do it. Remember the famous Dove beauty campaign (kickstarted by the Evolution video above) which used “real women” (as if models were imaginary) to advertise their products.  It got wide media coverage but it wasn’t much of a help with sales, there was also some controversy about them looking for “flawless” non-models for their new real-women commercial. Later on Dove dropped it for a more conventional approach. So much for advertising revolution.

But let’s go back to those flawless girls on billboards and magazine covers. Another fallacy is to think that photoshop and all the evils connected with it is a modern invention. No way. Even in the age of black and white film people were experimenting in darkroom with techniques to create the most pleasing photograph. Just google it, there’s way too many examples to list. Hell, even illustration was often inspired by photographs and then completely re-imagined in order to improve upon it. I never knew that pin-up drawings were often based on photographs so this just blew me away. There’s one picture below but make sure to check out the rest.

The magic of illustration. Also another reason why the duck face doesn’t work on real women

Now everyone is probably thinking  – come on! Everyone knows that illustrations are not real.  Of course they are not. But neither are the overly airbrushed babes you see everywhere. It’s a style, just like pin-up.

A lot of people are still thinking whether photoshopping the hell out of people is moral or immoral. I don’t know. Being a photographer myself I don’t think that I’m the right person to judge.  The level of retouch and airbrushing nowadays is quite excessive. At the same time I don’t think we could stop it and not using it wouldn’t help. A popular opinion states that the TV adds kilos and I think that camera lens adds wrinkles. Or at least makes it more noticeable, as you don’t usually notice these things when talking to people. Mostly you’re looking into their eyes, thinking of what they’re saying and preparing your answer (or escape route). However if there is only a photograph in front of you – all these little flaws suddenly jump at you.

I know that effect well, sometimes I’d go back from a shoot only to realise that the model has her mouth opened on every single photograph, or she is frowning or there is a bra strap showing (nearly every single time!) but you rarely notice these things on the spot. I mean as a photographer you need to notice these little things and not to rely on fixing it in post, but at the same time you can’t catch everything. So from this side photoshop is actually very useful as small details like hair sticking out can be really distracting and destroy the whole photograph.

I think that photoshop should be used like salt and pepper, just a little bit for the right flavour – if there’s too much of it it can destroy the meal. I personally don’t use it that much, only for minor adjustments and skin retouching, but I feel like it’s wrong to use it to enhance a body like slim someone down, change the shape of someones nose or whatever. If you don’t like the way the model looks you should’ve picked another. Trying to make your Ugly Betty into a fantasy babe doesn’t make you a great photographer/retoucher – it only makes you look like a jerk. I believe that the model should recognise herself on the final photograph and not be ashamed to show it to her friends because she looks completely different on the image. So that’s my take.

Photoshop could be compared to a weapon – not inherently bad by itself, it all depends who uses it and how. And sometimes I think that like guns it should not be readily available for everyone. 😀

And I thought Justin can’t get more scary…

Hope you liked this article, this is such a big topic that I’m considering doing a short series of blog posts. Your comments/ideas will be appreciated.

| Flickr | Website


Author: reverine

Writer & Photographer currently based in Edinburgh, UK.

4 thoughts on “Photoshop Beauty, the Media and the Real Women”

  1. Great post, the video was amazing! And that Beiber pictures is oh so creepy! For the record I like real people, with interesting features, not necessarily people who would normally be considered “beautiful”, whatever that is 🙂

    Thanks for sharing 🙂


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