Self-Esteem: Outer Beauty–Photo Retouching

When I started thinking about what is wrong with our society’s image of beauty, I had no idea how pervasive retouching is in everyday society.  Yes, I know all of those glamour magazines smooth wrinkles, even skin tones, and even slenderize bodies, sometimes to a criminally ridiculous degree.  But I didn’t realize that it was so common for people to manipulate their own photos as well.  I have to admit, the idea of retouching my photos before posting them to Facebook never even occurred to me.  So I was surprised to find out that it is so common.

Retouching:  How Much is Too Much

While I do not approve of “excessive retouching” in ads (some of which have been banned for just such behavior), I don’t really have a problem with them removing a little eye redness, diminishing a blemish, etc.  But you cannot digitally remove all vestiges of wrinkles from a 40 or 50-year-old model’s face and then try to sell me the ridiculously overpriced snake oil that you claim made her look that good.  That is unacceptable.

Julia Roberts - Natural  

Because Julia Roberts Wasn’t Beautiful Enough

I mean, she’s only three years older than me, and I wish I looked that good.  She is not 20 any more.  She has earned those laugh lines.

There’s another ad featuring Twiggy that got the smackdown for pretty much the same thing.

Here’s another example of photoshopping:

megan fox

Megan Fox  (I love how the article said, “NEWSFLASH: Celebrities have pores too.”)

And another with Julianne Moore

I could keep going with these things, but it’s the same story, just a different celeb.  People, we are comparing ourselves to these beauties who, while naturally beautiful themselves, are digitally transformed into something completely make-believe, and torturing ourselves because we don’t measure up.

It should also be unacceptable to put up a picture on a dating site that has NO relation to what we actually look like.  We should not be posting pictures of ourselves that have been altered to make us look 20 lbs lighter, or 10 years younger than we really are.  What is compelling us to do so?  I hate to sound like a broken record here, but the lion’s share of the blame should fall pretty heavily on the companies that have been cementing this distorted image of beauty in our heads since before we were old enough to speak.

The problem is, where do we draw the line?  Smoothing out a bulge in the leg because the model was standing funny is one thing, but removing inches from her thigh is another entirely.  Taking the red out of a blemish on a model’s forehead is understandable, but outright changing the color of the skin under the eyes in order to sell “miracle” eye cream is not.  How about showing us a before and after picture?  This is what this model looks like before using our wonderful product, and this is what they look like after.  At the very least, we’d be able to approach truth in advertising.

While the idea of trying to ban the use of Photoshopped images in magazines is probably preposterous, it has clearly gotten entirely out of hand.  And it is hurting all of us, male and female, from a very young age.  I’m glad to see some of the most egregious frauds have been hand slapped.  But it’s not enough.  I have seen some ads that include a “disclaimer” saying that a picture is a “dramatization based on the results in a clinical study”.  While this is a little better, it’s still not entirely truthful, or realistic.

What do you think of the banned ads?  Should they have been banned?  Do you use Photoshop (other than cropping, lighting, etc) to enhance your own pictures before posting them online? Have you ever met someone that you knew online and realized that they look drastically different in real life?  Where do you think the line is between acceptable manipulation and “excessive”?

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2 thoughts on “Self-Esteem: Outer Beauty–Photo Retouching

  1. VivBlogs says:

    Great post! I have a very hard time with body image. While I know that magazine and ads are photoshopped, the visual impact is hard to tune out. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for this post. It’s very interesting.

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