To Photoshop or Not to Photoshop?


I planned on writing a post about photoshopping and the controversy surrounding it but the New York Time’s beat me to it in Wednesday’s issue (article available here).  There are still some points and issues that they did not cover so I’ll speak about them as a supplement or continuance of the discussion that they started.

To photoshop or not to photoshop?  That is the recurring question that  pops up in the fashion industry ever few months along with weight issues and the lack of diversity on the runways.

It is no secret that the fashion industry practices rather vigourous photoshopping – or photo illustration as it is called throughout the industry – ranging from simple colour correction and photo cropping to bust enhancement, body slimming  or in the infamous case of Beyoncé for L’Oreal skinlightening. 

Beyonce for L'Oreal

But in an industry where you are selling beauty and perfection shouldn’t the subject be, well, perfect?

Is there a place for cellulite, stretchmarks, pimples and scars in an industry that sells fantasy?

What are the effects of these visions of perfection on society?  How much photoshopping is too much?

The issue of photo illustration has been a contoversial issue for decades with government officials using the practice to favourably recreate history.

Hitler and the Nazi propoganda machine used photoshopping to their benefit.  If an official fell out of favour he would find himself written out of history – in a photo in a textbook one year and missing the next.


Now to be fair much of the photo altering that you’ll see in a magazine is relatively harmless and includes things like eye and teeth whitening (eyes and teeth are ALWAYS the same shade of white), colour correction, the erasure of pores (for that amazingly smooth, even complexion) and making hair appear fuller.  But there have been times when photo illustrators have gone too far in their attempts at creating perfection.

For the Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End movie poster Kiera Knightley had her hair and bust enhanced but was the same treatment necessary for Emma Rossum in the poster for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix?  I mean she was a child on a poster advertising a children’s movie.Kiera Knightley

Emma Watson

And in the 60 Minutes piece Morley Safer pointed out Vogue’s heavy photoshopping hand.  The normally voluptuos Adele found herself looking a few pounds slimmer for her feature in Vogue.  Would it have harmed the readers so much to see a larger women who looked sexy and beautiful?

Songstress Adele at the 2007 Brit Awards

Songstress Adele at the 2007 Brit Awards

Adele looking thinner in Vogue's April Shape Issue thanks to photoshop and a little body contorting.

Adele looking thinner in Vogue's April 2009 Shape Issue thanks to photoshop and a little body contorting.

Up until quite recently I thought that if I found and put into practice the proper skincare regimen I could achieve the poreless look of celebrities.  It wasn’t until reading an article in a magazine that I learned that you can minimize the appearance of pores but you can’t completely get rid of them.

These images of perfection have very negative effects on young boys and girls and presents them with a very false and dangerously unattainable standard of beauty.  As if being a teenager wasn’t difficult enough.

However, the effects of photoshopping aren’t only felt by teenagers but by woman (and men as well).  It’s difficult to be a woman and feel desirable when you are constantly being bombarded with images of perfection and beauty that look nothing like you and that you can do nothing to attain.

What do you think about the photoshopping techniques used by the fashion industry?  Do you think it’s dangerous or harmless?



About Septembre

Septembre Anderson is a passionate journalist, cultural critic and public intellectual. Her work has appeared in Flare, FASHION Magazine,, Complex Canada, Vice Canada and Huffington Post Canada.
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