Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Has photo-manipulation gone too far?

There has been a lot of discussion online over the past couple of years regarding not only the utility of Photoshop, but the dangers it poses as well. This entry is somewhat of a continuation of the discussion begun in What is Hollywood Ugly? so bear with me.

I remembered seeing a few pictures which were used in ads at a retouching portfolio, one of a bikini model and another of a smiling blonde woman. Now, these may be slightly more extreme examples of this kind of work, we all know deep down that a lot of the images in magazines have been given this type of treatment, and I can see why they do this... I mean, before the age of Photoshop, it was Vaseline on the lens and an actual airbrush to try to make the subjects of the photos look better, but of course, that was a much more costly operation as well.

I remember about a decade ago when Time Magazine was caught featuring a doctored photo of OJ Simpson for their cover to make it look darker and more sinister, and they were blasted for that use of the technology, and has since changed their photo policy to make such an incident less likely.

Sinister OJ Simpson

However, having such tools at one's disposal make the temptation to alter a photo to be more pleasing or fitting with the image that one wants to convey. And as more people become proficient in the use of image-editing software, the number of people who can do that kind of work is ever increasing. It seems likely that there has been some photo alterations (that go beyond the ordinary burn-dodge-corrections) that have made it into the mainstream media which watchdogs haven't caught, and it seems unlikely that if they passed the muster then, they will not be discovered now.

And amateurs also are becoming increasingly adept at altering photographs to "improve" them. One example is a picture that is simply called "Photoshop Girl" which I have posted below in a smaller size.

Photoshop Girl

The site where the larger version used to appear seems to have gone under, so unfortunately, I cannot present that information to you.

The caption reads (well, I read it on a forum it seems to conform with the little translation I was able to get out of translation site): "Adobe Photoshop... your girlfriend will love it." and I admit that for the most part, it is a good composition and alteration of the photo, although within seconds, I can tell that it was done by a non-professional (and I am not saying that I could do better), because there are glaring mistakes that make it obvious even if I only saw the second photo that it was an altered article. However, the sophistication of the actual alteration of the portrait is astonishing on many levels. While not as radical a change as some of the other above pictures, the difference is stunning.

It is because of these kinds of alterations that I think a lot of people have body image problems... they compare themselves to a digitally-altered model, and there are very few people who can live up to that standard.... even the people who were photographed for those pictures. And even those of us who feel that they are above such things, well, constantly seeing pictures of cleaned up models and actors/actresses still affects the judgment and beauty standard of those who see them. I think that's part of the reason why the public has a morbid curiosity about which celebrities have had plastic surgery and what people look like without their makeup... because such activities take some of the veneer of these people's seeming physical perfection.... and that might be a healthy thing.


Sophie and Sdit said...

I agree...Ironic as it may seem seeing that I just started class in "computer graphics" today, where the first four weeks covers Photoshop!

I on the other hand am gonna try for Medical illustration which has nothing to do with cosmetic beauty and what not.

This perfection craving is kinda scary. Photoshop girl looks like another person in the second pic!

DutchBitch said...

Still, there is plenty of pics of me around that could do with serious manipulation... LOL

Anomie-Atlanta said...

I think photoshop has probably made online dating a (more)perilous activity.

MC said...

S&S: Well, you would be using Photoshop to show the inner beauty of the human body then, wouldn't you. I don't mean that to sound in anyway psycho by the way.

Dutchy: Why do you think I use a toon as an avatar?

AA: Depending on who wields it, yes, yes it has.

kapgar said...

There is, of course, the case at the University of Wisconsin where their publications department was putting together a cover for their magazine and it was a bunch of white fans at a football game. They wanted to show some diversity, so they inserted a black fan in the midst of the crowd. All was fine until the guy saw the picture and said, "I wasn't there!"

Wound up being terrible PR for UW.

MC said...

I think I am going to look into that, as that does seem to be a very interesting story on the ethics of photoshop use.

arthbard said...

It's just despicable. It's high time everyone wakes up and starts using Photoshop for its intended purpose: Pasting celebrity heads on the bodies of naked people ... Naked people doing unspeakable things.

MC said...

Oh mr. Wiggles...err, Arthbard.

Anonymous said...