Thursday, May 21, 2009

Don't believe everything you see

I'm a daily reader of The Pioneer Woman. I think she's a fantastic blogger and I would sell my firstborn (some days) to have her lodge.

She has a Photography section on her blog where she posts tips and tricks she's learned on her neverending journey to take better photos. Occasionally she'll have guest bloggers share tips, tricks and actions, too.

Today's post was courtesy of a guest blogger, and it brought out some rather interesting comments from the peanut gallery (myself included).

It all has to deal with Photoshop editing, especially in regards to making oneself appear thinner. And how there's a magic percentage (4%, evidently) that you can stretch the photo to give the appearance of looking longer and leaner without completely distorting the photo so it looks all Fakey McFakerson.

I've been working with Photoshop for about eight years now. I love Photoshop. I think it's one of the coolest programs out there. I also hate Photoshop becuase you can almost doo *too* much with it.

I edit photos on a daily basis for my job. Granted, these are generally small edits - adjusting color, cropping or adding some sky or dirt and sharpening the photos so they look good in print. And most of my subjects are construction machines, so they can't complain that their arms look fat or their butt's too big.

Occasionally (and becoming more common lately) I'll have to do some extensive editing - remove a competitive piece of machinery, stamp out some extensive dirt or wear on a machine or add in dirt to a bucket to make the machine appear like it's working. I've even completely removed a person from a photo and rebuilt the machine behind it to look like they were never there. It ain't always pretty, but I *can* do it.

That doesn't mean I necessarily *like* to all the time, but if I want to stay gainfully employed, I will usually do what my boss asks.

Unless it deals with people. And "fixing" them. Without their permission.

This site ( has an awesome portfolio of before and after photos edited in Photoshop. [Click on portfolio and then click a small thumbnail at the bottom of the page. Roll your mouse over the image to see the difference between before and after.] Some of the edits are truly amazing - in both a good and bad way.

Now, I do realize there is a difference with celebrities and image because they make their living looking beautiful and it often takes a huge team of personal trainers, chefs, stylists, and hair and makeup artists to make them look so mind-blowingly gorgeous. But sometimes I wish the editing weren't quite so heavy-handed. Or there was a warning label on the photos, like there are on rearview mirrors - "Celebrities are not quite as perfect in real life".

I love that French Elle had a completely natural issue last month where the cover photo models were all sans makeup and had no retouching done to their photos. Granted, they're all exceptionally beautiful to begin with, but they all also looked real.

Sometimes, it's a hard line to draw. I completely understand the view of the entry's author, and some of the comments that say it's not a big deal and people should do what makes them happy, besides almost all [professional] photos are retouched in some way or another. But I also see the flip side of how photo overediting can (and does) sometimes get out of hand and has an impact on body image.

It's not always even easy for me to remember that photos in magazines are often all Photoshopped to heck before they go to print, and I know firsthand what can be done to photos. I often compare myself to these gorgeous people and (in my own mind) usually come up lacking.

I don't have the best body image. I strugged with my weight growing up and was teased for being the "big girl." I've worked really hard the past five months to lose some of the baby weight I gained with the kiddo (25 lbs down, w00t!), and I still feel I have a ways to go before I'll be okay (not necessarily happy, but okay) with how I look. So I guess if stretching a photo to make you appear thinner makes you happy, then go for it.

But I don't know if I would do it for myself.

As it is, I rarely edit my personal photos. At this point, I do enough editing at my job that when I get home, I don't want to do any more.

So what's the answer? I don't know. Do what makes you happy, but keep an element of realism in there, too. Often, less is more when dealing with Photoshop.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A lot of interesting thoughts, ones I hadn't considered!