The "Plastic surgeons of digital media"

Thursday, March 24, 2011

By Jody Marich 

Photo manipulation has become an epidemic in the photography world, even camera companies are jumping onto the bandwagon. Everyone from Time Magazine to Allure, have been accused of manipulating photos to please the consumers. Fashion magazines are continually getting flack for it. Some have even been under fire with the celebrity or model who was retouched like Crystal Renn. The gorgeous model was outraged when her photos came out for Fashion For Passion's tee shirt shoot. In an interview with Glamour, Renn told the mag she was upset."Well, I was shocked. When I saw the pictures, I think I was silent for a good five minutes, staring with my mouth open. I don’t know what was done to those photos or who did it, but they look retouched to me. And listen, everybody retouches, but don’t make me into something I’m not," Renn Said.

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Photo manipulation can be as little as changing the image’s color to big things like hiding bruises or taking away cellulite. An article from the Art Institute’s website, Picture Imperfect- Digital Image Manipulation Ethics, says, “The range of changes that photo editors can make varies from correcting background lighting to transforming a human model's body type. The technology and software available today allows amateur and professional photographers alike to alter their shots.” It goes on to say that some photo manipulation is necessary. Becky Olstad, a Photography Instructor at The Art Institutes International Minnesota, believes the use of Photoshop and other image manipulation software have become a routine part of the photography process. “It allows us to control exposure, contrast, color balance - things that are also routinely controlled in a traditional darkroom."

The new Code of Ethics adopted by the National Press Photographers Association Board in 2004, was updated and “modernized” as they termed it. The code has normal points, but one stood out that doesn’t seem to be followed a lot, especially with magazines involving fashion and fame. “Editing should maintain the integrity of the photographic images' content and context. Do not manipulate images or add or alter sound in any way that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects.” The fashion industry is a big user of photo manipulation. Photos have been manipulated to hide cellulite, love handles, veins, bags under eyes and so on.

This photo below of Jennifer Aniston recently caused a lot of commotion when Allure used it for the February cover. It was on my facebook feed so I clicked the photo and was shocked, along with a lot of others.  Outraged readers fired back, commenting on one of the photos from the feature saying things like, "This is so bad, Allure you are really starting to suck,"; "Allure, I normally love what you do, but once I saw this picture (and the others from the shoot) I was shocked. It doesn't even look like her." Some wrote about the photos being creepy or fake, others complained about how photoshopped the shoot was. For more photos from the shoot, click the link.

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An article by Cate Young, from the Boston University, BU Quad, Digital Manipulation in the Fashion Industry, says, “The fashion industry is notorious for it’s heavy-handed use of digital manipulation software, and has fallen under criticism for introducing ‘false images’ into the mainstream and passing them off as real.” Young goes on to say the industry is continually blamed for representing “unhealthy body images” by hiding imperfections. The article, Manipulated photo flap raises ethical issues, written by Nathalie Atkinson states, “The NPAA prohibits even the removal of undesirable objects or elements in photographs -- warts, zits and all.” 

The fashion industry is under fire just about every week for something/ someone being photoshopped. 
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The "Plastic surgeons of digital media"
In the article, Picture Imperfect- Digital Image Manipulation Ethics, Fabio Apelbaum, a graduate from The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, now a Director of Graphic Arts, believes Photoshop is used in almost all post-production projects and that it’s a good thing. “We happen to be the plastic surgeons of digital media. We will improve their defects but make sure to not exceed our rights as artists.” Apelbaum goes on to say, “When you look at a magazine, 98% of what you see in the fashion industry is unreal. We have taken the human beauty to an extreme that beauty itself cannot compete with."
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Olstad believes the standard of beauty and other issues that have risen are not the responsibility of photo editors. “I don't think you can pin our society's unrealistic expectations of beauty on any one person or industry," she adds. "Isn't the designer who sends over only size 0's of the latest line just as responsible as the editor who prints the photo?"

If you are hiding things or disguising imperfections, it gives the viewer a skewed perception of what they are looking at and how they should be. It has created body and health issues, making people think they should “look” a certain way and caused confusion to consumers.

A new problem( or solution?) arises
With all the talk of photo manipulation one must realize that what you see is usually not what you get.

A new camera has come out by Panasonic that has beauty retouching modes. An article by Tobey Grumet, from says, "Using built-in Beauty Retouch modes, this camera boasts the ability to tone down wrinkles, whiten your teeth and amp up rosy cheeks with just the touch of a button." The stylist crew did some experiments to find out that the camera produces a "younger, fresher and smoother" you.

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David Briganti, senior product manager for imaging at Panasonic, says they wanted to create a camera with features that allow users to have fun with their photos. "Many photography settings need to be set prior to the photo being taken in order to see the changes, but with Beauty Retouch, these changes can be made after the photo was taken," said Briganti.

With the camera running about $230, it's an easy way to escape the expenses of more professional software BUT, is it a step in the wrong direction? It's nice to be able to correct small imperfections but with the way technology is going, are we doing more damage than good to our self esteem?  

What do you think about the photo manipulation epidemic? 


mlhall01 said...

And people wonder why the population is obsessed with superficial beauty? Everything we see and "want to be" is an illusion. Great segment Jody! Love, love, love your approach!

Jody said...

Thank you love! You are always so kind and I love your support! Thanks gorgeous x

Ally said...

Well this explains where we run into so many problems with weight and looks. I love you for posting this and showing us the reality of the stars we see in magazines.

Jody said...

Thanks gorgeous biffle! You are such a wonderful support! And thank you for reading it. It just keeps getting worse but something has gotta give. <3 xo

Unknown said...

An excellent article Jody, really well written and very interesting to read. The Beauty Retouch feature in the new Panasonic cameras seems scary to me, we shouldn't be so afraid of wrinkles and freckles and anything else that gets edited out, they're part of being human.

Jody said...

Juliet, thank you for the kind words. The new camera feature is what made my jaw drop, why can't we just be happy with who we are?

Thanks again for reading. Have a great day xo

Laura said...

I agree that there is a big difference between retouching a photo to account for bad lighting, or maybe even fixing a slight imperfection, but when you start seeing huge changes (like those above) where the person doesn't even look like themselves, that is where the issues come.

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Unknown said...

so creepy how they can literally make people look unlike themselves and turn them into weird digital alien versions...

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