In recent years Photoshop has garnered more negative attention than any other platform that is utilized for image manipulation. Photoshop can be used to create unnatural product resulting in unrealistic expectations. As photographers and retouchers, we have the power to control what the media perceives as attractive.
Lately, it seems that many of us have been a little too "free" with the use of Photoshop. We're taking photos of humans and turning them into plastic Barbies and Kens in post. Why have we allowed ourselves to lose control in such an irreparable manner? Let me take a step back to clarify that the goal of this article is NOT to tell you how to edit responsibly or what is the right or wrong way of editing. Photography is the prime example of how each person experiences the world in a unique manner. No two photographers share the same opinions as one and other. The goal of this article is to raise awareness to the possible ills of Photoshop and to create a space for conversation.
The average individual sees 600 photoshopped images per day. Magazines, advertisements and the like are plastered everywhere we walk. This sort of imagery is scattered on our coffee tables and in our doctors’ waiting rooms. Whether or not we like it, we are subconsciously processing images that have been manipulated everywhere we go. Guys want to be with the girl on the cover of the magazine and girls want to be her.
There is no question that photoshopped images in the media are affecting us. Alterations made using photoshop unquestionably contribute to our unrealistic body image expectations. The trouble is, we are struggling to achieve or attain an image that is unrealistic. When we stare into the mirror we are not seeing doctored images of ourselves. Yet, we constantly compare ourselves to the perfected appearances of models and celebrities thinking that the way they look are how they look in actuality when that’s not the case. Too many of us punish ourselves with fierce diets and contempt or animosity for ourselves. Look at your Facebook friends list, one out of every ten of your friends has partaken in a behavior that is detrimental to their mental sanity and physical health like bingeing, over-exercising, skipping meals, etc.
This is not just an issue that women face. Men are also holding themselves to unachievable standards.
Here’s a disclaimer, I don't want people to walk away from this article saying, "this guy is nuts because he's saying we shouldn't make people look better with post." As a photographer, I understand the importance of postproduction. For those who know my work, I am known to say that I shoot to edit. However, I approach my images with the intention to keep my subject as natural as possible and then I edit away. Again, as photographers we all have different views of what is considered natural and what is considered unnatural. However, I would like to share what my personal limits are.
Blemishes, such as cuts and pimples that aren't normally there will be removed.
Wrinkles are not something I will remove. However, if they are extremely pronounced in the photograph, I will tone them down using this method. Additionally, skin blurring is a tool that I personally loathe. There is beauty in the texture and detail of a person’s skin and by blurring it we remove the natural allure of the skin.
The liquify tool, I find it to be extremely addictive and for the most part, I choose to stay far away from it. Shedding pounds off of someone just isn't ethical in MY book. Although I shoot to edit, I always try to place my model in the most flattering angle. However, sometimes because of lighting or the angle of the subject, you will need to make a body part look different. To make things look thinner, I use dodging and burning. For example, by burning the sides of someone’s arm and dodging the center of it, it will create an illusion of a thinner arm without actually making it physically thinner.
I dislike altering the color of a subject’s eyes. When I capture an image of a person, I want it to be reflective of the person. I really believe in the concept that the eyes are the window to the soul and if I change or alter the color in any sort of way, I am not allowing the viewer of the image to truthfully connect with my subject. However, in order to make the eyes look sharper, I will make the catch lights lighter.
The problem is that we as artists don't realize the power we have. Jeff Schewe of Photoshop News said in response to the AMA's stance against image manipulation that "We have wonderful tools to create images, new digital cameras and photographic digital printers and powerful tools such as Photoshop and we are expected to do what -- nothing? I don't think so." However, he's completely missing the point. I agree that we should not be expected to sit on a tool as powerful as Photoshop and do nothing with it. We should use them, but let's not forget what the purpose of postproduction is. It's to reflect our subjects in the most organic way, not create some fictitious character.
Take a look at Target's latest epic fail. If you're doing something wrong at least do it right!
Again, we are the ones who are taking and editing images that promote and perpetuate imagery that is unreal. I chose to write this article so that we can all have a voice in the back of our head reminding us of the influence we have on society. For some, that voice will be louder than others and it will mean different things to different people. Remember there is a way to use a tool like Photoshop responsibly. Use your own discretion. Let’s band together and create a community of photographers who show humankind in the most naturally beautiful way.
[Photos via: Beauty redefined]