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[News] Elle Removes Clothing Via PhotoShop, And The Model In Question Is Not Exactly What I'd Call Happy

Anyone who has picked up a magazine with photographic content is well aware of the amount of retouching and massaging that goes into many of the photos displayed in advertisements or in editorial features. But at what point does the 'retouching' go too far?

Model Coco Rocha was shocked when she discovered that an image of her taken for the cover of Elle Brazil had been retouched in order to show much more skin than she had anticipated. So much so, that she decided to take to her tumblr and publicly post the following:


Coco is quite adamant that they had gone so far as to breach her verbal and written 'no nudity' contract. We haven't seen a response anywhere from Elle or the photographers and retouchers involved.

Do you think the photo itself is too risque? Do you feel that Coco has a legitimate concern? I can see both sides of the issue. I feel that there was a lack of communication and trust between the model and magazine, yet I also feel that she must have known that retouching and adding and removing of certain elements is incredibly commonplace in this industry. Popphoto.com was able to get in touch with someone who claims to be a senior photo editor at a top fashion magazine.

"We spoke to a senior photo editor at a top women’s fashion magazine who told us, on the condition of anonymity, that she couldn’t believe it either, but more because she was surprised that Roche didn’t assume, or guess, that this would happen. The editor told us that it’s common practice for a model to wear a bodysuit under a dress like that, and that, particularly if the bodysuit is not part of the look’s design, it is understood that it will be removed during postproduction. It is, after all, a fashion magazine, and the photo must look like the dress. Particularly, said the editor, when it’s an image that’s being shot for the cover."

-Popphoto.com

I'm tempted to agree with parts of the above quote, however, I wasn't in the room when the shoot happened so I can't say for sure if her wishes were completely thrown out the window or not. She is absolutely entitled to having her wishes respected, but she must know that this sort of thing could happen in her line of work, where retouching and altering is the norm.

I've scoured the internet for some sort of a 'before' picture so that we can really see how much retouching is at play (and so that we can all really have a firm opinion on this), but as of midnight, May 13th, I've seen no such photo, and unfortunately I don't expect one to surface. Here is the cover as it went to press:


What do you think? Completely acceptable, or was the end result of the retouching far out of line?

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47 Comments

Matt Turner's picture

I think she must have been pretty naive to think that wouldn't happen.

Tobias Solem's picture

I think that the business has become far too cynical to take that approach. Breaking a contract and a model release just because "it's industry standard" is a sign of a dying business imo.

eugene_fraxby's picture

my girlfriend is a retoucher for a major fashion photographer. for models and jobs of this calibre, the model would have had to have seen the final image prior to publication...
and let's not forget, the retouchers that everyone loves to demonise, are under instruction from photographers, stylists, picture editors etc.... not doing these alterations off their own back.... it's the industry/publications that are to blame...

Pratik Naik's picture

"and let's not forget, the retouchers that everyone loves to demonise, are under instruction from photographers, stylists, picture editors etc." 

Very true. Most of what we do is actually from strict and rigid direction from the editors, art directors, and photographers especially during major editorial submissions. We have to adhere to what they want, even when we may highly advise against a certain direction.

Kayzar Bhathawalla's picture

I think that if you are wearing a body suit, you should expect that it appear like skin. It is the intended purpose. The retoucher just enhanced that purpose.

Jabari Hunt's picture

There is nothing showing that wouldn't be seen at the beach with a bikini on, far less actually.

Krista Hayes-Model's picture

It doesn't matter how much is shown and if we think its ok or not, if it goes against a contract then there's a problem.

Jabari Hunt's picture

I agree 100%, but do you honestly believe they shot a cover featuring a dress then signed a contract with a model stating that there would be less shown that what the dress reveals???  If so, we should talk.  I have a bridge for sale!

I'm against any editing of this nature that isn't agreed upon or steps outside the realm of reason.  She obviously knows how the dress is made as far as what it exposes and hides, so it's well within reason to edit those areas as such.

I can't see what the issue is here the model looks stunning and I can't for the life of me see any nudity or much in the way of body showing. If I were the model (fortunately I'm not because the magazine wouldn't sell!) I would be extremely pleased with the image.....

Seeing by her side of the story -> it is innaceptable! IF it is in her contract she can go and sue the magazine ... knowing she won't work anymore for several publications as well. Big "MOB" there.
Well ... it will be very difficult now anyways once she start this "scandal".Seeing for the side of magazine -> it is what makes the sells! IF she not satisfied with the beautiful results (than showing an "attention taker" of a body suit) worse if it was showing and looking sloppy calling more attention than her make-up and the other "clothe".Seeing from my perspective: BS! Hon ... you know EXACTLY what you will do when you got into the studio / location. And like said above, as a "cover girl" you are one of the first to see the pre-printer for approval. Don't blame your "model stupidity" because someone hit on you during the session ... or you want more money now.The magazine are not willing to have problems for little things like that (as not steal images, they SPEND money to create their owns.)If you SINCERELY didn't like this final work, try to get into an art school and learn something about beauty and pay more attention on this amazing work that probably TRANSFORM YOU in this goddess. And move on ... learn with your mistakes. You have a long life ahead (5 years ... the longest ... high fashion model ... yea right Coco).            

John Godwin's picture

I love how every time situations like this occur, they blame the retoucher as if they are just some rogue element in the industry adding and removing whatever the hell they like.

Sad to see even the writer of the article suggest that the retouchers themselves may have been "far out of line"

They don't put pen to tablet without being told exactly what to do, and everything they do is signed off by the person who should be getting held responsible for this.

Mike Kelley's picture

 When I say 'retoucherS' (please note that I am not referring to ONE PERSON)  I am referring to the entire mechanism at play (i.e., whoever approved and suggested the alterations). I'm not trying to chastise the person who sat there with a tablet and removed everything, because obviously it wasn't at the sole discretion of one person.

Andrew Webb's picture

Then you should make that clear in the body of the article. Careless, imprecise writing will just net you negative comments.

Mike Kelley's picture

"We haven’t seen a response anywhere from Elle or the photographers and retouchers involved."

" ...I feel that there was a lack of communication and trust between the model and magazine..."

Seems pretty clear that I am not singling out the retouchers, quite the contrary in fact.

Even in the title I don't single out the retouchers, but rather the magazine as a whole! Come on now.

Andrew Webb's picture

"What do you think? Completely acceptable, or were the retouchers far out of line?"

Look at the comments posted here. If you had made your position clear, you wouldn't have so many people defending the retouchers. What you feel you communicated and the communication received are apparently not the same thing. Your intent and your effect disconnected and you can't blame the audience for that.

Matt Green's picture

If you're going to quote the article, maybe you should re-read it. It says, "or was the end result of the retouching far out of line?" Even if it was written the way you quoted, you might be reading too much into it. I think the majority of us can agree that no one person is at fault here. And I don't feel anybody was trying to place blame.

Andrew Webb's picture

I actually copy-pasted the above quote. The article has been edited since then.

John Godwin's picture

He's since edited the post, clever-clogs.

John Godwin's picture

Fair enough, it's just that you referred to "the entire mechanism at play" as "retouchers", which is pretty much the polar opposite of what you intended to put across.

johansec's picture

The image is beautiful and tasetful and who is not to say from the image that she is not wearing a body suit.  For the model to require that it be obvious in the image that she is wearing a body suit is unrealistic. Maybe she should think about a different line of work other than high fashion model.

dnanderson's picture

here's a BTS shot of the offending bodysock - 

http://s19.postimage.org/i7tiy98wz/coco_elle_br_may_2012_backstage.jpg

It probably was naive of her to think it wouldn't be taken out but, if she signed a contract, she's entitled to be pissed off really. 

Jacques's picture

 Thanks for the BTS image Mr. Anderson.  How did you get hold of this BTS image though?  I'm also interested in looking at such images in the future.  Would you mind sharing?  Thanks.

Sheila Lais's picture

I think it depends on what is in her contract.  If the photo editing violated her no nudity policy then it went to far.  

Sye Ellis IV's picture

There is no nudity here! The model should really stop whining about something so petty. I see nothing wrong here. If she thought they were going to show the bodysuit then she should had that stated in the contract! Grow up or find a different job!!

Nursultan Tulyakbay's picture

She is upset because her stomach was "naked". The cleavage was bare with the bodysuit on so taking it out didn't reveal any more. She needs to grow up or get out.  Or model parkas or something.

Andrew Webb's picture

"The retouchers" are not privy to the contracts and agreements that the magazines arrange with the models. The retouchers are hired to make whatever the art director asks for. Blaming them is unfair and unrealistic. Blame the magazine.

michael burke's picture

Hmmm - I thought it was body paint...

Having seen the original now with the bodysuit perhaps the retoucher should have left the obvious red blotch on her left breast above the bodysuit. I can only think this story will put other photographers etc completely off working with the model in question..

Nursultan Tulyakbay's picture

I was thinking the same thing. Unknown models are a dime a dozen. If you get yourself known to be a pain in the ass to work with, people will move on to the next model in line.

 Can't help thinking this is somewhat more revealing

http://www.theplace2.ru/archive/coco_rocha/img/89403_Belstaff_Milan.jpg

Exactly! I've seen way too many pictures where she wore almost nothing on the runway. God knows, maybe she just made the no-nudity rule herself a few weeks ago just so she has something to rant about. Oh well, when there's nothing else in the head to put on tweeter, you've got to make things up.

Thomas Dang's picture

I think the model was pretty stupid to think that the final images would have the body suit in it. The body suit would've been used to make her feel comfortable on the shoot so she's not revealing too much on the shoot and with the sold purpose of retouching it out of the shot.

The sole purpose of having body suits on a shoot like this would be for the final image to seem like the model's not wearing anything (or in this case, anything underneath the dress).

I highly doubt that there's a contract that prohibits retouching to make it look like she's wearing a little less. It may have been that there's a clause of 'no nudity on the shoot'! My guess is that she requested a body suit as she didn't want to be running around in a sheer dress in front of a large crew. I doubt she read the Release Form part that says that the magazine may alter the image to suit their need.

Seriously, when was the last time anyone saw a body suit as part of a final fashion image?

Thomas Dang's picture

I think the model was pretty stupid to think that the final images would have the body suit in it. The body suit would've been used to make her feel comfortable on the shoot so she's not revealing too much on the shoot and with the sold purpose of retouching it out of the shot.The sole purpose of having body suits on a shoot like this would be for the final image to seem like the model's not wearing anything (or in this case, anything underneath the dress).I highly doubt that there's a contract that prohibits retouching to make it look like she's wearing a little less. It may have been that there's a clause of 'no nudity on the shoot'! My guess is that she requested a body suit as she didn't want to be running around in a sheer dress in front of a large crew. I doubt she read the Release Form part that says that the magazine may alter the image to suit their need.Seriously, when was the last time anyone saw a body suit as part of a final fashion image?

She's crazy and ignorant. Her BF probably threw a fit, and so she had to pretend to be upset about it. She shows more skin than that at the beach, i'm sure. I also am willing to bet they didn't breach the contract, i'm sure they have a legal review department/person that made sure this was okay ahead of time. 

JimmySchaefer's picture

This article brings up a strong argument. What would you all say to having a separate contract for models like this to protect their well being or believes. I've edited and retouched my fair share of pictures and sometimes you can go too far with retouching.   Easy example is removing a mole from someones face. Its part of that person, it's their feature.  Some may get upset from this and some may not mind it. What is right to alter what is not right to alter. Its such a hard subject to talk about. If you have models approve pictures then your wasting time and money. If you have to sign a separate contract like i stated above again you waste time money and maybe they will just shoot someone else. My personal opinion is I'm glad to see this model bring up the argument cause those are her beliefs she does not want to change them. 

Alex Colin Liebensfeld's picture

Elle Magazine is entirely at fault here. No model should ever see pictures of them published that they are not comfortable with. I propose a new rule from here on out; all portraits in major publications like this need to be approved (in its completed, ready-to-print form) by the model. I don't think that's too much to ask.

Matt Green's picture

I think she may be overreacting a bit. Of course it would have been good to know in advance. I'm guessing the art director or whoever was responsible didn't think twice about this. They say, "assumptions are the mother of all F-Ups", but I still think this image is within the bounds of what I have seen from Coco Rocha in the past. It's definitely sexy, but I think it's very tastefully done. Maybe this is a publicity stunt. We've all heard of "no blood, no foul". Well, in this case, "no nipple, no foul".

Try searching 
Coco Rocha with Google image search. It is obvious that 99.99% of her images don't show practically any skin so magazine here is the one to blame.

louisleblanc's picture

Saying that it's industry standard is a moot point. There's 1000 reasons why that picture ended up the way it did. Legal dept didn't bother informing the art director or what ever. It does look like the ball was in Elle Brazil's camp, though there's isn't a whole lot of info.

Coming from most model it would sound more like a publicity stunt. But for her, it sounds like something worth respecting, her standards and dignity.

Ken Yee's picture

I'd like to know how they retouched out the body suit...looks like normal skin to me.  It's hard to get the lighting/texture right when you're retouching out a stuff around skin like that...I have a hard enough time w/ blobs of hair over skin :-P

That said, I don't know how she'd think the body suit would *not* get retouched out.  The outfit looks pretty stupid w/ the body suit on...it's not like you'd wear it that way if you bought it :-)

Just seems like bad assumptions and communication throughout...Elle isn't the only one to blame...Coca (and I respect her a lot because I think she's a great model) also should have asked or clarified what would happen.

Johannes Slabbert's picture

If she wanted to be photographed naked, she would have worn nothing... Opportunistic of ELLE.

Its so hard, but I think I agree with the model. Of course she knows retouching happens, but I doubt she ever thought that a retoucher could make her look nude when she wasn't. But I'm sure the magazine had written permission to do what they did. Its just sad for her, sad that people get to see her body in a way she is uncomfortable with. 

all you people talk about this "model" like she is a rookie, Coco Rocha is a veteran, and an amazing talent, who is always evolving and setting all kinds of new trends/standards.
she is proving a point here, they betrayed her trust, and she is setting an example for so many other models, to stand up for themselves, and speak out when these things happen.
its not about industry standards.

Michael Marcopoulos's picture

I think she's over reacting, maybe because she want to be seen. This picture is not as nude as she says. It's not like they add nipples. It's not even erotic, her make up looks like she's not healthy.

George Socka's picture

There are 10, 100, 1000 other models who would have been more than happy to take her place.

Jonathan Dear's picture

She was photographed by Max Abadian. http://fashiongonerogue.com/coco-rocha-max-abadian-elle-brazil-may-2012/

She has shot with him before, so I suspect it was the art direction that let them both down. 

And this is like what?? 

http://www.hautfashion.com/files/images/Pirelli-calendar-2008-august.jpg

Showing too little skin???