Too Much Fun With Photoshop: Celebrity retouching and model morphing is a hot topic right now, let’s explore the good and bad of it
A former model and now a professional retoucher, Sharon Daniels has been on both sides of the business when it comes to airbrushing or retouching a photo.
She opens up about when Photoshop retouching or airbrushing is excess and when it honestly makes for a better editorial or commercial photograph. — S.H.
Photoshopped Into Oblivion: the scandal, the controversy, the ethics…
Lately there has been much debate and discussion about retouching’s perceived effects on society. Is retouching the equivalent of steroid use in baseball? Should magazine advertisements display retouching disclaimers?
Magazines and advertisers create the ideal through which many women and men view the unspoiled body and flawless facial features.
For women, perfection is a size 0. Considering the average woman in the United States is a size 14, subscribing to society’s beauty standard is generally unattainable. The average person doesn’t have a snowball’s chance on South Beach of looking like the person on the magazine cover. In fact, without the magic of retouching, neither does the model on the magazine cover.
Consider a few lines from one of Seth Godin’s recent blogs:
“Marketers seek to seduce. So do painters, authors and job seekers. The most important thing to understand about seduction is this: it only works when the other person cooperates, contributes and is at some level interested in being seduced.”
Why condemn retouching? Perhaps we should critique the whole process.
Let’s take a look at what creating an image for advertising entails, and why it is so difficult to produce perfection.
First, an idea is born. The client and the ad agency muddle through many phases of planning and replanning. Next, a team of the best artists in the industry come together to create a concept utilizing the guidelines set by the client and the ad agency.
The team would include:
- a. The photographer…He or she may shoot with an approach and style that the client feels is right for the particular job. The photographer may have a handful of assistants to help out during the shoot.
- b. Hairstylist and makeup-artist…on hand to help create the desired physical appearance envisioned by the client.
- c. Wardrobe stylist…racks of clothing, props if necessary.
- d. The Talent. A photogenic model is key to creating the image. If the model can’t perform well in front of the camera, or he or she is void of emotion or soul, no amount of retouching is going to produce perfection for the project.
- e. Finally, the professional RETOUCHER…
As you can see, if you are going to criticize retouching, you may as well critique the whole process.
Of course it is the case that at times retouching is taken to the extreme. An example of going a bit too far may be when a person is drastically retouched, perhaps made to look a decade younger, and then have the image used to sell an age defying creme.
One day we may see advertisers placing warnings on retouched images, similar to tobacco and cigarette companies.
Retouching Ethics in Marketing and Advertising…
If magazines and advertisers are forced to ban retouching altogether it would obviously create economic hardship for the retouching industry. My personal opinion is that adding a disclaimer is better than an outright ban on retouching.
Photoshop has opened the door for those models whom nature may not have blessed with perfectly symmetrical features or the naturally flawless body. Advertising clients who are looking for a model with supermodel Christy Turlington‘s perfect looks, but at a substantially lower rate, are happy to know that they can tweak an image with the magic of Photoshop and professional retouching. — Sharon Daniels, The Skin Perfecter