Friday, 3 June 2011

Let's talk about airbrushing........

A lot has been made of the airbrushing that is so prevalent in magazines, Kate Winslet getting slimmed down for GQ, mascara ads featuring eyelash extensions etc. The most recent example I can think of is the controversy surrounding the Royal Wedding Grazia cover, with suggestion being made that Kate Middleton had been made to look even thinner than she already is in her bridal gown.

The debate seems to be that this is giving women in general unrealistic expectations, striving for perfection when that perfection we see on a magazine cover doesn't exist in real life, resulting in low self esteem. I have heard this issue talked about so often on TV and radio that I believe it has been done to death.

Does Kate's waist look airbrushed?
Instead, what I want to talk about is the increasing rise in personal airbrushing.

Advances in technology have given the average computer owner the ability to subtly transform their holiday snaps or birthday photos before they are uploaded onto Facebook for friends to see. Relatively harmless in itself, but could this trend actually be more damaging to our self-image than the more publicised magazine airbrushing?

To be perfectly honest, I hadn't given the issue much thought until this week. I don't have a Facebook account and apart from photos for the blog, I haven't taken any of me since university. What brought it to my attention was the discovery of Photoshop. I've been struggling away for the past couple of weeks attempting to create a website to sell my handmade cards from and thought Photoshop would aid the process.

I vaguely recall reading some criticism a long time ago about bloggers and YouTube 'gurus' using Photoshop behind the scenes. As I didn't have the software, I didn't really understand what the problem was. However, after just a few hours spent playing around with it, I can now see what people were talking about.

Trying to get to grips with Photoshop, I followed some of the guided tools and one of them was called perfect portrait. With a name like that it was obviously the first thing I tried! Previously, all I have ever done with photos is cropped and rotated. This was something else. I can now blur to get rid of lines and wrinkles, add glow, erase spots and sun damage, whiten teeth, slim my face and body and even darken my eyelashes and eyebrows. What's more, it is so simple to do. I am in awe of this new discovery and have wondered why it had taken me so long to find what others had been talking about for ages.

One of the pictures I contemplated Photoshopping: Love the photo because I look happy, hate the double chin & shine!
I thought back to all my old photos, the ones from my last bout of acne aged 20, shiny ones from nights out, ball pictures that would have been great if I hadn't had a double chin (see above). I had a fleeting thought that I could go and redo all these, create a more polished version of myself (basically prettier) but then I stopped.

I don't think that personal photos should be about perfection. They are memories in visual form, a captured moment. My face was shiny because I'd had a wonderful time dancing all night, my face was flushed because I was stood next to a guy I'd had a crush on for months. Why would I want to alter that? I like looking like me, not an airbrushed version, the real me. It is said a picture is worth a thousand words, but is that still true of an airbrushed picture?

Another picture with Photoshop potential, but it holds happy memories, even if I am shiny, slightly flushed and with devil eyes!
I know quite a few people though who will only put airbrushed photos of themselves on Facebook. Only a few weeks ago I was speaking to a wedding photographer and he was saying how the most time consuming part of the job is the airbrushing. Although people may not always explicitly ask for it, they now expect it as part of the service. I'm not saying whether this is right or wrong, each to their own. However, as has been the case with magazines, will women not feel worse in this sea of airbrushing when they look in the mirror? Photoshop can be incredibly subtle, and I for one had enviously looked at my friend's perfect skin in photos. Until I saw her in person and realised it was fiction.

Could we soon find ourselves in a time where people are almost unrecognisable from their picture?

I for one will be sticking to the line drawing and pop art features on Photoshop, one of the major reasons being that I would hate someone to have seen a touched up photo of me and then be disappointed when they met me in the flesh. I would much rather it be the other way round, even if that did mean there were some less than flattering pictures of me floating around on the internet.

Have you ever airbrushed any of your own photos? Would you if you had the chance? Do you see any problem with it?


  1. Great editorial! I think you look great in both pics! No photoshop required!

  2. Great post. Most of the jobs I do involve some form of photoshopping. I understand the need for it with the beauty market for example but for personal use I'm not very keen. My wedding photos were photo shopped without my consent as it was assumed that I wanted to look perfect. Yes, I sure did but not in a computer assisted way!

  3. I would never airbrush photographs of myself, but that's just personal preference. Each to their own. When blogging, I want to show my skin and the product(s) as accurately as possible, so airbrushing has no place there either. I completely agree with the reasons you give above - a photograph is a visual record of a point in your life, and if you airbrush it, you airbrush away all the character of the image. People are interesting to look at for reasons other than their beauty. Btw, I think you look gorgeous in both pics!

  4. I agree that it goes too far in magazines and for Facebook, what's the point? For weddings though, the sharp images we have now with modern photography can be shockingly harsh, when you think back to pre- digital days photos were softened by the 'natural' blurring of the image. And in the days of black and white, everyone's skin looked perfect! If I got married again (only one snap exists of my wedding) I totally would.

  5. Just wanted to say that the pic of you with the boy you are crushing on is adorable! What a sweet pic - he's pretty cute too! ;) Thanks for adding me to your blog roll.

  6. What an excellent and thought-provoking post!
    I never considered manipulating photos I post on Facebook, and I agree about pics being representations of moments laden with personal meaning...altering them just does not seem right.
    As for beauty blogs, I generally dislike the practice, but (and it's a huge "but") I respect the fact that blogging entails a considerable amount of personal exposure. So, if someone feels better and more secure by using Photoshop, then fair enough. They dare do what I don't in the first place, so I'm not about to criticise...
    Have a lovely weekend!
    Nina x

  7. I agree with product doctor that the photos of you are lovely and require no editing.

    I edit some of my product photos because I am a crappy photographer. I like to remove spots and adjust the exposure and lessen shadows. I also tweak the colors so what I see on the computer matches what I see in the compact or palette or whatever. The only thing I have ever done to my face is crop lipstick shots to remove my mustache! It's not something I ever notice in real life (and the downy hairs are blonde), but when using digital macro, I look like Hitler!

    Great post. I am against such wholesale facial retouching in general. It's just not real and sends the wrong message, because none of us has a chance in hell of looking like that, except for maybe one brief period at 19 (assuming there's no acne).

  8. This is a great post and something that has really made me think. I dont photoshop (ok I take the red eyes out but thats it) because I dont own the technology. I've never been much of a fan but I think you make some excellent points!

  9. Product Dr - Glad you liked it, makes a bit of a change from endless reviews I think x

    Simone - I can't believe you weren't asked first if you wanted airbrushing! With your makeup skills I'm sure you looked flawless anyway x

    Sarah - Thank you, I do wonder if we didn't have things like facebook and internet dating etc whether people would bother airbrushing personal pics. So many judgements are made now before you meet people in person so I guess that is why so many want to look their absolute best.

    MunichJoolz - What an interesting point, my mparents only have a few photos of their wedding, in black and white, and it is flattering. Modern photography can be very unforgiving (as I see whenever I do a FOTD pic!) if you don't know enough about it. I would love to be able to do more with my camera than stick it on the auto setting x

    Hopelessly Devoted To Makeup - I definitely thought he was pretty cute at the time (still do really) but nothing ever happened. Probably a good thing as a week after that pic I found out he'd had a girlfriend for 3 years which he had neglected to mention. Cute quickly turned to arsehole! x

    Nina - I completely agree, I have no issue with people photoshopping, I just wonder why the focus is always on the magazines? In a way I think photoshopping a few spots or a mole out of a beauty blog picture is different (as long as you aren't reviewing concealer!)to consistently altering dramatically your personal pics as blog photos are out there for the whole world to see! x

    Zuzu - Thanks for your kind words. You sound like you have a much better idea of what oyu are doing than me re. photoshop. It sounds a really good idea to use it for what you are suggesting. I think I need to read the user guide that came with it! Aren't lipstick pics the worst when you see them full size? It is horrific, although I guess no one would really see you like that unless they came up to you with a magnifying glass! Macro mode is scary full stop. Oh to have the skin I had at 19 again, was in between acne bouts and before sun damage! x

    Luv2smilexo - Glad you enjoyed it x

    Thanks for all the comments everyone, is a little daunting trying something new for a change and I did hesitate a little over whether or not to post on a potentially controversial issue. As the response has been favourable I might try it again in the future.