We all knew the magazines and advertisements that our eyes glanced upon, were just about as real as a mouse named Mickey – who happens to talk and be friends with ducks and dogs.
We knew that photo editing was widespread – specific editing roles assigned to a specialist, and we yet still allowed ourselves to feel insecure and ashamed of our own natural images. And then, photo editing became a global normality.
Filters, airbrushing tools, home lighting equipment, photo editing apps including the infamous Photoshop; our phones might not be equivalent to digital camera quality, but we can certainly apply some magic.
My first taste of photo editing was back in high school. I could not afford Photoshop and apps were practically non-existent. My computer had a basic brighten, contrast, saturate and hue feature. My sister managed to track down an airbrushing tool – perfect only it was hand retouch – meaning we had to scroll our mouse (those old devices) along our photos and do all the smoothing.
Certain parts of my face looked like wax-work and other parts appeared to have 10 different skin textures. In no circumstances, was it acceptable at the time to admit to editing – equally however it was not reasonable to upload images with spots and bad skin.
Currently, popularity of photo sharing on social-media, has made it admissible (sometimes boastful) to discuss your filter and editing tricks. Well, occasionally admissible.
Is it not all the same?
People are so quick to criticise a celebrity who has possibly used Photoshop. Beyonce, Mariah Carey and the Kardashian women have been ridiculed for uploading themselves along uneven tabletops and wonky grass.
People love to admit when they are not wearing makeup and when a photo is natural; whilst angling their faces, capturing the best lighting and adorning false eyelashes. A person sweeping on layers of foundation, is that really different from a person removing their dark circles digitally? Why is only some editing plausible?
Is photo editing ever wrong if we prefer it?
Image manipulation has been questionable – particularly in fashion for a number of years. Beauty redefined discussed how photoshopping is editing our minds.
It is blamed for the rise in eating disorders and insecurity in young girls. Instagram has now taken over from magazines in enhancing our self-doubt. The model Iskra Lawrence has been very vocal about image retouching and said “seeing retouched images of myself gave me even more insecurities and body image issues”.
There is no question that photo editing fuels a lack of confidence within ourselves – from comparing our previous edited photos to staring at another’s, although this is what culture demands. Popular influencers display contrived imagery. They book photo shoots wearing outfits that are entirely free and then creates poses which make them look as appealing as possible.
They are anything but natural with their immaculately positioned coffee cups and acrylic nails, their walk down a street pose pretending they cannot see a camera pretence. Several are now applauded for showing ‘non Instagram type imagery’. They do a side-by-side of “real” followed by “Instagram”. They receive a vast amount of praise for being truthful, all the while continuing to post the fake and the glamorous shots.
We cannot blame them though, because it is people who demand this. The same people who edit their sunset photography and then complain that social-media does not depict reality. The same people whose favourite YouTube stars have expensive equipment which blurs their imperfections on camera – who then discuss how they hate unnatural beauty looks.
When online clothing store Missguided revealed models wearing lingerie with stretch marks, they obtained mixed reviews. The Sun reported that a few Instagram comments accused the company of photoshopping the stretch marks in (a successful marketing ploy) in addition to negative responses.
Are we all just photo editing victims?
It is easy to say “I think it is silly to airbrush pictures” when you have flawless skin. Or “I do not mind showing spots” when you have not had severe acne.
A certain percentage wants to receive admiration and attention – irrelevant of whether it is really accurate. It is addictive to manipulate your photos and then wake up to adorning comments. On the other hand, most are more concerned about being accepted. I used to airbrush my images because I was sick of my spots taking centre stage. I would work on cosmetic counters and customers would refuse to take my advice as I had acne.
It is recent that I have allowed scars and marks on my face to show. But again, I know the lighting that helps. I would not upload if my skin was going through a breakout.
Can we actually blame a person for photo editing? There are Instagram photos I see and think – wow, how unbelievably obvious that you have smoothed your skin twice-over and whitened your teeth – they are as white as my brand new dress.
And then I ponder – what has made them want to alter their photo? What have they experienced that has made them feel uncomfortable. It is easy to sit and attack – much harder if you are in their shoes.
Can we move on from photo editing hypocrisy?
Photo editing is not a cure or the cause; it is a plaster.
The bigger issue is our desire for perfection. If we didn’t click on the flawless faces and unrealistic bodies (the edited and not the natural); if we stopped judging flaws and stopped taking a gazillion shots until we found the right one, we would see an increase in original photography.
I have the utmost admiration of others who dedicate hours to their bodies and spend time on their appearance. If you got it – flaunt it right? But when celebrities with abs and faultless skin go through vigorous editing, you know there is a problem with our perception.
I am against an influencer or star pretending that they lost weight or improved a part of their physicality with a product if it based on a lie. I cannot see this changing anytime soon as this boosts their income.
Everyone (including advertisers) will continue to publish with photo editing, because we are ingrained to prefer it. If you want to be mad at the fake and contorted photos on social-media – do not do any editing yourself. Your reasoning for photo editing might stem from different branches, but it is all tied to the same tree.