21 March 2013

Photoshop: The great lie?

BEFORE: Original image of Kareena Kapoor at an event, AFTER: Photoshopped for a magazine cover

Photoshopping and retouching in the fashion and beauty industry has always got a bad rap, and although some of the points made against it are fair, hailing from that industry I've felt like I should defend it. After all, people are smart enough to know when something's been retouched and tweaked, right...?

 Having worked in the fashion industry and being thrust back into it just recently again, it occurred to me that Photoshop is actually, slowly distorting our view on what's real and what's fake. It all began when I first started interning for a major fashion magazine (I won't name them, but they're quite big!) I was really excited to meet one of their models at a shoot because she was quite well known in the industry and I'd always admird her shoots and beautiful, photogenic face. So you can imagine my surprise when I greeted an ordinary (pretty nevertheless) girl at reception and led her to the studio. It only dawned on me who she was when I was looking at the spread several months after! And even then I had to really look up close to see the 'real' her, behind this mask of Photoshop. Yes hair and makeup probably played a big part in her transformation but she was still recognisable on the shoot. 

During that internship I went on to see retouchers re-apply 'bad' makeup and swap one model's head with another because her body wasn't right. I've gone on to work on shoots with celebrities who are beautiful in the flesh but don't photograph well, until the retoucher's waved his magic wand over the image that is... I've even seen models shoot without makeup, only to get it applied with Photoshop after. And it's not just models and celebs that are using this tool to hide imperfections. Photoshopping and distorting one's looks has become so commonplace that there's even an app to help 'tidy up' your profile pics. You probably didn't need it but when faced with the option of a more beautiful, 'perfect' version of yourself, which do you pick? 

Some of you are probably thinking - so what?! And to some extent I agree, magazines aren't bought to look at 'ordinary' people - we can do that for free, sitting by a window seat in Starbucks (in a non-stalkerish way obvs). As readers we want to feel inspired and look at beautiful imagery, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's when you're having your bridal makeup trial and despairing as to why you don't look like the model on the cover of Asiana that it starts to become a problem. Newsflash - even that model on the cover doesn't look like that! She's been slathered in layers of makeup, had metres of hair extensions clipped in and a helping hand from Photoshop. 

LEFT: Film poster of 'Heroine', RIGHT: A film still from Heroine 
So where does it stop? And who do we blame? Asian magazines could stop Photoshopping their shoots but then the client paying for the shoot wouldn't be too pleased and the reader will most probably turn the page to look for something 'nicer'. As with all things in life I'd say moderation is key. Photoshop should be used to accentuate amazing makeup skills or a beautiful fashion shot rather than distort it, because readers need to see some reality in what they're buying into.

Blimely, that was deep! If you've read on 'til the end well done! Now, tell me - what are your thoughts on Photoshop? 

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