Are Enhanced Ads a Misuse of Photoshop?

While YouTubing (I’m not sure if that is a word) recently, I ran across a two part video that shocked the hell out of me. The videos, “The Photoshop Effect” and “The Photoshop Effect 2: Controversy,” depict a young woman as she gets a series of pictures taken for a Photoshop demonstration. After taking the photos, the photographer (who is also the digital artist) gives her a walkthrough of how celebrity pictures are manipulated and altered before they’re published. He tells her that most superstars have their own graphic designers who spend their time smoothing, erasing, and editing their photos until there isn’t as much as a speck of imperfection visible to consumers.

We all know that there is a lot of hot air being blown at us from advertisers, but how far do they really go? Take a look!

These videos made me think: is it really appropriate that there are no disclosures on photos that are extremely edited? In most cases, these “perfect” photos are setting unrealistic goals that most people will never be able to reach. It would already be hard enough to look like a movie star without Photoshop but it’s downright impossible when the images you compare yourself to are digitally enhanced to this extent! The sad thing is that most people have no idea how much celebrity photos are manipulated before publication, so they could go on forever thinking that they should compare themselves to the images they see in magazines and online.

Some opposers feel that Photoshop should be banned because of this. While I don’t feel it would be effective or possible to ban Photoshop, I do agree that there should be some sort of disclosure saying that the image has been digitally altered.

What do you think? Did you know that celeb photos are altered this drastically?

Image Credits


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  1. Cybernetic SAM

    I can honestly say that I think it is beyond wrong that the extreme alteration of models (whom have nothing wrong with them in the first place) images. This perpetuates the impossible american standard of unattainable beauty. This is one of the reason so many women have such a deep rooted disatisfaction with themselves, when you compare yourself to something that the end product isn’t even a real human beings image, and market it like it is what is “Supposed to be” We are marketing a farse that is so beyond wrong it would be hard to EVER come back from. There is another video of this Beautiful girl very much like the one above whom they photoshop to the point she looks NOTHING like the photograph, who says this is ok. However, it was so contraversial to have normal looking women in ads as we all saw when Dove had launced its campaign years ago. There is an amazing documentary that ties in beauty marketing and all the bad things that come hand-inhand with this pecific type of ads, called America the Beautiful it is really informative. Watch the trailer!

    I would strongly reccomend this for EVERYONE it talks A LOT about advertising and how we can change the standards.

  2. QLP Jill

    You have no idea how much this sort of stuff pisses me off. Like you said – as if it wasn’t hard/impossible enough to compare ourselves to celebrities, now we find out that all of their pictures are drastically altered from the start. What are we gaining from these unrealistic expectations? And how is it legal to publish these photos (without a disclaimer) when they’ve been changed so much? I mean, that girl from the video looked like a completely different person by the time the editor was done…and she was gorgeous to begin with!

    I’ve known young girls with self esteem issues, and I can tell you that they HONESTLY believe they could look like the women on the covers of magazines…if they were only thinner or had a smaller nose or a bigger bust, etc. In other words, they feel inferior to a fake picture, and it’s SO sad. I wish they could just see themselves as beautiful the way they are and not aspire to grow up and opt for dozens of plastic surgeries to change their appearances based on deceptive photographs.

    Speaking of which, I’d like to see a celebrity photo shoot featuring pictures that are 100% natural and not retouched…it would be nice to see celebs the way they actually look!

    Thanks for writing a post about this issue, QLP Kid. Nice work. 🙂

  3. JJ "Suite G"

    The argument that we perpetuate an unattainable standard for young women to live up to is definitely more and more relevant this day and age, what with digital alterations becoming a mandatory practice in the commercial, television and film industries. Manipulated imagery of this nature most likely wreaks havoc on a woman’s sense of self worth. And the marketing departments responsible for these tactics are probably well aware of the fact that the images they’re putting on billboards and in magazines are essentially lies.

    The problem is that there’s really no individual (or even a group of individuals) at fault any longer. The digital manipulation showcased in these videos is just the most recent development in a practice that’s become more commonplace and accepted over the past few decades–“accepted” as a viable marketing strategy, that is.

    If one cosmetics line, for example, decides to suddenly switch gear and promote their product in a more honest fashion, it would be seen first and foremost as a “risk.” After all, to keep ideal beauty just out of reach means to keep the consumer (in this case, women) always coming back for more.

    ***It’s not acceptable or justifiable by any means. That’s just the likely rationale behind the curtain. At the end of the day, it’s just sad.

    The times they are a-changin’.

  4. Bret Bonnet

    I wish I had my very own personal Photoshop artist – JK! 🙂

    Maybe that’s the trick to beauty these days; don’t work out, don’t eat healthy… just make sure your personal Photoshop artist is always on hand to erase and touch up those love handles and sun spots on demand!

    I agree with Ian that some kind of disclosure should be made. This is a REAL issue among many Americans and I think allowing this to go unregulated just perpetuates the problem more and more.

    In the end, I see BOTH arguments however. I mean, after all; at what point in time does it become the government’s full time responsibility to regulate common sense. I mean, just tune in to the Late Night Show or the Tonight Show one random week night – the guests on stage NEVER look like they do in the movies or the cover of magazines. If you can’t figure out how Actor A on the Tonight Show was transformed into Actor A 2.0 on the cover of Vogue magazine without taking Photoshop into consideration – I think we’ve got a BIGGER problem on our hands! 🙂

    Finally, and I’m not sure if this is a self esteem thing or not, but if the retouching of photos was outlawed, everyone would then be held to the same standards… Beauty would become so much more natural, achievable, and HUMAN.

    That’s probably it… if the cover on magazine ABC looked “normal” would you still buy it/aspire to be that person? Maybe they need Photoshop to create that “exclusivity”.

    What REALLY blows my mind is, how do these people BECOME models in the first place? I mean the before and after effects are sometimes SO dramatic – it’s kind of like anyone from Shrek to Christina Aguilera could become a modeling sensation overnight thanks to Photoshop, so why not me?!?! 🙂

    PS. Don’t forget our present administration got in trouble for doctoring photos during the BP oil spill. They tried to make the worlds largest oil spill looking like a theme park at Disneyland!

  5. Andrew Sauer

    I agree that photoshop should not/could not be banned but a disclosure is something that would be good to add to the photo. Once people realize that these photos are being photoshopped hopefully they will be less likely to strive towards looking like the people in the photos do. While it’s not a bad thing to strive to look like that, the extent at which people are going to look like that is something that needs to be taken into consideration.

  6. Tim G

    There absolutely should be a label that mentions if a photo has been photoshopped or altered in any way. Not only is this seen with women advertisements, it is also seen with men advertisements as well. These digitally altered photos are creating the so called standard to what a “good looking person should look like”. However, in reality this standard is virtually almost impossible to reach. These digitally altered photos are causing everyday people to go to extreme measures to try and look like these people featured. It is because of this that i feel it is necessary to mention when a photo has been digitally altered or not.

  7. Vernon

    I don’t see a need for the disclosure on Photoshoped ads, look at what smokers do w/the Surgeon Generals warning. Photoshop artist are no different than a makeup artist, concealing using shadows to make areas look bigger or smaller. Outlawing Adobe will only mean outlawing Loreal. The public always tries to make this seem like a female issue when in fact males have this issue as well. Were we take pills and injections to workout more only to put ourselves in an early grave.

  8. Snookie

    Sorry Bret, but I don’t think this is telling us that the trick to beauty is to not eat healthy or exercise. I bet those models work out all the time and have very rigorous schedules with trainers to help them keep in shape and a nutritionist planning out there meals. (Sure not all of them do, but I’m sure some do, and def. some celebs.) The point is however that no matter how much working out or eating healthy we do, it is impossible to look like these pictures.

    I tried to find some of these photoshop changes of males but couldn’t find any good ones. I can only image how much a guys body changes with photoshop. In fact, I had some pretty lovely examples of the jersey shore men on my computer when I came in this morning. Let me tell you… The Situation looks a lot better in my picture then he did on Dancing with the Stars. (I don’t watch this regularly, but have seen a few episodes). So it goes for more than just females these days. Don’t believe me…. hit up the gym and I’m sure you can find a few examples of males that are obsessed with their bodies.

  9. Lauren

    Just saying, when my cousin was 9, she told me she was fat (and she was clearly not fat). So this all might have a larger impact on children that can’t tell the difference between real pictures and photoshop.

  10. Marlon Limosnero

    Nope…! Photoshop was created to enhance and give extra life to images being edited, imagine if the endorsed images are uneasy to the eyes, do you think it would be appreciated…? I don’t think so…

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