Photoshop: How much is too much?

Posted by Lindsay Dressen

Photo by: Michael Thompson, Allure

Most of us know that the photos in magazines are retouched and photoshopped to the nth degree.  Jennifer Aniston was featured on the February cover of Allure not exactly looking like herself.

Aniston is known for her natural, girl- next-door beauty and has been featured on many magazine covers over the years. The cover and inside photos in Allure are retouched to the point where she looks somewhat inhuman.

Writer Justin Fenner of Styleite says, “the eyes were the first and biggest tip off.” He says Aniston actually has brown eyes, but Allure photoshopped her eyes to be a shade of turquoise. In one of the inside photos with her stomach exposed, her nose and mouth look distorted.

Photo by: Michael Thompson, Allure

Photo by: Michael Thompson, Allure

Michael K of Dlisted says it looks as if the art director was “a pedophile with a Snuggle Bear fetish.” The setting and retouching of this photo shoot has gotten press, but not the type Allure or Aniston were hoping for.

Fenner refers to her as a “Barbie doll hybrid.” She is very misrepresented in these photos. Most think it’s shocking Aniston would have approved these photos before they ran to press, but mishaps of over photoshopped photos happen often. Celebrities and models normally don’t say about what runs to press.

Last summer, Lance Armstrong was featured on the cover of Outside magazine. Whitney Pastorek, writer at Entertainment Weekly, says that Outside Magazine added a “38. BFD” to Armstrong’s plain blue shirt. 38 stands for his age, while BFD is an acronym for big f—ing deal, according to The Huffington Post. He tweeted, ”Just saw the cover of the new Outside mag w/ yours truly on it. Nice photoshop on a plain t-shirt guys. That’s some lame bullshit. #weak.”

Photo from: The Huffington Post

This makes me question the ethics of Photoshop. I’m sure Armstrong is wondering too. Outside put “Note: Not Armstrong’s real T-Shirt” on the cover as a disclosure. Does this justify the change to the image of his t-shirt? Why did Outside Magazine need to create the shirt? Why didn’t they ask him to wear it for the shoot? Seems to me they would have been shot down.

You can remove something from a background or add something that appears to be real, how is that ethical? What is your stance on adding or subtracting from a picture? Is it OK to retouch someone’s looks to the point where they look inhuman? Is it OK to add something to a picture without the person’s consent?


8 responses to “Photoshop: How much is too much?

  1. Kelly Hendricks

    Wow! Before I read your post, I saw the pictures and I couldn’t even tell who that was. I think there is a fine line between making a few minor touch-ups and transforming someone so they look like a completely different person. I had heard about the Lance situation and I think all this photoshop needs to be taken down a level. Not only can it make people look inhuman, but it makes the magazine readers feel like they have to look a certain way. And that “certain way” is literally impossible to look like considering even the stars with millions of dollar, hairstylists and make-up artists don’t even look that way naturally.

  2. That’s Jennifer Aniston?! She looks nothing like herself, and I find it truly sad that a creative director/photographer/editor would ever let pictures that look like that run in any publication. There is a very fine line between making a few minor changes to a photo and making an entire, often unnecessary overhaul on a photo. I completely agree that over re-touching photos creates an impossible standard for magazine readers, and I think it is a severe detriment to our society. In addition, as is evident in Lance Armstrong’s case, photo re-touching can also create for readers an incorrect, even libelous, view of celebrities and other people in the limelight. Definitely NOT good.

  3. Photo re-touching is unbelievable – we have heard about it with Britney Spears, Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Aniston, Lance Armstrong, etc. True, it “creates an impossible standard for magazine readers”, and I agree that “it is a sever detriment to our society.” However, not all is lost – there have been great PSA opportunities to speak up against the unattainable ideal for the human body, by celebrities that have been photoshopped themselves!

    Britney Spears fought back against the photoshopping issue –
    Kim Kardashian also spoke up when the issue of her retouching was brought to light : .

    At least some celebrities are fighting to make it known to fans that they don’t naturally look like this and that people shouldn’t kill themselves to try and look like it either.

  4. The September 2010 Self cover featured a heavily Photoshopped Kelly Clarkson. Editor-in-Chief Lucy Danziger defended it by saying readers won’t buy magazines that feature untouched models. “I don’t think our stock in trade is journalism,” she said. Here’s a YouTube video of Danziger’s comments.

  5. I really think it’s stupid of magazines to touch-up real people to the point where they don’t even look like themselves. They’re not fooling anyone, everyone knows what Jennifer Aniston really looks like. In cases like hers as well, people like Jennifer Aniston for who she is as well as what she looks like naturally.

    I definitely think the photoshopping has gone too far in magazines and advertisements. I remember coming across an ad for Jessica Simpson’s latest perfume and barely recognizing her. This online article shows the ad and addresses its photoshop job

    I can see the appeal of photoshop being used to create these sort of “inhuman” models. But those have been created as independent works of art, not to pass off as actual representations of real people.

    When you’re messing with someone’s picture, you had better ask for consent. I fully understand Armstrong’s reaction to his magazine cover. It’s insulting at best, but definitely unethical to mess with a picture to the point that the actual subject, the POINT of the cover/advertisement/whatever is almost ENTIRELY fabricated, that’s unethical.

  6. Michael Rutledge

    Wow… I didn’t even realize that was Jennifer Aniston at first glance. It’s a shame, she’s a perfectly beautiful woman just the way she is; photoshopping her image just seems shallow to me. If Allure feels the need to photoshop someone like Jennifer Aniston to that extent, what kind of message does that send to girls? They’re basically saying that you can never be beautiful enough to be seen as you naturally are.

    The second and third pictures of her were a little bit creepy, to be honest. If the people at Allure think that photoshopping a person’s image to the the point of ludicrously is appropriate then they have clearly lost touch with reality.

    I’d hate to see what they would do with my picture!

  7. This is ridiculous. I don’t think it’s ever okay to publish retouched photos without a subject’s consent. Personally, I think it’s false advertising to sell these pictures, seeing that they obviously aren’t entirely real.

    I have a lot of respect for Seventeen magazine, who is releasing a “Real Girl” model hunt. They will feature “real girls” on the covers of their magazine starting Fall 2012. Granted, who knows what their definition of a real girl is, but I think it’s a step in the right direction. Who knows, they may end up being more Photoshopped than Aniston. I sincerely hope not, for self-esteem’s sake.

  8. Pingback: Tweets that mention Photoshop: How much is too much? | Media Editing --

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