Editor of the Australian Women’s Weekly Helen McCabe said Photoshopping models was good business, but her magazine tried to do it a little less than others.
But where do editors draw the line between ‘mild’ touch-ups and completely distorting the reality of a photoshoot?
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, McCabe said said it was about using the tool responsibly:
“It has never been easy to be a teenage girl. But it has never been harder than it is today.
Young women have always felt insecure about the way they look and their place in the world. But when you throw modern-day pressures into the mix – 10-year-olds pouting on the cover of Vogue, perverts stalking Facebook, simulated sex on video clips – you have a generation desperately needing understanding, support and guidance from its elders.
Never before have girls been sexualised so young. Toddlers are being paraded in beauty pageants. Sexy clothes are being marketed to “tweens”. Teenagers are saving up to have breast implants, liposuction, nose jobs. Girls are shaving all their pubic hair off in year seven. Sending nude pictures is the new flirting for kids as young as 12. Boys are getting their sex education from online porn.
These aren’t easy issues to address. We need smart education, strong parenting – and we need to set good examples.
One of the things that most worries young women is their body image. A Mission Australia survey of people aged 11 to 24 found girls were more concerned about the way they look than anything else.
As adults, we forget how crippling this insecurity can be. The older you get, the more you understand that it’s impossible to look like a stick-figure on a fashion magazine cover, and the less you want to anyway. You realise you’re lucky if your body is healthy, even if you would still like to lose 5 kilos.”
If you needed a refresher on how Photoshopping works and the effect it has, check this out:
McCabe recognised this fact but still maintained Photoshop, and how it was applied to images, was the silver bullet that would fix these ongoing problems.
“I know readers want change. They demand less airbrushing and more real women. And we would love to be able to deliver this to them every month. But it’s not that simple.
Firstly, many celebrities insist on having their photographs retouched. Some will not allow their pictures to be used without it. Many photographers insist, understandably, on carrying out their own retouching. Since I have been at The Weekly, only two have embraced the idea of no retouching. In one case Sarah Murdoch she was then criticised.
Mia Freedman was the other. But it’s impossible to find a picture of an overseas celebrity that hasn’t been retouched.
Secondly, while women might ask for honest photographs, they buy beautiful ones.
On a stand full of international magazines, we compete with Vanity Fair, Italian Vogue and dozens of others. They all use Photoshop. People want to buy magazines with dazzling covers.
Magazines are often in the firing line on photoshop, but they are not the only culprits. Advertisers do it. Film and television do it. Newspaper photos are often adjusted to make the colours more dramatic.
News and lifestyle websites use retouched images, often without knowing, because they have bought them from a photo agency.
The technology is so accessible, any of us can air brush our own photographs.
The genie is out of the bottle when it comes to photoshop and some argue where do you draw the line? Why not ban makeup, soft lighting, Botox and boob jobs as well?
But I believe there is a case for using the technology more responsibly.
At the Weekly when we retouch photographs we do it lightly. Whenever we alter an image, we declare it on the page, and we encourage celebrities to accept lightly touched images.
I know that’s not going far enough for some people. But magazines (like fashion) are a business.”
But it’s not just mag editors who are doing the tweaking and fudging. As Mia Freedman wrote in the Sunday Telegraph, it comes from the photographers too:
“I didn’t win myself any friends among my former magazine colleagues this week when I published a post on Mamamia about the latest Photoshop trick being used to deceive us all when we look at many magazine images and advertisements: stretching. Now, even models who are already way taller than the average woman are being elongated with Photoshop to appear many, many centimeters taller. And slimmer. Stretched.
Mag editors came out swinging, insisting they do NOT stretch models but if you look at the proportions of many of the models in these fashion images between ankle and knee, knee and waist or ankle and waist, there’s certainly SOMETHING abnormal going on. Unless we’ve suddenly been invaded by 7 foot model aliens.
In their defence, it’s true that editors and magazines aren’t necessarily doing the stretching themselves. It’s the photographers. All successful fashion photographers now insist on doing their own ‘digital post-production’ ie: Photoshopping. As pure aesthetes who see no problem with using a computer to create an impossible and fake portrayal of women (usually models who are already deemed among the most genetically gifted in the world), photographers have no problem stretching, smoothing, carving and recreating the female form.
And since magazines compete ferociously with each other for the services of the ‘best’ fashion photographers, these men (and a few women) wield extreme power and influence to do what the hell they like with their images after a magazine shoot. This is very bad news for women. At the very least, Photoshopping should be declared, next to the name of the photographer credit. And editors should start saying no.
Imagine if we were surrounded by images of naked men and they’d all been ‘stretched’? You can bet there would be a law against it before you could say “unfair comparison”.
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What do you think of Helen’s message? Is there a happy middle-ground? Can the magazine industry be trusted to self-police using retouching responsibly?
- Presumably, responsible use of Photoshop doesn’t mean stretching models to make them appear taller.
- You’ve heard of Photoshop, but have you seen Fotoshop? The miracle beauty regime that actually works…