beauty

13 women share their filtered and unfiltered photos.

I consider myself a loud and proud feminist. 

I've attended the marches and read the books. I've stopped apologising for speaking up and backspaced all the exclamation marks that make me appear! More! Friendly! 

But there's one aspect I struggle to reconcile within myself. 

I still fall victim to the ridiculous and unattainable beauty standards that are expected of women. And not to shift the blame, but it's all Instagram's fault.

Watch: Kelly McCarren shows her face before and after filters. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia

Let me explain. 

The power of photoshop is nothing new. Companies have been making women look 'more desirable' for as long as photo editing has existed.

But as a 20-year-old born of the tech age, social media has brought those unattainable standards to the mainstream and we need to talk about it.

I was in my first year of high school when a little old app named FaceTune first launched and if you're unfamiliar, it was photoshop for the everyday-woman. 

At 12, friends and I would trawl through social media in search of someone's editing gone wrong. Not the Kardashians or another influencer boasting millions of followers, but school friends.  

We'd find an unnatural bend in the wall behind a smiling pre-teen, created when they tried to cinch in a waist that didn't exist, and boy were we brutal.

The only thing worse than being caught out for 'face-tuning' your waist (which of course, we all did) would have been having no waist. But that was only the start. 

In 2015, snapchat released 'filters' and suddenly social media apps were flooded with selfies featuring cartoon dog ears. 

Why? Well the filter not only covered noses and added cute ears on the top of people's heads, but it blurred women's skin and thinned out their faces.

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Kendall Jenner on Snapchat in 2016. Image: Snapchat. 

It changed the game for women. 

Today when you open the camera of a social media app of your choice, filters appear that change your face instantly.

Some are silly and fun but most are very subtly changing the shape and texture of your face. I don't know about you, but it feels like any photo that hasn't got a filter on it just doesn't cut it for me anymore. 

So I decided to chat to 12 women about their relationship with filters and photo editing. Do they love them or loathe them? Where do they draw the line between too much and just enough? 

Here's what they had to say.

Carly Sophia @_carly_sophia_

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Image: Supplied. 

"I look at chucking a filter on a photo in the same light as kicking my kids crap under the couch before I have people over. It’s just a bit of light housekeeping - nothing hectic, just a teeny tidy up so I look like I’ve got my s**t together!

"I use my socials mainly for work where I post beauty reviews so it’s pretty important to show real unedited skin. 

"When purchasing products I want to know that they do what they say they will - I don’t think I’d make a very trustworthy critic if I was flogging skincare alongside heavily edited, unnaturally pore-less blurred out photos. 

"I mainly edit to adjust the lighting - make them more aesthetic so my feed looks polished. You can see that in my first image (for a lipstick review) I’ve smoothed a bit of congestion on my cheek since it wasn’t relevant to the product. On my second pic, which was before a facial I’ve just left the skin since that was the focus and I’ve just brightened it up a bit.

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"So yeah, I embrace a filter here and there - I’m not a saint, am I!? But I wouldn’t go as far as changing my features or undergoing a full FaceTune. Not only do I lack the technical know-how but I can always tell when it’s been done, and it just makes me feel a little bit sad.

"Huge lips, ridiculously thin noses... who decided that was the epitome of beauty anyway? (Men, probably). Too much female aesthetic is forged in the fires of the patriarchy. Zero stars."

Kelly McCarren @kellyleemccarren

"Regarding the filters that appear on Instagram stories, it's 2021, I honestly don't understand how someone could think that's what someone actually looks like. 

"It SAYS what filter is being used in the top corner of the app. I think it's fine to use them, but if you have an audience, I also think it's important to jump on without one occasionally, so people remember what you look like without one. 

"Of course, you don't have to, you don't have to do anything. It's your platform and other people shouldn't be dictating your usage of filters. If they don't like it, unfollow. 

"But I do think with an audience comes responsibility, which is why you need to show the real you as well as the filters. 

"Regarding photos, I don't like it when people alter their body because it's not as obvious as a filter to the average person using Instagram. 

Image: Supplied. 

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"So, while I completely get why they would then compare themselves to others and feel s**t, there is no clear indicator that the person doesn't actually look like that (unless there's a bendy wall behind them lol).

"If you want to remove something like a pimple though, go ahead, it probably would only have been noticed by you initially. 

"I don't Facetune my pictures (I used to edit my nose, but not anymore!), but I will use a filter because I think it makes the picture prettier, and it's my page so I get to do what I like with it.

"Overall, I find people arguing about filters really boring. 

"When someone says 'oh you look better without a filter', it's like 'um f**k off Susan, I didn't ask you and I didn't say I didn't'.

"If you don't like them, don't use them, and if you don't like people that use them, don't follow them. 

"Simple as that."

Lacey-Jade Christie @laceyjadechristie

Image: Supplied. 

"Personally, I don't use filters on my pictures when I post. 

"I think that the overuse of beauty filters is perpetuating this idea of the 'Kardashian face' and people are even taking filtered photos to plastic surgeons as examples of how they would like to look. So it's a no from me. 

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"I will sometimes edit the colours of the photos that I take and up the sharpness but I refuse to use apps like Facetune because they promote unrealistic standards of beauty and body shape. 

"I'm all about bodies, rolls, wrinkles and eye bags. Let's be more real with each other.

"I do, however, love the filter that turns me into a fiery-eyed Aries queen... because I am."

Naa-Lamle @lvmley

Image: Supplied.

"I find that although my opinion about them is ever-changing, one thing I stand firm on is the fact that filters without a doubt perpetuate unrealistic beauty standards. 

"I'm not talking about the fun filters that turn you into a Teletubbie or make you look like handsome Squidward. I'm talking about the filters that give you perfect blemish-free skin, bigger lips, false lashes, and a literal nose job. 

"When you're using those filters on a daily basis, you fall into this pattern of not wanting to show your 'real' face anymore and cannot fathom the thought of posting a selfie filterless. 

"Essentially, you fall in love with a face that isn't yours in reality, and I think that's really harmful. 

"Yes, we live in a world where you want to be putting your best self forward on social media, but at what cost? 

"I'm not totally opposed to a bit of Facetune here and there (because no, I didn't wake up like this), but I think these kinds of apps and filters should be used with care."

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Tanika

Image: Supplied. 

"I only use the ‘lighter’ filters when editing my photos. 

"By that I mean the filters that smooth the skin ever so slightly, just to help the complexion. 

"I hate the ones that change your face shape whether it be eye, jaw, lip shape etc. and even eye colour. I don’t want filters or editing software to make me look like a completely different person.

"I hate this ‘perfect world’ we live in. It concerns me greatly. All filters are doing is further damaging our self esteems and mental health."

Nic Hahn @coachnic__

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"I wish I was someone who could simplify filters down to just some harmless fun but try as I might, I can't ignore the fact that their use can be damaging.

"We get upset when celebrities Photoshop images because we know they can be harmful. But somehow that logic is lost when we go to post an Instagram story.

"The face-changing, skin smoothing effects (big or small) are creating more unrealistic beauty standards for our young generation to uphold.

"The more we use them, the more we reinforce the idea that wrinkles and freckles and smile lines are something to be ashamed of.

"Filters can be harmless, yes, but if you're finding that you can't post a photo without one, maybe it's worth a second thought."

Bridgette

Image: Supplied. 

"I hate how I genuinely LOVE the way I look in the filtered version. 

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"It's so depressing that I feel like I look 100 times better with the filter on. I think these types of filters are going to have a huge impact on young people using socials in the future."

Maggie McTeggart @maggie.mcteggart

Image: Supplied. 

"The filter vs filter-free debate is one that I've considered for a while - I even had a filter free week once #shockhorror and polled my community as to what they preferred which surprisingly came back with the majority saying it didn't bother them.

"For me I mainly use filters for the feel of an image - think sepia, slightly grainy tones. 

"Or I use them for things like the date and borders. 

"However, it's undeniable that the by-product of these filters is that they smooth out your face and sometimes add a splodge of makeup that otherwise wouldn't be there (which let's be honest is kinda a godsend when you're running on 5hrs of broken sleep).

"In this day and age (and the fact that Insta Stories it's very clear you've used a filter thanks to the link back in the top left) we all can tell when a filter has been used and know that the real person doesn't look like that, even those ridiculous catfish looking filters.

"As for feed posts where it isn't obvious that a filter has been applied/editing being done is where I think the biggest damage lies. 

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"I edit my images and apply a preset in light room, however I stick only with edits for things like exposure and tone of the image for cohesiveness of my feed." 

A typical photo edit. Image: Supplied. 

"Very rarely would I photoshop my images (think random stray crumbs in an otherwise beautifully plated food or a boldly coloured toy in an otherwise neutral photo of my children) - and when I say very rarely I mean I've maybe done it once in the last year. 

"I refuse to FaceTune or smooth out wrinkles (which I have finally noticed/accepted are here to stay) or worse, edit the shape of my body. 

"These are the elements of editing I think would lead to unrealistic expectations of how someone looks. 

"Although I would like to think we can spot editing a mile away, especially when someone has smoothed their skin to an inch of oblivion, to see these constantly in your feed is bound to make you begin to believe that the edits are real."

Tali

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"I used to use filters all the time but I try not to as much now that I have a daughter, because I want her to feel comfortable in her own skin. 

"If it’s to hide a pimple or something subtle I think that’s fine, although if it’s actually to change your appearance completely then that’s another story."

Vicky

Image: Supplied. 

"I don’t use filters but I do edit my selfies in Lightroom for exposure and colour tone. 

"I think it makes me look more polished and natural than a filter would. I also used to be a professional photographer, so I still have an eye for what looks best!"

Lily Allsep

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"The filters on Instagram really weird me out. 

"The fact that they can subtly change your facial features and your skin is INSANE. But what I hate most, is that I do feel better when I use them. 

"I try not to use any face changing ones, but more ones that give a subtle colour/shade over the whole photo or have an arty element (like an old polaroid type vibe). But I do find sometimes I accidentally use the ones that change you - and I don't even realise. 

"I think it's really dangerous as it is terrible for your self esteem - and I think could become really problematic for young teenagers growing up, fueling body dysmorphia."

Jess

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"I basically just want my skin to look nice, so I mostly keep filters and editing pretty minimal. 

"As much as I may not like the way I look sometimes, I couldn’t see myself editing my body. 

"To help with confidence I keep my feed full of whatever actually makes me happy and don’t follow people highly edited people or people that are using Instagram to model."

Emma @emma.gillman

Image: Supplied. 

On the minimal occasions I've shown other women my edited v.s. unedited photos, I'm met with comments including:

"I can't tell the difference!"

"You look better in the before."

and: "You're only 20, you don't need to get rid of any imperfections."

Of course, we are our own worst critics and the difference between my two photos is not enough to change anyone else's view of me, but holding the before/after feature on FaceTune can often make the difference between a photo that's worth making it on my Instagram or not. 

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Since compiling this article, you'd be happy to hear that I have deleted the app who shall not be named (Facetune), but I understand women's desire to quickly swipe over our imperfections - particularly when it's so easy!

And we haven't even discussed the effects that are built in to our social media cameras.

Instagram and snapchat filters that show a better version of me (side note: in whose bloody eyes?!) have been chipping away at my confidence for years now, and there's no quick fix.

Thinner cheeks, longer lashes, smoother, even skin, less under-eye bags and a smaller nose are some of the many things snapchat changes about my appearance when I pop on a filter, and sharing an unfiltered picture nowadays feels like a whole new kind of vulnerability.

Image: Supplied. 

In my opinion, photo editing in all its forms is gaslighting us as women with changes so subtle, we're not sure if we're imagining it, or if society is just getting prettier and prettier.

I'd love if we could boycott filters and editing altogether, but until we all band together, I think we should also give women grace. 

Confidence is a tricky thing to have when you're competing with an AI "better" version of yourself.

Feature Image: Supplied.