Beauty Redefined Blog

Photoshopping: Altering Images and Our Minds



Image Altered Sticky Note Beauty RedefinedPhotoshopping, digital alteration, image manipulation, blah blah blah. Everyone talks about the fact that so many images of women are “perfected” with the help of technology, but we can’t just toss it aside as a non-issue everyone already knows about. Whether or not a person is aware of the possibility of image alterations, not everyone realizes exactly HOW MUCH these images are changed to fit some seriously un-human and unrealistic ideals that we view over and over. And not everyone understands that it isn’t just fashion magazine covers that feature drastically Photoshopped images. It’s TV. It’s video. It’s your favorite brand online. It’s everywhere.

While the vast majority of images of women are being digitally altered, so are our perceptions of normal, healthy, beautiful and attainable.

A before-and-after image from Britney Spears' 2013 "Work B****" music video obtained by the Daily Mail, which shows the digital slim-down Britney's body received via CGI.

A before-and-after image from Britney Spears’ 2013 “Work B****” music video obtained by the Daily Mail, which shows the digital slim-down Britney’s body received via CGI.

One of the main strategies used to reinforce and normalize a distorted idea of “average” is media’s representation of women as extremely thin (meaning much thinner than the actual population or what is physically possible for the vast majority of women) – either by consistent use of models and actresses that are underweight or extremely thin, or by making the models and actresses fit their idea of ideal thinness and beauty through digital manipulation both on screen through computer-generated imagery (CGI — shown in the Britney Spears music video example) and in print media. Essentially, “the feminine ideal is tanned, healthy slenderness, with no unsightly bumps, bulges or cellulite, and bodily and facial perfection that results from hours of labor: exercise, makeup and hair care” (Coward, 1985) – and 30 years later, plastic surgery and Photoshop. This unrealistic form is consistently represented across almost all media forms, along with blemish-free, wrinkle-free, and even pore-free skin, thanks to the wonders of digital manipulation as an “industry standard” that is openly endorsed and defended by magazine editors and media makers the world over.

Though we hear about digital manipulation controversies all the time (check out our Photoshopping Phoniness Hall of Shame for tons of examples), media executives and producers continue to use it to an unbelievable extent and they violently defend it as a perfectly acceptable thing to do. Here are a couple interesting (and appalling) case studies from Seventeen and Self magazines to showcase this very issue:

Seventeen Troian Bellesario Eating Disorder Beauty Redefined

The Feb. 2014 cover of Seventeen, featuring Troian Bellisario

The February 2014 cover of Seventeen featured “Pretty Little Liars” star Troian Bellisario, who opened up about her past problems with an eating disorder. The teen magazine decided to feature that as a teaser on the cover, right above a much larger headline for “Get an Insane Body — It’s hard, but you’ll look hot!” This juxtaposition of providing an outlet for a young actress to open up to young fans about a disorder that “ripped her life apart” next to a story promoting the thin ideals that drive many girls and women to such extremes in eating is appallingly irresponsible. Read more about our thoughts on Seventeen here.

When superstar singer Kelly Clarkson was digitally slimmed down almost beyond recognition on Self’s September 2009 cover, people noticed. Her appearance on “Good Morning America” within just days of the cover shoot proved that her body did not look anything like the very thin one that appeared on the cover. In a shockingly ironic twist, the issue she appeared on was titled “The Body Confidence Issue” and featured an interview inside where she explained how comfortable she felt with her body:

“My happy weight changes,” Clarkson says in the September issue of SELF. “Sometimes I eat more; sometimes I play more. I’ll be different sizes all the time. When people talk about my weight, I’m like, ‘You seem to have a problem with it; I don’t. I’m fine!’ I’ve never felt uncomfortable on the red carpet or anything.” 

Kelly Clarkson before and after Photoshop on Self magazine, Sept. 2009

Kelly Clarkson before and after Photoshop on Self magazine, Sept. 2009

Rather than apologizing for the seriously unethical and extreme Photoshopping snafu, Self editor Lucy Danziger tried to defend her magazine’s work to the death:

“Yes, of course we do post-production corrections on our images. Photoshopping is an industry standard,” she stated. “Kelly Clarkson exudes confidence, and is a great role model for women of all sizes and stages of their life. She works out and is strong and healthy, and our picture shows her confidence and beauty. She literally glows from within. That is the feeling we’d all want to have. We love this cover and we love Kelly Clarkson.”

Interestingly, Danziger wasn’t satisfied with that statement and felt inspired to take to her personal blog to further rationalize away the Photoshopping hack job:

“Did we alter her appearance? Only to make her look her personal best…But in the sense that Kelly is the picture of confidence, and she truly is, then I think this photo is the truest we have ever put out there on the newsstand.”

It’s hard to believe anyone’s “personal best” is a fake representation of herself. They’ll plaster “body confidence!” all over the magazine and quote Kelly talking about her own real body confidence, but they refuse to show us her actual body.

Target's March 2014 Photoshop hack job to the JUNIOR's swim line is unreal.

Target’s March 2014 Photoshop hack job to the JUNIOR’s swim line is unreal.

This is just one example that happened to generate enough media coverage that people were able to find out about the scary distortion of an active, 27-year-old superstar’s body in media. Unfortunately, this case study is pretty representative of thousands more that appear in magazines, on billboards, in advertisements, in stores and everywhere else you can think of every single day. At Beauty Redefined, we’ve termed this phenomenon “the normalization of abnormal.” Since we’ll see millions more images of women in media than we’ll ever see face-to-face, those images form a new standard for not just “beautiful,” but also “average” and “healthy” in our minds. When women compare themselves to a standard of beautiful, average and healthy that simply doesn’t exist in real life, the battle for healthy body image is already lost. Last year, the American Medical Association (AMA) announced they’ve adopted a policy against “false advertising:”

The AMA adopted a new policy to encourage advertising associations to work with public and private sector organizations concerned with child and adolescent health to develop guidelines for advertisements, especially those appearing in teen-oriented publications, that would discourage the altering of photographs in a manner that could promote unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image.

Dr. McAneny of the AMA states, “We must stop exposing impressionable children and teenagers to advertisements portraying models with body types only attainable with the help of photo editing software.” And yet, in the last year, Photoshopping has reached an all-time high. It is inescapable.

From lost self-esteem, lost money and time spent fixing “flaws” and a well-documented preoccupation with losing weight (NEDA, 2010), the effects of these unreal ideals hurt everyone. We know that advertising – especially for fashion or beauty products – depends on two things: 1) girls and women believing their happiness, health, and ability to be loved is dependent on their appearance, and 2) girls and women believing can achieve physical ideals by using certain products or services. Do we really understand that ALL media (with very few exceptions) depends on advertising dollars to operate? Because of that, the editorial content or programming has to uphold those same ideals or else advertisers aren’t happy. Digitally slimming women’s bodies, adding or exaggerating a “thigh gap,” and removing signs of life like pores, gray hairs, and wrinkles aren’t just casual decisions based on aesthetic preferences of a few editors — they are profit-driven decisions to create false ideals for females to seek after in hopes of someday attaining. These hopes are largely driven by desire to be found attractive, loved, appear healthy, and ultimately, happy.

Same model, differing degrees of Photoshopping on REAL printed ads, Oct. 2009. Ralph Lauren responded: “After further investigation, we have learned that we are responsible for the poor imaging and retouching that resulted in a very distorted image of a woman’s body. We have addressed the problem and going forward will take every precaution to ensure that the caliber of our artwork represents our brand appropriately.”

One telling example from the ‘90s (found in Naomi Wolf’s “The Beauty Myth”) explains how a prominent women’s magazine featured gray-haired models in a fashion spread (unheard of even today, right?). It was a success until one of their biggest advertisers, Clairol hair color company, pulled their entire campaign as a protest against the spread. The magazine, which depended on those advertising dollars, was forced to never again feature gray-haired women in a positive light. The same holds true for media today. Pay attention to what kind of companies are advertising in your favorite magazines or during your favorite TV shows. There’s a very good chance they are selling beauty products, weight loss products or other appearance-related services, which means the female characters featured positively (like in relationships or pursued by men, complimented, not the butt of jokes, etc.) will likely resemble the idealized women in the advertising.

From media outlets like that go to great lengths to make unrealistic and unattainable beauty ideals look normal and within reach, to the diet and weight loss industry raking in an estimated $61 billion on Americans’ quest for thinness in 2010 (Marketdata Enterprises, 2009), those with financial interests at stake in our beliefs about women’s bodies are thriving unlike ever before. Simultaneously, women and families are losing. Losing self-esteem. Losing time and money spent on items, services and products meant to fix our never-ending list of “flaws.” Losing real understandings of healthy, average and attainable. Sometimes even losing weight they didn’t need to lose in dangerous ways in order to measure up (or down) to Photoshopped ideals we see every day as “normal.”

Former high fashion model, Crystal Renn, battled a deadly eating disorder for many years before deciding to switch to “plus size” modeling for health purposes. Photographer and Fashion for Passion founder Nicholas Routzen said that Crystal looked thinner because the photos were “…taken from a higher angle with a wider lens,” but that“I shaped her … I did nothing that I wouldn’t do to anyone. I’m paid to make women look beautiful.”

While representations of women’s bodies across the media spectrum have shrunk dramatically in the last three decades, rates of eating disorders have skyrocketed – tripling for college-age women from the late ‘80s to 1993 and rising since then to 4% suffering with bulimia (National Eating Disorder Association, 2010). Perhaps even more startling is the 119 percent increase in the number of children under age 12 hospitalized due to an eating disorder between 1999 and 2006, the vast majority of whom were girls (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2010). Though the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2000) reports that “no exact cause of eating disorders have yet been found,” they do admit that some characteristics have been shown to influence the development of the illnesses, which include low self-esteem, fear of becoming fat and being in an environment where weight and thinness were emphasized – all of which are shown to be related to media depictions of idealized bodies, which is all but inescapable. Scholars have proposed that eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia are due, in part, to an extreme commitment to attaining the cultural body ideal as portrayed in media.

Photoshopping has taken these unreal ideals to a scary new level. Henry Farid, a Dartmouth professor of computer science who specializes in digital forensics and photo manipulation, agrees. “The more and more we use this editing, the higher and higher the bar goes. They’re creating things that are physically impossible,” he told ABC News in August 2009. “We’re seeing really radical digital plastic surgery. It’s moving towards the Barbie doll model of what a woman should look like — big breasts, tiny waist, ridiculously long legs, elongated neck. All the body fat is removed, all the wrinkles are removed, the skin is smoothed out.”

What we see in media, and what we may be internalizing as normal or beautiful, is anything but normal or beautiful. It’s fake. It’s a profit-driven idea of normal and beautiful that women will spend their lives trying to achieve and men will spend their lives trying to find. But until we all learn to recognize and reject these harmful messages about what it means to look like a woman, we all lose. And I don’t want to lose. Are you with us in taking back beauty for females everywhere? 

Recognize that you are not just a body. Recognize that your body is not just an ornament or an object to be fixed and judged — it is an instrument to live and do and be. Reject messages that teach you otherwise. Cancel subscriptions, unfollow on social media, spend your money elsewhere, talk back to companies and speak up in your own circles of influence. Your reflection does not define your worth, and self-comparisons to unreal ideals get us absolutely nowhere. These ideals are unlikely to change anytime soon, so we have to change our perceptions of media and bodies with or without media.

Need more help developing body image resilience that can help you overcome your self-consciousness and be more powerful than ever before? Learn how to recognize harmful ideals, redefine beauty and health, and resist what holds you back from happiness, health, and real empowerment with the Beauty Redefined Body Image Program for girls and women 14+. It is an online, anonymous therapeutic tool that can change your life, designed by Lexie & Lindsay Kite, with PhDs in body image and media.

For the largest and most detailed collection of Photoshopping Phoniness on the Web, see our Hall of Shame Gallery!

And have you seen our new sticky notes to slap on magazines in the store aisle? They’re soooo good. Find them here

  1. lili

    The thing is, I think the before photos are so much prettier… so much more… HUMAN-looking!

    • Beauty Redefined
      Beauty Redefined02-26-2011


    • Sherry

      I 2nd that!

    • Cici

      Okay, but what about girls who look like the photoshopped versions. GIrls who work out, eat healthy and manage to genetically maintain that bodt (and girls who eat and eat and eat, but can’t gain weight. yes they exist!)

      Am I “less human” looking cuz I look like the stupid media’s ideal?
      I also think my body is pretty, because it’s real. Every woman’s body is, no need to say one body looks more “real” or “less human”.

      And if you think my body is “not-human”, then what is it? An unreal, fantasy? Well, I’m okay with that.

      • Heather

        Cici, calm down. The objective of this article is to point out the REAL is pretty. If your body isn’t photoshopped, you and your body type are not included in this debate.

      • skm

        I don’t think that they necessarily mean that being the ‘industry standard’ is bad (in fact I believe that even men and women who are ‘the industry standard’ look very different in real life from ‘the standard’).

        Often times, these photoshop jobs are very poorly done and ‘dafuq’ just can’t help but slip out of one’s mouth if they’ve actually seen the person irl or actually pay attention to and observe natural anatomy and not media anatomy. Eg. WAIST TOO FAT? Chop off her left lung and left part of her intestinal tract. No big deal. WRINKLES IN A SHIRT BECAUSE SHE’S BENT SLIGHTLY? We’ll make it so smooth, it’s like a plastic mug.

        And the thing is: So many people buy into it because of the little to no exposure of realistic representations of their fellow man in mainstream media. And let’s not even go into how it’s affecting the art community. =____=

      • Claudya Margaretta
        Claudya Margaretta05-24-2013

        Well, Cici, actually I also have skinny body and I don’t do diet AT ALL. I’m skinny because this is just my figure, not because I’m trying to fit the media standards, and if you’re in the same case with me, well then it’s no problem. Skinny or curvy are both beautiful.

        Working out is not a harm at all. I even eat more cause I need to gain weight, for health & medical purpose. And that’s the point, to be healthy no matter in what shape you are :)

      • kelo

        Cici, there is a distinct difference between the fake photo-shopped pictures of women and the fit, hardworking, or genetically inclined, women that the fake pictures are imitating. No one is born without flaw and even the most ‘beautiful’ people can be picked apart physically by critic with an eye for detail. It’s easy to see most people as ugly or beautiful. But, most of all, it’s important to promote loving and being comfortable with ourselves because, in the end, that’s what true beauty is.

      • mike3

        Well, if you have the genes for it, that’s fine. _But not everyone has the genes!_ The _problem_ here is when the media distorts (= dishonesty, deception/deceit) pictures of real people who _don’t_ have those genes. And tries to make that the standard for _everyone_. Someone else who eats the same healthy diet and gets the same amount of exercise may still be heavier than you, simply because their body runs different due to genetics. When people who just don’t have those genetics try too hard to get that way, the result is eating disorders, or at least that appears to contribute. That means the practice and the norm is causing harm. And it does no justice to the models whose photos are modified — dishonestly representing them as something they’re not.

      • sara

        This isn’t about what is or isn’t beautiful in real life. It’s about Photoshop deceiving the looks of woman who are already beautiful in person.

      • CBG

        you obviously don’t get the point here

    • camila

      agreed again! they look normal and STILL good

  2. Jennifer Shewmaker
    Jennifer Shewmaker02-26-2011

    I just had to share this with my blog readers. After reading it and seeing the before and after pictures, I said to my husband, “No wonder women hate their bodies.” Thanks for sharing this, hopefully the more of us are talking about real beauty and its distortion, the more women and girls will begin to question the ideals that are presented to them. Love it!

    • Beauty Redefined
      Beauty Redefined02-26-2011

      Wonderful! Thanks for sharing – and feel free to use our work anytime. The more people that recognize the UNreality of what we see all day every day, the better. You appear to be doing wonderful work on behalf of women as well! Love it!

  3. Katelyn Dechant
    Katelyn Dechant03-04-2011

    How amazing is that, it’s interesting that it was even that way.

  4. Audrey Brashich
    Audrey Brashich04-07-2011

    I find the Kourtney Karsdashian photo the most offensive….bec as a mom of young kids, the pressure to bounce back in weeks (days!) is just nuts.

    There’s actually a great post about this (specifically Mommy Makeovers) on the Illusionists right now ( which is another great body image website. Worth checking out!

    • Beauty Redefined
      Beauty Redefined04-11-2011

      Wonderful! Thanks for the link. And you are so right! The post-pregnancy pressure to “get your body back” (which is a RIDICULOUS phrase we’re looking into for a new post right now…) is a whole new level of crazy – and the Kourtney Kardashian photo is living proof of its craziness! Thanks for your comment!

    • Deborah

      YES! so agree with you Audrey! and most are nursing..which means you cannot be dieting and starving your body.
      Share this and change the message out there. Who is deciding this ideal? Women? Men?
      Fashion designers who don’t want to waste their fabric? ;-)

  5. Eleni Arapidis
    Eleni Arapidis07-13-2011

    I’m so thankful there are still people who take care of such irritating issues! Even if one considers herself well informed, it’s disturbing to see the degree in which photos of celebrities are being manipulated and along with them our minds and standarts. I am disgusted by the photoshopped pic of Ann Taylor! It’s below size unnatural. I hope you know how wonderful your project is! It really is about time to redefine beauty! And wht you do is beautiful. Thank you.

  6. Sherry

    I am a photographer. I use photoshop. I think it’s like makeup… less is more. photoshop in and of itself isn’t bad, but it can be taken to extreme in the wrong hands. JMHO. It all depends on ones perception of beauty. But as digital artists there is a responsibility in the message you are sending.

  7. Kristen Lohman Burris, L.Ac., M.S.T.O.M.
    Kristen Lohman Burris, L.Ac., M.S.T.O.M.10-24-2011

    Thank you for your effort to expose the truth of the overwhelming media images we are influenced by every day. I have treated women for over a decade and whether they are coming to me to have a baby, hault hot flashes, or reduce anxiety…they all have one thing in common: They don’t like the way they look. It’s so heart breaking. I too have fallen victim to these savage images that pervade every inch of our society.
    Thank you for sharing the truth! Thank you for celebrating the women AS THEY ARE! We must come together and stop the madness. Keep up the great work.
    Kristen Lohman Burris, L.Ac., M.S.T.O.M
    Women’s Health Expert

  8. Erin

    “Losing real understandings of healthy, average and attainable.”

    Yes! And this loss is huge, with dire consequences for the young women of this country.

  9. Teensource

    This is such a great article! Thank you for sharing.

  10. leslie f. miller
    leslie f. miller11-30-2011

    It’s actually obscene. Magazines are supposed to be nonfiction. I know of newspaper photographers who were fired (one was called out for photoshopping a leg out of a sports photo) for using Photoshop for journalistic endeavors. Just goes to show you that these magazines are not selling the truth about anything. It’s just fantasy.

  11. Dawn

    While I disagree with editing women’s bodies, I also strongly disagree with the hateful attitude toward very thin women in both the article and the comments section. Why can’t we just say, “that’s not how the model really looks, and that is wrong” rather than, “oh, that photoshopped image looks so disgusting and abnormal”. Believe it or not, some women DO look like that through no “fault” of our own. It’s called having a high metabolism, which is not unhealthy. For some of us, it truly is natural to be below a size 0. We can’t gain weight no matter how much we eat. I’ve been bullied for my thinness my whole life, and a site this shouldn’t promote that same hatred.

    • Beauty Redefined
      Beauty Redefined11-30-2011

      Dawn, Please point out exactly where in the article you find a “hateful attitude toward very thin women.” This is NOT our attitude and promoting negative attitudes toward any body size or shape goes against everytihng Beauty Redefined stands for, so if you are interpreting something in our writing that way, please point it out specifically. We don’t take that kind of accusation lightly. The problem with this extreme Photoshopping is that it is often used to manipulate women’s bodies into a size they aren’t, whether or not anyone else (like you) fits that standard. We have plenty of friends and loved ones with the same body type/size as you, and would fight long and hard for every one of them to recognize their beauty and worth in a world that shames them and promotes feelings of inadequance in very similar ways as it does to anyone larger than a size 2. No one EVER fits the ideal, whether thin or otherwise (as demonstrated by extreme Photoshopping of models and actresses), and that’s the point of the ideals. Though we don’t claim to endorse every comment left on this site or our Facebook page, we do stand behind the content we’ve written and would NEVER endorse shaming of natural thinness.

      • Dawn

        Let me first make clear that I too disagree with photoshopping and with media promoting a narrow beauty ideal (or any ideal, really) and lack of diversity. Fat-shaming and thin-shaming are just different sides of the same coin.

        Some quotes from your article:

        “abnormally thin” – yes, because anyone who is deemed underweight MUST be abnormal!

        “scary skinny” – even though the image you’re referring to is fake, some of us really do look that “scary”.

        “The already stunning model’s hips and thighs were shrunk to dangerously thin proportions” – really? So if your hips and thighs are naturally that thin, you must be in danger?

        “stick-thin legs” – this is an insult hurled at very thin women and is never complimentary. Again, although the image itself is fake, there’s not need to insult women who really look like that.

      • Beauty Redefined
        Beauty Redefined11-30-2011

        Dawn thanks for being more specific. Now I can address those!

        “abnormally thin” is a statement of fact and not of judgment. The level of thinness represented by those images is not normative in any culture. All “abnormally thin” means is that it is outside of the norm and taken to an extreme. It is not intended as an insult.

        “scary skinny,” as you pointed out, is referring to a specific image that was manipulated beyond the point of looking realistic for that model.

        “Dangerously thin proportions” is another statement of fact and not of judgment. For the vast majority of women in the U.S. (around 92%), those proportions are without a doubt dangerously thin. Most women’s bodies can not sustain a healthy life at that size and shape, even if you can. That doesn’t mean you specifically are in danger of health risks, but almost all women in the U.S. would be if they reached those proportions.

        “Stick-thin legs” was not meant to be intended as an insult, but I can see how it could be taken that way – especially considering your sensitivity to this term based on your life experience. In the context of the article, it was referring to the extreme manipulation of Kate Winslet’s thighs: “What IS surprising is that they removed her curves entirely, leaving stick-thin legs and a rightfully upset actress.” All we’re saying is they left her with extremely thin legs that look nothing like her own. If it’s our use of the words “stick thin” that you take issue with, I apologize for the using a phrase that has negative connotations for you, but we did not use it or mean it as an insult to anyone with thin legs.

      • Mark

        I have to go with Dawn on this one. While the Photoshopping is wrong (as is the suggestion that women should be of a certain size), it seems like you are doing precisely what you accuse Self Magazine of doing – trying to defend conduct which is not reasonably defensible. I didn’t see any mention in the article that Kelly Clarkson (or anyone else) is “frighteningly fat” or “dangerously overweight” in their original photo, and no mention of “tree trunk-like legs”. I think a mea culpa is seriously warranted here.

      • Shannon

        I think I’m with Dawn (and Mark), too. This article could have been written, and been just as effective at conveying the intended message (i.e. photoshop is bad) without the above references.

        I would like to address, in particular, the reference to “abnormally thin”. You defend this as a statement of fact and as a reference to the fact that women aren’t normally that size. You say, “All ‘abnormally thin’ means is that it is outside of the norm and taken to an extreme. It is not intended as an insult”.

        The Oxford dictionary defines abnormal as, “deviating from what is normal or usual, *typically in a way that is undesirable or worrying*”.

        Abnormal suggests that someone deviates from usual or accepted standards…and I thought we were trying to shun the concept of a “standard” body? The word “abnormal” is generally considered to have negative connotations.

      • Hinata

        Beauty redifined, you reinforce Dawn’s attack by saying abnormally thin is a statement of fact about the image. What about real women who are that thin and healthy? Instead of trying to label things nomal or abnormal promote the idea that woman can be thin, plump, and anywhere in between and be beautiful. There is no such thing as normal because no women have the exactlly the same body shape or type. Even twins differ in some ways.

      • Really?

        @Mark: I looked through the comment thread: Funny how the only time you comment is to support someone detracting from the article, which is informative and accurate about the sad state of affairs women have to deal with in their representation in the media. Way to be an ally to women everywhere, Mark! Maybe next time you could try finding something to comment about that’s actually supportive of women, as opposed to taking down us mean ol’ feminists and misconstruing our words?

        @Dawn, Shannon, Hinata: I am the size of some of those models in terms of thinness. Also, as a pre-med student, I will stand by Beauty Redifined’s usage of their terminology. The terms that they use don’t refer negatively to thin women, but to the fact that the women in the photos were photoshopped to sizes that are unrealistic for them. Those women would be abnormal and unhealthy if they were that skinny with those heights and breast/bottom proportions. Real humans that size just don’t proportion that way. In order to actually be that skinny and be healthy, you need an entirely different (and quite rare) body type than those of the women featured in these ads (because real women that are naturally that small or thin aren’t viewed as acceptable by the media, because we’re “too short” or “not proportioned correctly”).

      • Dawn

        So “stick thin legs” is now a medical term, rather than an insult? Way to pull out the “I’m skinny and a pre-med student, so my opinion trumps all” card. You didn’t provide any evidence for your claims, and neither did BR. You say, “Real humans that size just don’t proportion that way.” Really? Please enlighten us on how you personally know the proportions of every human being in the world.

        You also accuse me of detracting from the article. How, exactly, is pointing out bigotry detracting from the article? I already stated that I agree with the point the author attempted to make. I just thought it would have been more effective without the thin-bashing.

        Finally, I too am a feminist. I had given up on this site due to the anti-thin bigotry, but was brought back today because of an interesting link posted on the Fit & Feminist Facebook page. Oddly enough, the BR article I read had this statement: “When we pit female against female, we get nowhere fast.” And that has been my point all along. BR didn’t have to bash thinness to make their point.

        Okay, one more thing. The “we have skinny friends” line by BR was classic. I bet they have Black friends too. Rather than taking responsibility for their offensive words, they have just made excuses. Sorry, BR, but unintentional bigotry is still bigotry. When it’s pointed out, you would do well to consider it rather than get defensive. I can only speak for myself, but I would rather support a group whose “facts” are true for all women, and not just the (supposed) 92%.

      • Beauty Redefined
        Beauty Redefined05-17-2012

        Dawn, Please note my edit in the post from “stick thin legs” to “extremely thin legs that bear no resemblance to her own.” I hope that satisfies some of your concerns. I had no intent to be offensive or to exercise “anti-thin bigotry” as you accused. I’ll admit I’m a bit caught off guard by the hostility here, considering I’ve taken all of your concerns into consideration and even changed most of them in the post! I’m open to criticism, especially constructive criticism, and humble enough to make changes when I see fit. But your last comment was a bit over the line and a huge misrepresentation of what I actually said about my friends: “The “we have skinny friends” line by BR was classic. I bet they have Black friends too.” You act like I said “I have skinny friends, so there’s no way I could say something offensive to skinny people.” In fact, this is what I actually said, and I’ll repeat it again in hopes you will take it seriously and recognize my sincerity: We have plenty of friends and loved ones with the same body type/size as you, and would fight long and hard for every one of them to recognize their beauty and worth in a world that shames them and promotes feelings of inadequance in very similar ways as it does to anyone larger than a size 2. No one EVER fits the ideal, whether thin or otherwise (as demonstrated by extreme Photoshopping of models and actresses), and that’s the point of the ideals. Though we don’t claim to endorse every comment left on this site or our Facebook page, we do stand behind the content we’ve written and would NEVER endorse shaming of natural thinness.

    • Elizabeth

      Dear Dawn,
      think you should watch the T.E.D talk by the supermodel who talks frankly about how her life is cashing in on how her appearance fits into the tiny percentage ideal upheld by the media. If you are ‘stick thin’ then ever since “Twiggy” that has been a compliment.

      Interesting that BR has chosen to change her words and somehow agree that she was being unintentionally hateful. The fact is Dawn, you have been benefitting from having a body that fits into the media ideal whether you admit it or not. I had my years of being ‘definitely in the top three’ to steal an ironic phrase from Flight of The Conchords – and even if you are struggling with your body image, you have to face up to the fact that you receive unintentional benefits from having an unusually thin body. You get treated differently in job interviews etc etc. If you are the intelligent feminist that you claim, I am sure you are aware of the impact of any aspect of attractiveness as defined by the social norm.

      Now “abnormally thin” – yes, if the body has been changed, it is abnormally thin. Scary skinny, yes, that thin does have an element of scary because there is always the risk that it is induced by eating disorders rather than a rare biological disposition. Because as you would know, the statistics would weigh in favour of the former being the case. No pun intended.

      It was pretty clear that the point of the article was the scariness and abnormality of images being changed to look a certain way…and once again reinforce the idea that a genetic rarity is somehow the ideal of beauty. It doesn’t read like BR is the world’s most fabulous journalist, but perhaps you could use your feminist intelligence to help her rather than spray reactiveness. She seems to be putting herself out to help women yes? If she could do it better perhaps you could also help her in a more conciliatory way.

      • Beauty Redefined
        Beauty Redefined03-26-2013

        “It doesn’t read like BR is the world’s most fabulous journalist.” Thanks, Elizabeth! We actually both have degrees in print journalism and were working journalists for many years. “World’s most fabulous?” Probably not. But we stand by what we’ve written. Thanks for the comment!

  12. A.E.

    I am a man and a photographer, and I love this article. Photoshop is good for correcting bad lighting, for creating “art” out of a photograph, and for getting rid of the occasional unwanted element (a street sign). But when it comes to people, I have always found the magazine covers so grossly overdone as to become unappealing. The “model” thinness is frightful – meaning yes, it actually creeps me out. While I’ve had people ask me on occasion, “can you make me thinner in Photoshop?” I have always responded with a resounding “No. I’m a photographer, not an anime engineer.” It’s what I call “cheap,” and when it’s done en masse, it creates a false element to culture that, as this article suggests, wreaks havoc on young women’s concept of beauty – and young men’s, too, for that matter. The really GOOD photographers are the ones that capture beauty naturally, and don’t have to resort to extraordinary edits to make up for their own lack of an artistic eye.

    • skm

      Can I just hug you forever?

      Not only do I feel it’s really bastardized the photography industry, but look at any second rate painter/sculptor anywhere. Surely, classical fine arts has always flattered those and things which are portrayed, and surely stylistic flairs (eg. Art stylings of The Oblongs) should be taken to account, but when someone just puts all of one’s lack of artistic skill into the scape goat of “style”, it’s a little sad. Own up, you know? The best artists are the ones who can take the natural and emphasize its beauty and complexity interestingly. Not this bastardized crap.

      But there’s so much more to it eh?

      You should hook me up with your photography!

  13. kelly shpeley
    kelly shpeley12-01-2011

    I have been fairly slender my entire life, only in the last few years I have put on about 10 pounds…let me tell you, since gaining that weight, I have been getting WAY more male attention. Curves are where it is at.

  14. Zypldot

    Reminds me of the scene of two women at a bar – a blonde and a brunette. The brunette says to the obviously surgecially enhanced blonde, “Those things aren’t even real!” To which the blonde replies, “Like men even care.”

  15. Mary

    OK! even manipulated the photo of Kourtney Kardasian’s newborn. To think you can “improve” a baby?! Now that’s arrogance.

    • Nathalie

      Not really. Anyone who’s had a baby will tell you a 1 weeks old usually has a lot of baby acne and most (if not all) newborn photos must be photoshopped for that reason.

      • Guest

        Who cares if the newborn has baby acne? just because it’s there doesnt means it “must be photoshopped”. Why must it?

  16. Lisa

    For some really egregious photo shopping, check out the new pictures of Karlie Kloss ( In some of them, she quite clearly would have to have no internal organs. And this is a woman who is already incredibly thin as a former ballet dancer. And there are people raving over how great they look and how it’s nice to see someone who isn’t “fat”. It’s awful.

  17. Ashley

    Some of those photoshop jobs are just over the top. I understand why they do it though. Despite what a lot of people will say like better, more copies of magazines are sold with photoshopped cover models rather than covers that are unretouched. If enough people banded together and refused to buy, then they might listen, but they would have to be significantly losing profit for them to even give a hoot.

  18. Deb

    My daughter did a photo shoot for Dove brand beauty products that appeared in the 2- 2010 editions of Seventeen magazine. There were 2 other young women there who were doing Dove ads for other magazines.
    Dove insisted that they not be given any hair extensions, or false eyelashes and that the photo effects should be achieved through lighting, not photoshopping.
    The resulting 2 page ad spreads were of healthy confident young women.

  19. shaniece b
    shaniece b03-17-2012

    im glad that you posted this. im doing a report on unattainable beauty and womens idea of “perfection” and this article definitley helped and i will be making sure other people find this site =)

  20. zara thustra
    zara thustra05-18-2012

    I am surprised they didn’t photoshop the baby.

  21. Christina

    I think it’s amazing what you are doing, and I literally can’t stand photoshop. My mom has gray hair, and has for over 4 years. She has gotten SO many positive comments about it, and how if people were as brave as her, they would have done it so they can be that gorgeous.

    But here is another thing. So on Pinterest, a LOT of people are on there now a days, and so as it’s gotten more popular, there has been a flood of spam comments, and rude commenters. It’s annoying as heck, but here’s the other thing. There are pictures of models who may be skinny, and you have people saying, she needs to eat. And then you have pictures of ‘When did this *picture of skinny bikini models* become hotter than this? *picture of women in the 50’s with curves*’.

    So here’s where I feel stuck: I am naturally skinny, high metabolism, it’s natural, whatever you want to call it, and I eat. I mean I love food. And I’m not trashing my body, I eat for the most part healthy, but I still stay skinny, and I feel like I’m slapping them in the face by being like, oh look at me, I can eat all I want and not gain weight! But I don’t want to be like that. (not saying I am) So how can I get it through peoples mind that I am NATURALLY like this, and I am NOT anorexic thank God, and don’t have an eating disorder, but I’m skinny! I feel so bad when people bash pictures of skinny girls in pictures, by saying, feed her a hamburger, honey put on some weight, or, too skinny! I’m like, that’s what I look like! So, I feel so confused as to what to do….. but I know I’m beautiful and I’ll just be me, but still.

    • Richard

      The trouble is people always want an ideal, and if they’re complaining it’s because their ideal doesn’t match up with the mainstream ideal.

      Perhaps, if we realised there is no ideal, we’d get somewhere. Because there isn’t. You are as you were meant to be, and if you know you’re beautiful just as you are, good on you!

  22. lady_w

    It’s ok to like your body if you have curves because that makes you a “real woman”. Real women you see couldn’t possibly be that skinny, that’s ABNORMAL, dangerous, it’s fine to call them stick-whatever, THEIR confidence doesn’t matter, they are skinny and want to feel good on top of that? bitches.

    THIS is why things are the way they are, not because of the fashion or cosmetic industry, you have to insult at least some women, ALWAYS. there is a type, there is “normal” in everyone’s head and pretending there’s not get us here. Everyone’s super offended because the ideals go against the majority of women, not because culture should be inclusive and accept differences, the real thinking behind it is: fuck the minorities and their problems, whatever they have going on is not worth it. Minority taking over is what no one can stand, not that they are skinny or black or gay, if it goes against the majority there must be something wrong with it.

    Were you to have the power to represent women in the media, you’d make sure no skinny women took part in it, we would just make everyone feel bad about themselves while being all unreal and stuff.

    Thank you, I really do feel redifined, not by men or billboards, by other women which makes it all the more satisfying.

    • Todra Payne
      Todra Payne06-12-2012

      I totally agree with you. I get so sick of seeing self-righteous comments about “real” women, which means anyone size 12 and larger, while bashing anyone who is actually naturally thin. Most men I’ve met consider any woman they are attracted to as “real”. Obviously, the men who date me, don’t like large women. And the men who date larger women don’t like me. That’s totally fine. But to say, “MEN prefer…” is ridiculous. It depends on the man.

      By the way, Photoshop isn’t just used to make women thinner on magazines, either. It’s used to make women lighter skinned, bigger boobed, etc. It’s all ridiculous. But for some reason, a lot of the conversation boils down to size. I suspect that’s the hot button because it’s the place of the most insecurity.

  23. Maddie

    I have read this post a number of times and I just realized that on Faith Hill’s photoshopped image, THEY REMOVED HER GENUINE SMILE. Not only did they make her look thinner, they also removed the very glow that shows her fun personality and her HAPPY spirit (in the crinkles on her nose and under her eyes). They made her face look vaguely “sexy” and sacrificed so much in the process. AGghhhh!

    • Julie

      I noticed that too about her smile – that makes me sad. They got rid of the lines around her eyes that they probably thought were too much like wrinkles, but those are smile lines – those are what make a smile look genuine instead of the fake, plastered smiles so common on magazines and media.

      I would SO LOVE if there were a magazine that never photoshopped, featured a variety of body sizes and types. I would subscribe to that and tell everyone about it. Where does the idea come from that photoshopped magazine covers sell better than ones that aren’t altered? How could they possibly know that if they’ve never tried it without alteration? Try it and see! I think it would be very refreshing to see real women with real smiles and skin tones. I’m sure there are a ton of advertisers that could still promote stuff and fund the magazine, but in a more realistic way. Here is a post I did about girls and body image. Some interesting offerings from Barbie are included.

  24. Callie

    why is it that to get kelly clarkson to look “self confident” they had to trim down her size? you can see her confidence, and personally, i think faith hill looked better WITHOUT the photoshop.

  25. Todra Payne
    Todra Payne06-12-2012

    In Kelly Clarkson’s case, she could have actually gained that weight AFTER the photo shoot. I worked with magazines, especially on celebrity shoots, and many times the cover is shot MONTHS before it comes out. I’m not by any means saying Self didn’t use Photoshop, I’m just saying the argument that she appeared on a show a few days of the cover’s appearance doesn’t prove the point about her weight. Three months could have passed between the cover shoot and the live appearance.

  26. an alternative argument
    an alternative argument07-08-2012

    I write this comment with no intention of insulting anyone. Rather I feel I have views which are worth considering. Whilst I agree that many magazines take photo manipulation to the extreme I feel this article is unfair in its attack on the media.

    You distort beauty to be viewed as a unreal. Despite the photo manipulation, those models/celebrities are real and therefore their beauty is in close correlation with that represented. There are people in this world who are beautiful and close to perfection. This is just something we need to accept. Attacking these images will not eradicate low self esteem, depression and eating disorders.

    I think you underestimate the public. We are not zombies, mindlessly consuming all that we see. Why should the media be held responsible for all this? Surely their profits revolve around what the public wants to consume. They are merely a reflection of society at large who evidently wants to consume beauty. This is nothing new. Even Michelangelo did not paint exactly what he saw.

    I am sure I am going to get a string of attacks for this comment. Fact of the matter is, these people are real and so is their beauty. I am sure every person who has commented on this post has used some form of beauty cream or dyed their hair or would accept to being photoshopped to look a little bit better. Are you really going to blame society’s ills on an advertisement? Rather than looking outwards for blame, i think the solution is to look inwards at your own insecurities and work on them because beautiful people are not going anywhere.

    • Fabby Rios
      Fabby Rios07-21-2012

      I understand your view of point and to a certain extent I will agree with you. It is true that not all people are mindless individuals and as a result we have the power to make our decisions and create a healthier life for ourselves. However, i completely agree that celebrities and models are being photo-shopped to the point where it is unattainable to be. You have to see those images that were incorporated in this blog. You cannot deny the fact that the vast majority of them were incredibly edited to erased flaws such as darker skin, and slimmer and perfect figure and wrinkle free perfection. Yes! it is such images that affect individuals, specially the youth where all they see is that being that “perfect” is essential in order to be attractive and accepted.
      Personally, i often compare myself to such images, I understand that i will never be like that, but part of me wished i was. As a result I unconsciously eat less, over exercise and criticize myself often. As a result, insecurities flourish because of such images and ideals that are being publicized and idolized by many. YEs, the only way to accept ourselves is to work through our problems and yes! to understand that we have no one else to blame but ourselves for those issues.
      However, such images STRONGLY influence us to often criticize and believe that we are not good enough for today’s society.

    • Fabby Diaz
      Fabby Diaz07-21-2012

      I understand your view of point and to a certain extent I will agree with you. It is true that not all people are mindless individuals and as a result we have the power to make our decisions and create a healthier life for ourselves. However, i completely agree that celebrities and models are being photo-shopped to the point where it is unattainable to be. You have to see those images that were incorporated in this blog. You cannot deny the fact that the vast majority of them were incredibly edited to erased flaws such as darker skin, and slimmer and perfect figure and wrinkle free perfection. Yes! it is such images that affect individuals, specially the youth where all they see is that being that “perfect” is essential in order to be attractive and accepted.
      Personally, i often compare myself to such images, I understand that i will never be like that, but part of me wished i was. As a result I unconsciously eat less, over exercise and criticize myself often. As a result, insecurities flourish because of such images and ideals that are being publicized and idolized by many. YEs, the only way to accept ourselves is to work through our problems and yes! to understand that we have no one else to blame but ourselves for those issues.
      However, such images STRONGLY influence us to often criticize and believe that we are not good enough for today’s society.

      • Nsterken

        uh, perhaps you might try simply not LOOKING at said images? Are these folks holding you at gun point to look at these images?

    • Richard

      @an alternative argument:

      The thing is, why is it that women who as most people admit are already beautiful have to be edited, seemingly to fit some unrealistic pseudo-ideal? It doesn’t make sense, and just shows how ridiculous the whole thing is.

      (Not that I am too sure there is such a thing as a perfect ideal- some studies have shown there are some common features most people find attractive, but it still varies. And many women could still be said to be conventionally beautiful without being the same.)

      Yes, perhaps the media to some extent reflects the expectations people had already, but it can also use that and distort it in order to convince us to buy what the people behind it want to sell. If not outright persuade us of something we would never have otherwise believed. If they were not being infuential, it wouldn’t work and they wouldn’t try it; that’s how the market works.

      You might make reference to some of the great artists of old- but that just shows the problem is older than we think. It doesn’t make it honest, and it’s much better to be honest and happy about who you are, and be happy for others in who they are, than to be trying to be what you are not (and given the nature of these images, could or should never be), and never being happy.

      (That part rather reminds me of King Henry VIII of England and his short-lived marriage to Anne of Cleves- he was popularly thought to have been unimpressed with her appearance in the flesh after having seen a portrait of her painted by Holbein, which was alleged to be rather more flattering; however, this could have been an excuse, according to Wikipedia.)

    • Ben

      hey, no.

  27. TGG

    I never buy these magazines. That’s how I fight their bias and lies about womens’ bodies. I am a 5’5″ woman weighing 145 pounds with an hour glass body and I’m very VERY happy with it. I think that I can say that because I don’t buy into the media’s misrepresentations.

  28. WomenUNITE

    Great article! It is so sad that women are constantly comparing themselves to the thin “ideal” when most of the images they are comparing themselves to are actually fake.

  29. Kev

    I’m glad this kind of disgusting perfect image pressure is being exposed in the name of greed.Men are also affected by all these stunning perfect muscular men in mags and ads etc. There’s immense pressure on men by other men and women to have muscular physiques and high cheek boned strong jawed masculine perfect looks! We suffer silently.

    • Nsterken

      I’m a man and I feel no pressure. When men say to me, hey, you’re fat, you should work out. I ask them to arm wrestle me.

      Halfway through I ask them if they would like to feel what it’s like to have their forearm bones broken.

      It’s all in your head. To thine own self be true. Know thyself. That’s the real problem: ppl do not know themselves. You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.

  30. Meghan

    There are too few retouchers out there with a sense of responsibility toward Women. Just look at what these retouchers are saying behind closed doors about Kate Upton! Just scroll down on this retouchers facebook page and you’ll see what I mean. Here are some quotes from the retouchers themselves about Kate in the Swimsuit edition. ” Terrible!” “looks like she gained a lot of weight lol” ” She doesen’t do it for me” “” “her boobs look better.” Women cannot be treated like this.

    It’s time for these ignorant retouchers to STOP. If we don’t tell them it will never stop. Go to his facebook page and let your voice be heard..

    • Nsterken

      LOL Patrick doesn’t care what you think. He could afford to hire a PI to find you and then also afford to hire a hitman to take you out. He don’t care what you think.

      If you don’t like it, then stop buying the kinds of products which will feature his work. It’s not to hard to figure out which one’s those are: they are all listed on his facebook banner pic.

      Instead, start to spend your money on magazines and companies who do not do heavy retouching on their images. If folks like you do that, then responsible retouchers (such as myself) will have jobs. Right now, the industry is not interested in our ‘wussy’ approach to retouching fashion and glamour images. So instead of yapping, do something about it to make a change.

  31. r


  32. Shyanne

    i am an 18 year old senior in high school writing an argumentative essay on the effects extreme photoshopping has on young girls like me. up until age thirteen i had been pretty slim. not too skinny but slim. as soon as i turned fourteen i began to gain weight. i was exrtremely self concious and would not under any circumstances wear shorts or even a bathing suit. i was deathly afraid of what people would think. as i got older and more mature i realized that if someone didnt like the way im built they could deal with it. im not changing myself because someone thinks i should. i do beauty pageants all the time; in fact i have one at school tomorrow. you wanna know what separates me from everyone else, but in my opinion shouldnt? my dress size. i wear a 14, but you know what? i dont care. im running up against dancers and cheerleaders but im not ashamed of anything.this deal with photoshopping is pretty appaling. i used to want to be back to the way i was when i was younger then i realized that my size doesnt define me. my attitude towards it does. im using this article for my paper not only because it shows my view on an issue that every pre teen and teenage girl and boy in america and elsewhere sees in everyday life, but because it MAKES SENSE. if someone is happy with the way they are why try and change it?

  33. Rachel

    I take pictures sometimes, and I do edit them, but I use a program other than Photoshop that’s not nearly as sophisticated and I don’t touch the thinness or fatness or “flaws” of any people captured in my shots.

  34. Chelsea

    I heard that they were trying to pass a law, where if a photo is Photoshoped in a magazine or an add that it had to state it somewhere on the photo. I only heard this once then nothing more. Has anyone else heard about this law, and/ or know any more information on this.

    • Nsterken

      That’s the law in the UK. I think it would be a fine regulation here. But it is kind of pointless as every image receives retouching. I’ve never shot an image that did not need some type of cosmetic help. Same back in the film days: cameras are too limited in their dynamic range. Hence why we need post-production. If only folks could be sensible about it.

  35. Joelle

    Someone should do a magazine with no photoshopping allowed. I mean…besides simple cropping to straighten the picture out some. I wonder which stars would be brave enough? I think it’s genius.

    • Nsterken

      Check out Aerie, American Eagle’s lingerie line. It features no retouching.

      Also, American Apparel claims to not retouch their models.

      Sadly, they are the minority. I personally do not engage in the high-end retouching on my work. However, I do spend a LOT of hours retouching my models and clients but it is to make them look more REALISTIC and not UNrealistic. LOL I also then spend a lot of time making my digital images look like film.

      I just thought of that: ya know, I like retouching my images so that they look more life like and the industry would rather retouch stuff so that it looks more like a fantasy.

  36. Rosie

    This is sad. No wonder even teens suffer eating disorders and are depressed. No wonder our daughters are growing up shunning their looks and their bodies. This is all in the name of big business and profit.

  37. Krista

    Has anyone read “Barbie Doll” by Margie Piercy? It’s a short poem about body image and societal expectations. It’s one of my favorite poems because it deals powerfully and succinctly with the issues discussed on this site.

  38. Rachel

    It really blows me away that any article criticizing the unreal and mostly unattainable standards for women’s appearances promoted in media attracts so many thin people complaining that they are being picked on. First of all this misses the point entirely. The point is that we need greater representations of all body types in the media not just thin ones or youthful looking ones. Second it reeks of unexamined privilege. Larger women endure insults and discrimination constantly. It effects their job prospects, their ability to buy clothes, even their ability to get proper medical treatment because any and all health problems they may have may be blamed on their size whether or not the problem has something to do with their weight. A few memes about real women having curves does not equal the systemic prejudice against larger people, especially larger women. This article is about a system meant to make us all feel insecure so we buy crap we don’t need. We should all get behind tearing it down and stop being so defensive when someone dares say that putting one body type that is exceedingly rare forward as the norm in almost every media we see is damaging and wrong.

    For the record, I am thin and don’t diet either. So what? I find these types of articles refreshing and not at all offensive.

  39. Leilani

    The photo of Kimora looks like they PhotoShopped her into another person entirely. As if they literally put a photo of another woman they saw in the street who almost remotely resembles her! Why aren’t we ALL famous fashion models right now?! I’m sick of hating my large,aging body. Let us love ourselves in peace,while the cartoons do all the work…

  40. Nsterken

    As a young photographer, I am learning all of these retouching techniques at this very moment. I very much enjoyed this article and would love to comment, as I do not see any other folks from the industry speaking out here.

    First of all, I somewhat agree with the article. I am an aspiring photographer and I want to shoot fashion and glamour. I am not sure about beauty, however, due to the ridiculous amount of retouching this sect of the industry holds as standard.

    FIrst off, PLEASE! EVERYONE! Forget the term “Photoshopping”. It is a ridiculous term that 12 year olds use, not adults. THere happen to be many different software programs that are pixel editors, not just Adobe’s Photoshop. It’s so annoying seeing that silly term everywhere. The process described in the article is called ‘retouching.’ The crazy, extreme stuff is called ‘high-end’ or ‘hig-key retouching’.

    To me, this type of retouching is absolutely out of control. I think it is fine to distort the model’s bodies if you are a personal photog and the model wants this done personally or the client personally requests it or if it is a piece for your own portfolio. If you are doing it for personal use, make em look like a stick. While it may not look natural, it may look artistic. And that would be acceptable in a portfolio. But not when advertising and selling clothes or beauty products to consumers.

    It’s like no one in the world has any sense of responsibility anymore. Just like that one hussy said from Seld magazine: everyone is doing it, it’s business, it’s money, etc., etc. I personally find it ridiculous. Humans have pores. They have hips and things. They make these women look like aliens. It’s dumb.

    Not to mention harmful. For me, I find it silly because I can do the same techniques myself and realize that NO woman looks that way without spending 40 minutes in front of a monitor to make her blemish free everywhere. It’s not realistic.

    Also, since this is such a prevelant standard, I love the exact opposite: things like American Apparel, who feature young, beautiful, natural looking models with no retouching, nipples and pubic hair there for all to see. But those are the companies railed and criticized, because the models wear no makeup and look too young and are too naked. Well, at least they have cellulite and you can see it! At least teen girls looking at those clothes will realize that other girls have 2 creases underneath each of their butt cheeks, as well, not just ONE or NONE, as you can find in some really stupid ads.

    I dunno. I am currently spending something like 20 hours retouching portaits and shots of female models. When I am done, you can’t tell I retouched anything and I like it this way. I zap pimples and blemishes, even out splotchy skin tones, usually cause by temperature and lighting and I will ‘distort’ the parts of the image that received distortion to start with from the lens.

    That’s another the public does not understand: a camera lens causes distortion at shorter focal lengths. Some images need to be corrected for this distortion, sometimes making the model look skinnier than the orignally shot image. This is not cheating, the model did not look that big in real life: it’s distortion from the lens. That being said: a cover like the Faith Hill one is WAY beyond correcting for lens distortion. Lens distortion correction is pretty subtle unless you shot the image like 5 inches from the model’s nose !

    Anyways, beyond that, I don’t really distort body parts unless something really stranged happened with some lighting or what not. I do think it is fine to slightly adjust muffin top syndrome but, again, I do this slightly, as the lens exaggerates these types of effects and it is not something that would bother anyone who sees it, if they would notice at all.

    How I learned is that retouching is supposed to be as SUBTLE as possible. But what I am finding in the industry is that that is not the case. And no one is interested in hiring me for the type of images I wish to produce save for companies like American Apparel and such and these nitty, gritty realistic companies are still few and far between.

    Anway, that’s my 2 cents.

    • Nsterken

      Oh, I forgot:

      All these examples on here are VERY subtle. If you want to see the real retouching, Google the search words “high-end fashion retouching’. It is kind of cool as it is very artistic but it should be viewed as artistic and these companies are acting as if it were natural instead of artwork.

      I also think it is kind of silly how the public believes that these images are realistic. I do not think these types of people should be taking in advertising, watching TV or reading magazines as they obviously are not mentally equipped to handle what it is they are seeing.

    • albert

      Photoshop™ is a registered trademark of Adobe Systems. The use of terms like ‘photoshopped’ are discouraged by Adobe. Technically, the noun ‘Photoshop™’ must be followed by the trademark symbol ™. The registered trademark symbol, ®, may also be used. Yes, Adobe could sue for misuse.

  41. Jenna

    As a wedding photographer I use photoshop and lightroom all the time when editing images and it can be an amazing tool to retouch photos and give a beautiful twist to a special day. But the editing can be taken to the extreme especially where I work in Los Angeles. Its great that you have jumped into edited photos beyond the front page of magazines photo editing is everywhere!

  42. Jack

    I’m so glad more people are being alerted to this disaster they call beauty XD

  43. Pia

    I love, love this post! Just one correction, the AMA adopted its policy in 2011, not last year. Why is that so important? because clearly the adoption of that policy has served as nothing more than lip service; the practice (and impact) have only grown in the last 3 years. Funny how no one listens to medical “advice” these days.

  44. Rebecca Harken
    Rebecca Harken04-25-2014

    Dear Beauty Redefined,
    I enjoyed reading this post, and i agree with many of the things you said about photoshop. I feel that most people know that many images are fixed with photoshop, but most people don’t understand the extent to which those photos are actually changed. Many people see these images, but still believe that they are accurate portrayals of the person in the photo. I also feel that society has developed an unrealistic standard of beauty that most people cannot achieve, and we need to be aware of its effects on self-image and take steps to ensure that everyone understand the reality of the issue.
    Would you mind reading my blog at ? I would like to have your perspective.
    Rebecca Harken
    The Green Room at Iowa State University

  45. Katelyn

    First of all I would like to say I really enjoyed this article. The thing I don’t understand is why people are getting on here an bashing it? I can easily understand how some people might take what was said out of context, but why even go there? If you don’t like it or don’t agree with it, then don’t read it. I don’t think anything that was said was meant to put-down “naturally” thin women at all. It’s pointing out how the media takes images of already beautiful thin women and alter them to “unrealistic”, as in the image isn’t “their” real body, proportions.

    The fact that women have to get on here and try and put down this article makes me sad. Instead of standing together to try help our youth see that being confident in ones own skin and how we treat others is what is important we are on here bashing what was supposed to be for a good cause and turn it into something that it wasn’t intended. No where in this article did I see them putting down naturally skinny women. Maybe some of the terms used weren’t the best and I could see how someone could take it the wrong way especially if they have been picked on for being “too thin”, but the way it was written was not how some people are interpreting it. Nobody is saying that being thin is a bad thing; exercise and healthy eating is a good thing and if you are genetically blessed then great for you, but most of us women aren’t gifted that way and that’s ok too. I see what this article is saying about the vast majority of women not being proportioned the way some of these images have been altered and when young girls and teens see these images they want to be like that because that’s what society has deemed the way to be if you want to be “beautiful” and that’s where the “scary thin” comes into play because most girls, teens, and women who are of that proportion are purging to look like the models they see in these ads. I don’t know why people have to always bash someone else no matter what the issue, bad writing, being too thin, being too heavy, having wrinkles, being too smart, being too dumb… the list goes on and on. No wonder our youth acts the way they do, look at how people act? People just blow my mind sometimes.

    On another note, I most definitely don’t agree with how what the media says is beautiful. I think you can have curves and flaws and still be beautiful and sometimes the flaws we have are beautiful little quirks, if you will, that make us who we are and make us different from one another but doesn’t make us any less beautiful then someone who is what the media and society says is beautiful.

  46. ANON

    This is all just stupid. Beauty is all in the mind and HOW we perceive things. All this from the Media is about selling. Just switch off from all this!

    My late wife would have been considered ‘very ordinary’ by the standards all these stupid tricks the media plays; but here’s the important bit – she was very, very beautiful inside, you know, as a person. It blew all these stupid tricks of the media away; outward beauty is transitory and fades in the end.

    Please just be yourselves and let the true beauty just shine through without beleiving and buying into all this media crap. As a man I’d want to be with a woman who is being her natural self – that to me is so very beautfiul without all the falseness.

  47. emila

    Sorry but to dawn and all the other people complaining. Where is the skinny hate? If you are
    NATURALLY thin how does terms like abnormally thin upset you? I highly doubt anyone is as thin as the edited pics suggest. Realsitically remember the camera adds weight so if those women looked like that in real life theyd be a hell of a lot smaller. Thin models probably the same size as you are the women being grossly edited. Beauty redefined you dont need to apologise i think they are just taking it the wrong way as usual Life is hard for ALL body types.

    As someone whos thin socially you have havent really got much to complain about. The small comments you consider insults are seen as compliments. Larger women grt a lot more crap than you so stop acting everyone is against you. Everything we read and watch is covered in thin girls like you, so seriously chill out. The problem isnt being thin its making people who are already thin or averge sized look ridiculously and unnaturally thin, its editing out perfectly normal flaws. What the article is doing is good, its because of people like you turning in to something its not that this is still an issue. You are preventing the battle against inhuman editing . Editing to the point where it doesnt represent what humans can actually look like. To the point where if they existed like that in real life they probably wouldnt be able to function. The fight is against UNREALISTIC THINNESS NOT thin people so seriously read through things properly and get a clue. You are not as small as those images suggest no one is thats the problem.

  48. Amber

    Great article!! It helped me out for proof for a paper I was writing. I agree with the article. Definitely well written. It is so sad how images have to be fabricated to make a celebrity look skinnier and younger. The media unfortunately has a negative influence on the perfect body.

  49. Julia

    I am currently writing an essay on this. I disagree that they are digitally manipulating women to look extremely skinny! I am skinny, and eat so much but never put on weight as I have a high metabolism – and I am always under pressure to gain weight because of the representation of women in the media!! The unrealistic expectation of women is to have huge boobs, a teeny weeny size 4 waist and a HUGE bottom that sticks out a mile! ….which is realistically impossible! e.g. Nicki Minaj, Kim kardashian, Iggy Azalea etc. Yet they still claim to not have had surgery or be photoshopped – how can they expect to be good role models when they are the impossible?

  50. sage

    people want to see real not fake people

  51. anon

    Is anyone else reading this because of drama reference material? ;)

  52. Daniel

    Who wrote this exactly? I’m using this as a source for a research paper :)

  53. Ruby

    There’s a lot of comments going around about how saying that the models r photoshopped to have ‘stick thin legs’ etc. (what the article is saying) is offensive towards people who are naturally skinny. I totally agree however if the individual is so slim to a point that it becomes a health problem (e.g anorexic) then we obviously want to help these people in whatever way we can, however we DO NOT want to be promoting it as the ‘ideal body’ in ads because people are dying from this disease!!!!

  54. Ruby

    Sorry didn’t mean to say that Anorexia is a disease I meant mental illness

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