PLUS Model Magazine Hot Topic: Is Photoshopping Really Needed In The Fashion Industry and Media?

To photoshop or not to photoshop, that is the question being raised by many.

Photoshopping seems to be the latest hot topic that is creating buzz in the media. The fashion industry has been photoshopping their images for years. With eating disorders and low self-esteem a HUGE issue with young girls that continues to be on the rise, more people are coming forward, speaking out against photoshopping and the negative impact it contributes to this issue.

Last week, Vogue unveiled its February 2014 issue featuring actress Lena Dunham on the cover. Many applauded Vogue for placing someone on their cover who was not the typical “Vogue girl”. Lena Dunham represents someone who tells the world to accept her as she is, flaws and all. She celebrates her uniqueness with an attitude of “I don’t care what you think of me”. It’s refreshing and admired by many.

Then the Jezebel story went live.

Jezebel, an online women’s news and culture magazine, expressed their disappointment in the images shown in Vogue, saying the images were obviously photoshopped and offered $10,000 for the untouched images.

While Jezebel brings up some valid points regarding photoshopping and questions why magazines feel the need to “fix”women by altering their images dramatically, the $10,000 image “bounty” was viewed as misplaced to many. Some commenters offered better ways, in their opinion, to use the $10,000, such as donating it to a charity or organization that focused on positive body image for young girls.

Let’s take a peek into the world of modeling and photography and talk photoshopping here from both sides of the fence.

Some would say a little photoshopping is not a bad thing. Whiten some teeth, remove a tattoo, some stretch marks and/or scars. It really depends on what the image is being used for. For example, if it’s a conservative retailer, they may not want any tattoos showing.  If it’s a swimwear campaign, the retailer or brand may want the stretch marks photoshopped. In their mind and from their perspective, it’s about marketing that product to consumers.

But when is it too much?

Jezebel cited some examples of photoshopping where there were images of celebrities in magazines where limbs were photoshopped to the point of them being removed as well as waists being more defined and bodies photoshopped so they look slimmer. And I am sure every one of us has looked at a magazine cover or image on a retailer site and said to ourselves, “That looks photoshopped”.

The positive side to no photoshopping was evident this week with the launch of two campaigns featuring models that were not photoshopped.

The first campaign featured British plus size model Laura Catterall in a swimwear campaign for Cosmopolitan Australia. At size 14, Laura is on the smaller side of the plus size modeling range. However, this image in particular caught our eye, especially since it’s Cosmopolitan of all magazines. Tummy rolls!

WOW! She still looks beautiful, tummy rolls and all. And she is working that swimsuit.

Here’s the other images of Laura Catterall from the Cosmopolitan swim spread (click on each pic to see full size):


The other campaign that had people talking came from retailer American Eagle. On Friday, they launched their Spring 2014 Aerie Real ad campaign featuring all unairbrushed models with the tagline “The Real You is Sexy.”

Granted, the models in the campaign look to have minimal flaws. However, kudos to American Eagle for (1) using larger straight sized models and not photoshopping what we consider normal things such as a tummy and tattoos and (2) using the campaign to promote positive body images. Considering that their customer demographic is 15 – 21 yr-old women, this is clearly a fantastic way to convey positive body image through imagery.

Our Editor-in-Chief Madeline Jones offers her views on photoshopping:

“I’ve thought a lot about photoshopping over the years. I’ve also spoken to models and agencies about it. I’ve been trying to do a ‘NO PHOTOSHOP’ issue for years and it’s extremely hard to get an agency and model(s) to agree to it. The truth of the matter is that images have a greater response when a picture is enhanced moderately. I do not believe in altering the models features and limbs, but at PMM we do clean up blemishes, clean up back rounds or enhance them and fix clothing that needs a little help. This is the business we are in, we are responsible to our advertisers to have the best issue we can.”

This brings up the important lesson of body image. The important thing to take away from this is that we should not be looking to models and what we see in the magazines as a way of defining what the perfect body is. Instead of trying to mirror someone else, which is an unrealistic goal, we should instead be embracing our own individual beauty no matter what size we are. Change starts within each of us first. Then we can be better examples and mentors to young girls out in the world.

As plus model Jennie Runk said in her interview with Elle and on her Facebook page recently:

“The biggest thing for women to keep in mind is you can’t ever let someone define beauty for you. Look in the mirror and say that this is my definition of perfection.”

“Know there is a difference between the real me, and the girl you see in my campaigns and catalogues, etc. Like characters in your favorite books or movies, we are based on real people, but in the end, those images are fictional. Please note the difference, and if you have children, explain it to them. This is important.”

If you’re wondering what happened with the Jezebel $10,000 bounty, someone took the money and sent them the unaltered images, which they published on Friday. You can read that article here. They admit that the photoshopping was minimal, which led to some wondering if it was all worth it.

Maybe it was. It has gotten people talking about photoshopping and Vogue is now, more than ever, in the spotlight regarding this topic. Let’s see if this will affect future issues. We know this for sure… we will definitely be seeing more campaigns featuring untouched images.

What do you think about the Jezebel/Lena Dunham story? What are your views on photoshopping images? Please leave us a comment below and let us know what you think.