photo editing

Photo Editing – the Good Skill, Gone Wild

Do be careful when editing your photos, that you don’t go too far! Magazines have been going too far for ages; however, recently, celebrities and social media influencers have been caught out over-editing their photos. From this, arose the #nofilter campaign on Instagram. Still, there is much hullabaloo around editing photos.
To edit or not to edit? – One camp is anti-editing. This includes professional photographers claiming that photo editing has hurt their art. However, there are also those pro-editing. Here editing implies to adjust the contrast, apply some simple retouching, or even change the saturation to make the image look perfect. But there are also those who use editing all out to completely change the look of a photograph. Depending on the side you take, which approach to photo editing is best?

Weigh it up

If you think about it, the best approach will depend on how the photograph will be used. Mostly photos are lightly edited, which includes straightening the image or correcting the exposure. However, these types of change are not harmful or aimed at deceiving anyone. Such changes are simply to correct any defects, or to correct the inadequacies of the technologies used.

photo editing of a woman's face

Consider ethics

Focussing on ethics can help you stay on track, and not allow your editing to go too far. Nonetheless, for photos taken to capture memories, such as wedding photos, the client will want prints that they are proud of, and want to cherish. So, when blemishes or other imperfections are captured by the camera, and editing is not the issue, why not correct these? The scale starts to tilt when you edit an image to make someone look slimmer, or to add more muscle bulk than in reality is there, or changing a person’s face to one completely different.

photo editing of influencer without and with filters
Fitness model, Joss Mooney, that uses a filter on Instagram to enhance his appearance.

Taking it too far

This would include ignoring the small edits, or artists who use photo editing as their artistic tool, focusing on images that deceive. The image of a model may be stretched over a billboard next to a busy highway. The model is edited to make her look unnaturally thin. Even though there are bodies such as the Federal Trade Commission monitoring accuracy in advertising, this practice is extremely common. Advertisers routinely lie to the consumer, presenting images of what is ideal and what people seem to aspire to. However, the image that is created is not authentic – it is fake. The result is that many people, both men and women, develop the wrong impression of how they should look. This leads to a high rate of depression over a loss of self-esteem.

Photo editing of Madonna
Madonna: Edited and unedited.

The editing queen

Recently, new images of Madonna appeared on social media – and people were amazed at what they were seeing. The problem was that she also appeared in public; and the images taken of her without the filters and editing looked completely different. In fact, the authentic images of Madonna do not reflect a woman with a flawless skin. No, what you see is a face replete with fillers, and legs that are giving away her age. In the end, what you see is an idol who has changed her appearance to the extent that she does not look like herself anymore. Over-edited images attempt to hide all the defects; however, if you can’t live a life free from over editing, this screams an insecure person afraid of aging.

Photo editing - influecers changing their image

The pressure to correct their image

There has been an outcry from influence groups and activists to stop the over editing of images that lead to harm for vulnerable and gullible people. Young people, especially, are susceptible to the images promoted as attainable, flaunted by others online. Marketing companies such as Ogilvy UK and large international companies like Unilever have been caught out being unscrupulous. Thus to save face and protect their brands, such companies have taken action to alter their tactics. Much of this, however, was thanks to Dove’s clever body positivity campaign of using real women who represent genuine society, rather than a number zero model. Companies like Unilever have released statements that they will not in the future be using social media influencers with an edited appearance.

Photo editing - Julia Roberts’ advertisement for Lancôme Cosmetics
Julia Roberts' image completely edited for a Lancôme campaign which as later banned.

The Julia Roberts’ advertisement for Lancôme Cosmetics

Julia Roberts took part in an advertising campaign for Lancôme Cosmetics; however, the images were banned in the United Kingdom. The reason – the images were over edited, and were labelled as misleading. More so, the cosmetic company Lancôme ultimately lost money spent on the campaign. However, Lancôme is not alone. Other companies, such as L’Oreal, Johnson and Johnson, Revlon, and others, had similarly made their products appear better than they were, thus displaying false advertising. What this does is to hurt the brand image.

The moral of the story

The simple answer is to be careful not to over edit. Yes, editing an image to make it look somewhat better is not wrong. However, if the image is designed to deceive, consider the negative impact these images will have on your target audience. Also, it might even repel prospective buyers! You can make use of a professional photo editor, such as a virtual photo editor, to correct and polish your images. However, when you give your brief, make sure that over editing the image is not part of the protocol. It is regrettable that many celebrities are not willing to be bona fide role models. But a least there is hope for ad companies and businesses being compelled to change their ways. Will this trend continue or will it merely fade away? This is a question worth answering.

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