To what extent does Photoshop affect society?
February 23, 2015
Filed under Features
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Daily, we are bombarded by the appearance of “flawless” celebrities in television, advertisements and commercials. This false perception of a perfect body has led to the creation of numerous campaigns that are fighting the use of Photoshop.
Photoshop has been used since 1988, when Thomas and John Knoll came up with the idea to edit images. Ever since then it has taken over the media and graphics industry by a storm and now, after two decades of its invention, there have been debates over whether or not Photoshop has a lasting impact on society’s beauty standards.
Photoshop was originally innovated to show grayscale images on a monochrome display, and later on developed into a full-fledged editing program. And while the purpose of Photoshop back then was to alter images by cropping them or changing their color effect, now it has progressed into some companies using it to completely alter facial and body features.
With all of the media attention that the topic of Photoshop being used gets, it could be assumed that the use of Photoshop on the vast majority of people seen in media is common knowledge. But according to a survey done by OnePoll, many people still do not comprehend the puppeteering that goes on behind the images.
A UK survey showed that 15 percent of the 18 to 24 year olds surveyed in a 2000 people poll, believed that the models who are used in mass communication, accurately depict what the human body looks like. According to the same survey, over 650 of the survey’s participants were “unconfident or extremely unconfident with their body.”
These results have lead to some health officials, like licensed psychologist Dr. Sarah Ravin, to believe that the use of Photoshop has made women and men more dissatisfied about their bodies.
“I think that while Photoshop is a wonderful tool, it has been overused,” Ravin said. “Photoshop has made society believe that it is normal to be flawless and to have perfect proportions, and that’s not true.”
Photoshop has taken apart people, and instead of focusing on the body as a whole, it looks toward certain body parts that might be deemed flawless, Ravin added.
Not only has the use of Photoshop increased the insecurity of others, some companies, like Target, have overused Photoshop to the extent of publishing flukes that were made while altering the models’ bodies, such as elongated arm, an unproportional body part or a hyperextended torso. Clinical psychologist Dr. Stephanie Smith, suggests that, in fact, the use of Photoshop has changed our views on the visual world around us.
“I’m not sure I would say that Photoshop has altered the mind of society, but it is a tool that is pretty widely used, as far as I know,” Smith said “I think most of us think—at least at first glance—that photographs are realistic portrayals of a person, place or thing. When it turns out that these images are not realistic, it might affect our expectations of the visual world around us.”
Although companies that continue to use Photoshop to alter supermodels can change the way we see models in media, brands like Seventeen magazine believe that discontinuing the use of the program will actually allow them to better connect with their audience. Emily J Legleitner, The Michigan Time Assistant Layout Editor, believes that companies who are starting to eliminate the use of Photoshop are leading an important movement.
“Companies should absolutely stand up against Photoshop, especially those that once endorsed it and now see the damage it has caused,” Legleitner said.
The movement to stop airbrushing and nit-picking the model’s body parts have been also led by companies like Dove, who has recently decided to endorse the “Photoshop action.” The “Photoshop action” is a downloadable file that applies a revert-Photoshop on a picture that has been changed with a single click. It is aimed at art directors who may be creating ads that do alter the models.
Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign also aims to celebrate women and their natural bodies by raising awareness and fundraising for women empowerment. In the early 2000s, Dove’s managing team was looking for ways to revive their brand after being overshadowed by other companies.
Along with many health officials and companies like Dove, students like Rebecca Weiner ’17, also praise brands against Photoshop because they believe they are showing the public something more realistic than an adjusted model.
Photoshop creates an unrealistic expectation of what people should look like to be pretty and seeing these beautiful celebrities in magazines makes people want to do whatever is possible to look that way, but it’s not even real, Weiner said.
“I think society focuses too much on beauty standards because beautiful is a word that means something different to everyone,” Weiner said. “People should focus on things that will make them happier and not insecure.”