Photoshop gets a lot of criticism when it’s used to morph women into idealistic, unrealistic goddesses. This criticism is understandable, as photoshopped media warps both female and male perceptions of what a “perfect” woman should look like. We want to see “real” women plastered to billboards and posing in print ads, but unless we’re walking around au naturel, none of us are 100 percent real.
Many things done with Photoshop can also be done without it. Blemishes disappear with concealer, bone structure appears with contouring, eyebrows and lips are reshaped, spandex creates a slim hourglass figure; the list could go on and on. The proper use of the right products can completely change a person’s appearance. Even the right lighting, angle or filter can make an enormous difference in photographs.
This isn’t to condemn all makeup wearers and photo retouchers, but to point out that demanding unedited models is a bit hypocritical when many women present their edited selves to the world every day.
Of course Photoshop editing is done on a much larger scale, to a much more extreme degree and for a wider audience than your average made-up girl. But nevertheless, the appearance of that girl on campus is no more real than the model in the advertisement. It doesn’t matter how small of a modification is made — once it’s done you no longer look exactly like your real self. And the real, not the enhanced version, is what we want, right?
It’s understood that photoshopped images are fake. If you’ve never seen a person look like that in real life, it’s because they don’t exist. Females will never look like the cover girl and neither will the model who posed for the shoot. We don’t complain about seeing zombies because we know it’s silly to get worked up over things that do not exist. And since it’s highly unlikely all companies will stop retouching advertisements, we should treat those photos the same — just as fantasy.
Even when companies opt for untouched ad campaigns, the models are naturally, by the fashion industry’s standards, beautiful. They don’t have acne, crooked noses, cellulite or anything else deemed unworthy of admiration. Untouched merely means no Photoshop, so there’s still the magic of makeup and photography in the mix.
When “real” women want to see “real” women, does that mean they just want gorgeous, perfectly proportioned models who aren’t edited beyond recognition, or that they want to see a variety of females who all look vastly different? Regardless, Photoshop isn’t the only way to drastically change a person’s natural appearance.
We all have different ideas of what the best version of us is. For some that means maintaining a certain weight, for others it means having a specific beauty regimen, or not using any cosmetic products. Regardless of what we do, we’re entitled to look and feel our best, edited or not. But if we do choose to modify and real is what we’re looking for, we can’t complain about Photoshop.