Photo Manipulation

The Face Behind the Photoshop: Celebrities

One of the most common groups when we think about heavy uses of Photoshop is celebrities. Many celebrities refuse to acknowledge how they really look, instead working on controlling the media so no one finds out what they look like without makeup or Photoshop. Recently Lorde spoke out against Photoshop, reminding fans that the images they see aren’t always real, and its ok to have flaws.

"Flaws are ok"

“Flaws are ok”

I love this tweet so much, it reminds her followers that she’s not perfect, even if some people like to edit her photos so it seems like she is. Lorde has a massive fanbase and a simple tweet like this can go a long way in reassuring them they are ok as they are and the images they see in the media aren’t real.

Another artist who has taken a stand against Photoshop is Lady Gaga. Lady Gaga is the queen of costumes and characters but she recently criticized Glamour for her overly edited cover image on the December 2013 issue.


In reference to the image, Gaga stated “I felt my skin looked too perfect. I felt my hair looked too soft. I do not look like this when I wake up in the morning”. She called on the magazine for change, stating “when the covers change, that’s when culture changes”.

We can talk about change all we want but nothing will happen unless action is taken and these women are using their status as celebrities to raise awareness of these issues by calling out instances of Photoshop and owning the fact that they are not perfect and thats just fine.


Removing Our Humanity

Looking at airbrushed images, the perfect skin and slender figures jump out at first. Look deeper and you’ll notice just how wrong these altered images look, in removing all our lines, wrinkles and imperfections, the computer is removing our personality and our humanity.

BBC published an article in the fall of 2013 asking “What does it feel like to be airbrushed?” in which the author, Tulip Mazumdar, pictured below, underwent a makeover courtesy of Photoshop.

The woman moves from natural to almost alien with all her perfections removed.

Mazumdar moves from natural to almost alien with all her perfections removed.

As the picture is edited the flaws that make her human and add warmth disappear. The image left is cool and almost calculating, all traces of her original personality gone. Her face is more narrow, her skin lighter and the wrinkles around her eyes are almost gone.

Before and after

Before and after

The original images on their own look perfectly fine but compared to the digitally altered one, as Mazumdar says, “suddenly the original images that I was quite happy with at the start, looked old, tired and a bit chubby. Looking again at my airbrushed images, there’s something else I lost – any sign of a personality. I look like a clone, almost inhuman.”

Georgina Wilkin, a former model, has suffered from an eating disorder due to the job and recognizes the feeling.  Wilkin says; “I’ve had a few times where I’ve worked for a magazine and the magazine’s come out and I hardly even recognise myself. My legs have been skimmed off, my pores have been eliminated, my nose has been straightened … I felt awful – you feel that what you are as a human being isn’t good enough.”

The side by side comparison highlights all of our flaws and completely overlooks our strengths. All you can see is what was wrong and what was corrected, instead of the beauty that was there originally.

Images: Before and After

While it’s no secret good makeup and lighting can drastically change a persons appearance, Photoshop moves beyond these tricks to drastically alter images. Every single image released by the media – thats magazines, catalogues, advertisers, everything – has been Photoshopped into something inhuman. Below are some examples, taken from the sites Beauty Redefined and It’s clear even the people we consider most beautiful aren’t perfect enough according to our societal standards.

Retouching can vary from simply adjusting lighting to removing blemishes and smoothing out the skin to physically altering the person’s body, making them skinnier, more muscular, etc. Sometimes there are obvious signs, such as missing legs, fingers, awkward angles, but often the person appears normal, untouched.

Britney beforeNafter

Britney before and after showing just how much the computer can change.

Madonna beforeNafter

Another famous celebrity, Madonna, before and after with perfect, glowing skin.

Kate Middleton. You can see her already tiny frame was shrunk even more for the cover.

Kate Middleton. You can see her already tiny frame was shrunk even more for the cover.

Another widespread trend is whitewashing, shown here with Beyonce's drastically altered skin for Loreal.

Another widespread trend is whitewashing, shown here with Beyonce’s drastically altered skin for L’Oreal.

Looking through image after image perfected for magazines, comparing them to their unaltered companions, what concerned me the most was how normal the Photoshopped images seemed. Only when mistakes are made and limbs are accidentally cut off, or we have another image to compare to, do we realize how much an image has been altered.

Airbrushing removes all the little imperfections that makes us who we are. The computer drives our features more towards the norm, removing any signs of imperfections. Digital alteration is everywhere, no magazine editor or advertiser would dare release an image unedited. These changes create an impossible goal, an unreachable ideal and no one notices.