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What People Really Think of Retouching

Glamour readers weigh in on airbrushing

By MSNLiving Feb 8, 2012 8:00PM
By Cindi Leive, editor-in-chief Glamour Magazine

Years ago, I was at lunch with a group of magazine editors-in-chief when the subject came up of French legislation proposing limits on retouching pictures in popular publications. “Well,” said one of my colleagues, laughing, “there goes my editor’s note photo.”

It was a joke, of course, but her point was this: Retouching does happen at magazines—and, in this era of digital photography, almost everywhere else in our world, from movie posters and CD covers to Facebook images and Match.com profiles. It’s nothing new (even Abraham Lincoln was once essentially photoshopped!), but with 70 iPhone apps out now allowing women to do it themselves, it’s newly ubiquitous—and controversial. So does retouching inspire unrealistic expectations? Or is it no big deal, like the digital version of a good concealer? In our March 2012 issue, we asked the experts. And by experts, I mean 1,000 women just like you.

Nicholas and Elizabeth, before retouching (Courtesy of Glamour)Real-life couple Nicholas and Elizabeth, pictured here in Miami, in an unretouched (and cute!) vacation shot.

Nicholas and Elizabeth, after retouching (Courtesy of Glamour)In common retouching procedures, one expert says, “women move toward Barbie, and guys toward G.I. Joe.” Elizabeth’s not into it: “I look scary here!” She’s right—this is taking it way too far.

You can read the complete results of the survey here—and they are fascinating. Bottom line: You’re OK with a little retouching. But not a lot. Sixty percent of you say it’s OK for a woman to retouch her own personal photos (now very common on dating sites and Facebook). But you’re skeptical when the media does it, unless it’s for minor stuff like getting rid of a pimple or “steaming” a wrinkled skirt. Three-quarters of women are fine with those kinds of changes (“you have to want to look like the people on the pages,” notes Jessie Wohlgemuth, 27, of Belmont, Massachusetts), but only one in four approve of altering what Mother Nature gave you: curves, birthmarks and other distinguishing characteristics. “I want to look like me on my best day,” said one typical respondent, “not change my body.”

What you do with your own personal Facebook and Match.com pictures is up to you, of course. But how should a magazine like Glamour handle retouching? In the March issue, we published the pledge below. And we plan on sticking to it:

Yes, we DO do it—and so do most fashion publications in the age of digital photography, since retouching includes everything from darkening a sky so a headline reads better to keeping models’ nipples from showing through a shirt (done in our March issue—twice!). But as your responses make clear, retouching has its limits—or should—and Glamour plans to take a stronger role in setting ours. You told us you don’t want little things like freckles and scars removed, and we agree; those are the kinds of details that make each woman on the planet unique and beautiful. And while our policy has always been not to alter a woman’s body shape, we’ll also be asking photographers we hire not to manipulate body size in the photos we commission, even if a celebrity or model requests a digital diet (alas, it happens). “I believe Glamour should take an active role in encouraging unretouched photos,” says Jessica Gordon, 29, of Los Angeles. “It has to start somewhere.”

What do you think of photo retouching? Has it gone too far, or is it to be expected? Tell us on Facebook.

More from Glamour:
14 Sexy Going Out Dresses You Can Wear When It's Cold Out
Cute Haircut Ideas for Midlength Hair

50 Things Men Are Afraid to Ask For But Want Super-Duper Badly

Mar 22, 2012 4:04PM

We are far to concerned and consumed by our own vanity. Pretty sad. On re-touching photos .... I bet Ansel Adams is rolling in his grave.

Mar 22, 2012 3:21PM
Against photoshopping out flaws!  Love reality!  The value of a person is not in any outward appearance.  The more we buy into the concept that outward appearance increases value, the less we value character, honesty, integrity, work ethic, etc.  I personally don't care if celebrities are embarrassed that they don't look 22 years old when they're 40.  But I do care that impressionable people are made to feel ashamed if they don't emulate the celebrities.  Let's see reality, and value character and content over appearance.
Mar 22, 2012 2:27PM
I believe that photoshop are used just to bring the sales .
Mar 22, 2012 12:27PM
While Photoshop can be very useful - and is pretty easy for most people to use - the ALTERING of photos has been around for much of the past century, making it possible that NO photo is what it appears to show. This was extensively done in Stalin's USSR, where alterations to well-known photos were carried out to delete or add people in line with political shifts. For example, photos of Lenin during the revolution had images of Trotsky deleted [he fell afoul of Stalin] - and images of Stalin added [implying that he had been present with the leader of the Bolshevik revolution and founder of the USSR]. For much more on this, see the excellent book, :Making People Disappear."
Mar 22, 2012 11:09AM
 Lets be honest. Skilled photographers/artists can "create a lie" with the camera/brush/pencil through angles and lighting. However I wouldn't put it in the same field as Photo Shopping.

I honestly don't understand why companies pay millionsof dollars for models?  Get some bum off the street for pennies and Photo Shop them instead.

I'm into photography! It's not real, not the picture that was taken. No one nowadays can be real they have to keep messing with everything! I'm against it! It's fake and a fony. It's actually a lie! As with any photo that's been touched up in Photo Shop. It's one thing to crop, lighten or darken a bit but other than that, a lie.
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