25 Shocking Photoshop Retouching Examples


Retouching: 25 Shocking Comparisons

When you look these images, can you see the ‘before’, or only the ‘after’?


I was watching a fantastic new show called ‘The Conversation with Amanda De Cadenet’ the other day. It’s all about really frank and candid conversations with women (one music star, one author/politician/thinker, and two movie stars per episode), all about body image and confidence and the women’s plight. I was looking at the women on the show, many of whom are around 40 years old, and noticed that despite the fact that it’s HD television and they are sitting on a sofa looking very candid, they all looked like they’d just stepped out of a magazine. Then I looked a little closer, and I noticed that they had zero pores, and zero wrinkles or face lines. Their skin look perfectly smooth.

Retouching: 25 Shocking Comparisons

Retouching: 25 Shocking Comparisons

Eva Longoria furrowing her brow on TV show ‘The Conversation’

This struck me as particularly ironic, given that the topic of conversation was self-image and confidence. It also struck me as very misleading, given that the setting was so casual, and it was meant to look and feel like a live interview. What confusing messages! We’re supposed to relate to the women in the show, who are supposedly letting it all hang out and bearing their souls, and yet they can’t bring themselves to bear their pores and wrinkles on television? And what’s worse, is that they’re fully aware that the vast majority of women watching the show have no idea that their appearance has been digitally enhanced, and just wonder why they look so much older than the women their age on the show (or any show, for that matter).

By now, it’s a given that we’ve become accustomed to knowing that even the most naturally flawless celebrities are retouched (ie. “Photoshopped”) to look beyond perfect in magazines and pictures. Through the years, we’ve heaved sighs of relief knowing that at least on TV we can see them in their truest form, even with the hair and eyelash extensions, perfect lighting and all that perfectly-applied makeup. However, it appears that being flawless is the rule of thumb among celebrities nowadays. So much so that even HD television is being “Photoshopped” using automatic filters to conceal even the smallest of imperfections.

Retouching: 25 Shocking Comparisons

Luckily for these celebs and unfortunately for us, the technology gods have devised a way to bring auto-retouching to the faces on both pre-recorded and live television, so that people can look absolutely wrinkle and blemish-free even when moving and talking. But it doesn’t stop there. Not only is skin on television automatically retouched using smart technology that can recognize the contours of a face, but it also heightens and lightens eye color, adds shine to hair and contrast to makeup, and can even thin the body.

Traditionally, facial blemishes and dark circles were hidden on TV through thick layers of makeup and skin products. We all contended with that, what with makeup only able to do so much to truly hide the blemishes without making someone look like a circus clown. Makeup, over the years, has also evolved, allowing artisans to wield their “weapons” without placing as thick of a mask person’s face. More natural-looking but just as deceptive makeup, coupled with retouching, and the fact that published unretouched images almost don’t exist anymore, has made it harder than ever for women to recognize when they’re being duped.

Retouching: 25 Shocking Comparisons

I’d like to say that there are easy ways to tell exactly how digitally altered an image is, but since many retouchers enhance their images pore-by-pore, it’s often hard to tell. One way to recognize is when the skin looks perfectly smooth and without any lines. Even teenagers have lines. Another is if there’s no shadow under the eyes. Everyone has under-eye circles – even toddlers.

Shailene Woodley (who was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role in “The Descendants”), said: “I saw somebody — what I thought was me — in a magazine once, and I had big red lips that definitely did not belong on my face. I had boobs about three times the size they are in real life. My stomach was completely flat. My skin was also flawless. But the reality is that I do not have those lips and my skin is not flawless and I do have a little bit of a stomach. It was not a proper representation of who I am. I realized that, growing up and looking at magazines, I was comparing myself to images like that — and most of it isn’t real.”

Retouching: 25 Shocking ComparisonsThe main thing to realize and remember is that the images you see in print – and now on TV – are fantasy. They’re computer enhanced versions of what was a person at one point, but no longer resembles reality. The bottom line is that everyone – even movie stars – look imperfect in real life, and you should never ever compare yourself to what you see in the media.

Here’s a canvas of Photoshop work that has been done on some of the most celebrated beauties today. These are but a few examples of typical retouching done in almost all images you’ll see in mainstream magazines:

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A writer, artist and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary spends most of her time in France, but still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. Hilary spent the past decade living in NYC and has traveled extensively around the world, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and brands to bring to Urbanette readers.

Reader Discussion: 17 Comments

  1. As a model, I can say that this is definitely true. Sometimes I hardly recognize my body after it’s been retouched. I *wish* I looked like that in real life!

  2. Gabrielle Williams

    Perfect, excellent and flawless… The advertising world is making us live in a “very ideal world.” This article wonderfully explained that perfection doesn’t exist, we all have flaws! So, love yourself and be contented!

  3. Hannah Mayers

    The video embedded (Body Evolution – Model Before and After) is very fantastic and it actually summarizes the main points of the article! This is really fantastic!

    I can just conclude that we are always deceived!

    I’m going to share this. Really an eye opener.

  4. I didn't know that television could be retouched like that…especially in a conversation about having more confidence! The amount of focus on physical beauty in our culture and the obsession with removing flaws is becoming a very sad trend. Articles like this that make these techniques more well-known are an important part of overcoming that trend. Thank you!

  5. Videos are just wow. I notice they have a thing for enlarging the eyes, narrowing the face and elongating the neck. Of course our perception of beauty will be distorted when every image and video is being entirely enhanced. These are not even real people anymore, they're merely computerized images.

  6. Jen Spillane

    I had no idea that television was also being retouched, and by way of automatic filters at that. Wow.

  7. Courtney Watson

    This article shows the world that celebrities and anyone in the public eye are just like the rest of us. Nobody in this world is exactly perfect, we all have our "flaws." People are 100% correct on, "why advertisers and other companies would pay a model" to get photographed if they are just going to take the picture and completely change it. You could take just a picture of anybody and completely make a new person in photoshop.

  8. Joanne Samonte

    What I don’t get is why advertisers and other companies would pay a model their exorbitant fees when a computer can create a “model” from an average looking person so easily. I guess paying for the skill of a good “photo editor” is comparable to paying for a model…?

  9. Sarah Evanston

    Looking at those “model” images definitely made me feel discontented about my body and looks. Now that I know the truth I can keep things in perspective – thank you!!!

  10. Francis Woods

    Wow. They can now “Photoshop” moving images.? Darn. Im guessing were not far from inventing a device that “photoshops” real live people right in front of you. Scary.

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