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.
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.
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.
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.”
The 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: