When Photoshopping Hurts – A Lesson in Photography Feelings

Last year, a 14-year-old girl started a petition to demand that Seventeen magazine stop Photoshopping the models who grace its pages. She’d had enough, saying young girls deserved to see real bodies and real faces as they struggle to love their own physical appearances. In 2010, the actress Emily Blunt was quoted in Los Angeles Times Magazine as saying that she once instructed a photographer not to Photoshop her into looking thinner.

“I can understand there are things like shadows they need to fix after a shoot,” she said, “but it’s unfair to represent an image of yourself if it’s not true.”

After seeing herself digitally thinned for a mass-market magazine, Actress Shailene Woodley was recently quoted as saying she strives to have only realistic images of herself in print.

“That’s BS,” she said. “That’s not what I really look like.”

Photoshop Photography Kate Moss Compared

Kate Moss – Before and after

Years ago, a friend of mine attended a holiday party at her work. Some of the images from the party were later posted to the company’s website, and right away, she noticed that she didn’t look quite like herself in them: Her thighs were thinner, her teeth were whiter, and some of the wrinkles on her 50-something face had clearly been airbrushed out. Worse, not everyone in the pictures appeared to have been altered. Even as she envied this more youthful and svelte version of herself, she also felt hurt—and judged. Someone was sending a message: You’d look better if you were thinner, had whiter teeth, and were less wrinkled. Thanks a lot, right?

Professional photographers use Photoshop all the time, especially to improve composition. But when it comes to altering the subjects’ physical appearance, the rules of engagement have yet to be set in stone. Should permission be sought? How much is too much? Should you stick to erasing flyaway hairs and giant zits? If it’s okay to shave off a little thigh curve, is it also okay to add a bigger bust line?

I see a distinct overlap between Photoshop and plastic surgery—that is, with many of the same questions at play. Do you strive to make your subjects look like themselves, just better? What does it mean, to look better? Most important, why are we doing it at all? It’s a complicated discussion, and as photographers, we should all be part of it. Clearly photographers now hold some collective sway over body ideals and, therefore, body image. We best be careful how we use it. Your thoughts?

 

Truth, Lies, and Digital Doctoring on Photographs

Back in the ‘80s, there was a great ad campaign for cassette tapes (anyone remember those?) put out by Memorex. It suggested their tapes made such high-quality recordings, a person might not realize they were recordings. “Is it real or is it Memorex?” was such a popular campaign; people started using the phrase to describe any fake that was convincing. These days we’ve got a new question for that situation, at least with photography: Is it real or is it Photoshop? The difference now is that it’s often harder to tell.

The rise of photo-editing software spurs the skeptic in us all. Almost any striking photo makes us question whether we’re seeing something from reality or something doctored up—perhaps even completely Frankensteined together—from the artist’s imagination. Skeptic is not a bad word here: Photographs are powerful forces, and when documenting (as with photojournalism) or influencing (as with fashion magazine covers), there’s a strong argument to have them vetted. One 2012 study even showed that our very own memories can be revised by doctored photographs. To think, a stealth Photoshopper could rewrite someone’s history!

On the brighter side, there are also studies that show how photography can reinforce accurate memories of real things in our lives. And ironically, this is where I think digital photo-processing, done right, can be a godsend—because, hey, sometimes photos become truer with a little doctoring. They might not tell the truth about the photographer’s raw camera skills, but they tell the truth about what the photographer saw. Particularly for amateur photographers, SOOC (straight out of camera) photographs don’t always do that. With photo-editing software, it’s possible to make corrective adjustments until the photograph comes to life in a way that makes the photographer go, “Ah-ha. Now, that’s what my mind saw.” Isn’t that the point? We want to remember what moved us, and why.

Maybe the question shouldn’t be “Is it real or is it Photoshop?” Photoshopping doesn’t necessarily make an image “not real.” Sometimes it can do quite the opposite. Maybe the question should really be Does it tell the truth?

What We Are Really Remodeling for Photographers

A lot can change in 40 years. It boggles my mind to think of all we have now that we didn’t have 40 years ago: the personal computer, cell phones, air bags, microwaves, and, one of our personal favorites, digital cameras. Since Lawrence Photo opened in 1973, the Berlin wall fell, apartheid ended, our ozone layer sprouted a leak, and reality TV was introduced. Let’s not forget Harry Potter and the Simpsons. We’ve seen a lot.

After 40 years in the camera and photo processing business, let’s just say our little shop is pretty comfortable with change. In fact, we’re so comfortable that right now we’re the ones creating it. (Thank you to everyone for excusing our dust while we remodel!) I hope you’ll like the new look and feel of our space once the dust is cleared, but I also want to point out that the real change has been taking place under the surface of all that hammering, sawing, and painting. That is, with the purchase of new technology and equipment, we’ve been quietly preparing to give you a whole lot more options for what to do with those beautiful pictures sitting on your SD cards.

You’ll still be able to upload files to our website for photo processing, but I’d like to invite you to come in with your SD card when our remodel is complete later this month. Get a firsthand look at the amazing things you’re going to be able to do locally with your photographs. Let’s talk about your ideas. How big do you want to go? Where do you want to display the finished product? What kind of gifts would you like to create? Let’s open up photo files together and get a look at what’s possible. Because while we’ve always been happy to change with the changing times, there’s one distinct exception: Our 1973 corner-store mentality is here for the long haul. We still like to get to know customers, like to see what you create, like to hear your stories, and like being able to personally help you take your craft to the next level.

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Spring into Colorful Monochromatic Photographs

When people hear the term monochromatic photography, their minds tend to fly to grayscale or black-and-white images. Indeed, that’s the most notorious form, but have you ever experimented with colorful monochromatic photography? Since any photo that uses one color with either black or white is monochromatic, you can really have a heyday with it. This delicious effect can be achieved easily by desaturating a photo to black and white and then adjusting the color balances in a photo-editing program like Adobe Photoshop Elements.Monochromatic Photographs

Monochromatic Photographs

Yet there’s another way to achieve the monochromatic photo or at least something approaching it. That is to choose a monochromatic subject or create a monochromatic composition. Food makes a great tool for this kind of project. Think heaps of apples or rows of shucked corn.

Monochromatic Photographs

The natural world can be wonderful for it, too!

Monochromatic Photographs

Monochromatic Photographs

Don’t these pictures just make you itch for the lushness of April and May? Get your cameras ready. Spring’s zenith is just around the corner, and we’d love to see some of your very own monochromatic compositions from the natural world as it continues to reawaken—from the green grass to the happy yellows of wild primrose to the downy whites of flowering serviceberry trees.

Show us what you’ve got! Share your photos with us on our Facebook page!