Photoshop is awesome. It does some truly amazing things to photos and give us creatives the freedom and ability to create all kinds of cool stuff. But overly photoshopping something can ruin something just as easily as it can make it work.
Retouching photography is one of the most prolific uses of Photoshop. It's done every day in the world of design and advertising, it's just part of the business. But when are you over-retouching? It's a fine line that, as an art director, I have to think about every time I'm using a photograph. On the one hand, you want the product to look perfect, but not unnatural.
When it comes to fashion adveritising however, things take a different turn. I was intrigued by a recent acticle criticizing Ralph Lauren for a print ad of a model who'd been retouched so drastically "her head's bigger than her pelvis." Well, Ralph Lauren tried to quiet the blogger, a combination of BoingBoing and Photoshop Disasters, by claiming copyright ingringement which really just backfired and the ad is now plastered with even more criticism in various areas of the web.
I understand minor retouching in any ad—to get rid of a flyaway hair that distracts or an odd shadow etc. but why are we retouching outragously thin models to be even thinner? It goes hand in hand with the recent debate in the fashion industry about models being too thin. There's an interesting story about the editor of Vogue accusing designers of providing sample sizes for photoshoots that are too small to fit healthy models thereby forcing the magazines to hire bony, too-thin talent. She goes so far as to say her art department retouches in some meat on those models. The designers came back saying it was the modeling agencies only sending them tiny girls for the runway. It's probably an all around blame game—especcially if you read this article about the editor of SELF magazine. Wow, what a warped way of looking at photography for magazine covers.
The odd thing is, there's been so much good press for having healthy models that it's confusing why it's taking so long for the fashion world to catch on that emancipated models aren't popular anymore. Why is Ralph Lauren taking an already very thin model and making her thinner? She actually looks kind of freakish in the photo. Personally knowing far too many women who have suffered or are suffering from eating disorders, manipulated photos like this make me feel sick. It's even worse when you see what some companies do to already beautiful celebrities like the Campari ads featuring Jessica Alba.
On the flip side, this Glamour article about a real size underwear model in their magazine is what women would rather see in their literature. It's a huge step forward for the fashion industry and I hope other magazines follow.
(Also see our follow up post: Ralph Lauren's Overly Thin Ad—Continued...)