A trick of the pixel
Unfair or merely amusing, advertising photo tweaking is pervasive
Celebrities don't have to get a cosmetic procedure or lose weight to look like they've had a makeover in a magazine or advertisement.
Photoshopping is probably every bit as prevalent as plastic surgery — only the digital airbrush is sometimes wielded more aggressively.
There's an argument out there that all the heavy retouching makes regular people feel inferior because we can't achieve the same flawless effect in real life. Some people want to see laws and labels address the publication of manipulated images. Others are having fun with the whole phenomenon.
A California videographer recently won laughs and Internet fame after creating a catchy commercial for a faux beauty product he dubbed "Fotoshop by Adobe." The spoof went viral.
Two computer scientists have come up with a mathematical way to measure how much a photo has been digitally altered so it can be rated according to the amount of retouching it has had. They compared original and touched-up photos as part of their research, and their work was published in an academic journal.
But Dartmouth College computer science professor Henry Farid summed up his view quite simply in The New York Times: "Fix one thing, then another and pretty soon you end up with Barbie."
An Arizona legislator sponsored a bill that would ban airbrushing of models in advertisements. Rep. Katie Dobbs, a Phoenix Democrat, acknowledged to The Arizona Republic that her bill had little chance of passing (it got held up in committee). "We just wanted to bring it to the table and start a discussion," she told the newspaper.
"We need to bring attention to these body-image issues, especially with young girls. Girls need to know that they don't have to look perfect," Dobbs said.
Others say that by now Photoshopping is so pervasive, it's laughable. "Give it up. Retouching is here to stay," comedian Tina Fey says in her book "Bossypants."
"Technology doesn't move backward. No society has ever de-industrialized. Which is why we'll never turn back from Photoshop — and why the economic collapse of China is going to be the death of us all. Never mind that. Let's keep being up in arms over this Photoshop business!" Fey wrote.
Examples of what some see as Photoshop run amok:
Demi Moore or less
It's no secret that beauty and makeup companies Photoshop the models and actresses in their advertising campaigns. But even idealizing an image, the celebrity should be recognizable, right? Or where's the bang for the buck?
Actress Demi Moore is the latest face of makeup giant Helena Rubenstein, and there's been plenty of scoffing surrounding her digital transformation. A sampling:
Daily Mail: "The 49-year-old star is all but unrecognisable. In her place is a bleached, smooth, line-free version of Demi that looks more like a computer-generated fembot than the familiar Hollywood actress with five decades under her belt."
RadarOnline: "Some of the nuances we've noticed with the egregiously edited image: Demi's face is without wrinkles; the shape of her nose and chin are much different than what we've seen in the past; and the coloring of the image obscures her normally tan skin tone."
Jezebel.com: "Seeing as how Helena Rubenstein enjoys digital retouching so much, maybe this is some other model with Demi's face? … It's completely bizarre when cosmetics companies digitally remove all lines and texture from a face we know fairly well. Do they really expect the public to believe their product will give us the same digitally modified, astounding results?"
Then again, perhaps the actress's look was tweaked beyond the pale because beauty companies consider something like this a bold move that would create a buzz?
A CoverGirl mascara ad featuring singer Taylor Swift and using "enhanced post-production" and photoshopping to make her eyelashes look thicker than in reality was pulled last year, even though the ad included a tiny disclosure that the image of Swift's lashes was manipulated.
Those who want to see improvements in how beauty products are advertised in the US applauded the move.
CoverGirl's NatureLuxe Mousse Mascara promised to deliver "2X more volume" on lashes and was claimed to be "20% lighter" than the most-expensive mascara.
Andrea Levine, head of industry watchdog group National Advertising Division, said in a Business Insider post, "You can't use a photograph to demonstrate how a cosmetic will look after it is applied to a woman's face and then — in the mice type — have a disclosure that says, 'OK, not really.'"
NAD regulates the advertising business and is part of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
Advertising Age quoted a beauty consultant as saying post-production work is commonplace in the US cosmetics industry.
British regulators have gone after misleading ads in the UK for years.
Madonna's new face
Madonna is 23 years older than the actress she directed in the movie "W.E.," but that was not evident when looking at them together on the December cover of Harper's Bazaar magazine.
"The airbrush strikes again!" read a Daily Mail headline. "Madonna, 53, looks as youthful as protégé Andrea Riseborough, 30, on new cover."
It's not just Madonna or Harper's Bazaar. Photoshopped faces and bodies adorn plenty of women's magazine covers.
'Amazing' weight loss
An ad for the weight-loss product Sensa flaunts "Patti Stanger's AMAZING NEW BODY."
But what's really amazing to some perusing the ad is how altered the photo of her appears.
Stanger, star of Bravo TV's "Millionaire Matchmaker," looks like a "big-headed plastic-looking doll thing," said Jezebel.com.
They wrote: "Her neck is oddly long, her arms are strangely short, her hair is massive. This 'person' doesn't look like the Millionaire Matchmaker we know. And if she did pose for the photograph, then it's been heavily Photoshopped: Her knees are missing, for starters."
Back to Tina Fey. She wrote, "Some people say it's a feminist issue. I agree, because the best Photoshop job I ever got was for a feminist magazine called Bust in 2004.
"It was a low-budget shoot in the back of their downtown office. ... I looked at the two paltry lights they had set up and turned to the editors. 'We're all feminists here, but you're gonna use Photoshop, right?'
"'Oh yeah,' they replied instantly."