Photography: Altering Reality

I have always been a big fan of editing photos. Rarely does a picture make its way from my camera to Facebook without undergoing a little touch-up first. Brightening a picture’s background, fixing red-eye, or sharpening a grainy picture has salvaged many of my photos. iPhoto—I am forever grateful for your existence.

Until this past Tuesday, my photo editing skills consisted of the iPhoto auto “Enhance” tool. With the flick of a wand or the press of a button, my photos are instantly improved. My recent purchase of Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 has added a number of exciting (and overwhelming) tools to my photo-editing arsenal.

However, the possibilities within photo editing software like Adobe Elements are equally exciting and terrifying. While I don’t think much harm is done by brightening some pearly whites or removing a blemish here and there, I am concerned about the extent to which photographs in the media are edited.

Image

Both of the pictures above are of Ralph Lauren model Filippa Hamilton. A great deal of controversy surrounded the advertisement on the left concerning the unnaturally thin model with a head larger than her hips. There was no denying that this image was the product of photo editing that had gone too far. This is not an isolated incident. Magazine covers and advertisements are rarely untouched. Some advertisements go so far as to piece together features of different models to produce an image of unattainable beauty all the while unbeknownst to the consumer.

What type of impact does this have on viewers? Should consumers demand more transparency from photographers and perhaps require photographers to state whether their photo was digitally enhanced?

It would be nice for a teenage girl to know why she cannot be as thin as Filippa Hamilton. And for that matter, it would be nice for everyone to know to what extent an image is altering reality.

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