Brad Ruggles

The Art Of Living

Sex, Lies and Photoshop

I’ve been working in Photoshop since version 3.0. Photoshop (and design in general) has come a long way. With each new version there are features available to help make my job easier and make the finished product look better. I love how far design has come.

But there is one part of my industry that I’m ashamed of. Photoshop retouch artists have redefined the standards of beauty, health and physical appearance through what has come to be known as the ‘Photoshop Effect.’

Just because we have the tools to completely change the look of a person’s body in Photoshop doesn’t mean we have the right to do that. Especially when what we’re altering distorts the image of what and what isn’t the definition of a perfect body. With so much falsehood in fashion advertising, just how much are we affecting the minds of the younger generation?

70 percent of girls report that images of models in magazines influence their definition of a perfect female body.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Most of you have seen the popular Dove Evolution commercial that shows in detail how easy it is to completely adjust an image to reflect something that isn’t even realistic.

Many celebrities have dedicated retouchers on commission and won’t let a single photo be released until it passes through them. For an interactive look at exactly what goes into a Photoshop magazine cover retouch.

We Live In A Virtual World

The plain and simple truth is that no one can live up to the images of beauty and physical appearance that we see in magazines these days. Research shows that these images negatively affect a girls self-image and yet magazines continue to push the boundaries of what they define as ‘beauty.’


These days, altered images are ubiquitous; the fairytale world threatens to engulf our own. The illusion is more complete, too — with digital technology it’s harder to see the smoothing. Stalin would have drooled at the possibilities.
More here on David Byrne’s Journal.

Beautifully Unrealistic

Here are some examples of popular celebrity photos before and after Photoshop retouching. Observe the completely flawless skin, the reduced waist line, enlarged bust, lack of eye lines, and perfect hair.





There are many people who are advocating a new standard for magazines that will require them to clearly list in the credits for a photograph that it was retouched. I don’t think that will help to rebuild the self-image of countless girls who are trying to measure up to these false standards but it’s a start.

Magazine-retouching may not be a lie on par with, you know, “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction,” but in a world where girls as young as eight are going on the South Beach Diet, teenagers are getting breast implants as graduation gifts, professional women are almost required to fetishize handbags, and everyone is spending way too much d*** time figuring out how to pose in a way that will look as good as that friend with the really popular MySpace profile, it’s f*****g wrong.

– Anna, Photoshop of Horrors

What do you think?

Should magazines be required to label which photographs have been retouched? Or is this issue blown out of proportion?…

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