Mar 1

Photoshop me! The truth behind digital retouching on your favourite models and celebrities!


How much time has gone by since you saw a natural model on a magazine cover? Tic TAC tic TAC tic TAC. Time is over, inevitably, and the famous Photoshop program has exceeded its use. Shrink your waist, increase the size of your bosoms, draw yourself a few beefy lips and … give yourself a touch up!

During the last year, there is probably not one photo or image that has not benefitted from a retouch before being published in the media. Photograph studios, magazines, newspapers, websites and advertising agencies use this program to “adorn” the details that the photo spontaneity do not have in spite of the lights and filters.


Meanwhile, models, actors and also politicians ask and demand that their campaigns or Book images look better: Welcome to the digital artifice that acts magically on the natural imperfections and contributes to the construction that stereotypes themselves!

How does it work?

In a first step the photography in question is scanned or uploaded to a computer and then you can “work” on the image on the computer screen and (avoiding the idea of underestimating the amount of hours the art directors works) you can begin the transformation: “Rub out those wrinkles, reduce the waist and the left buttock, rule out the hip and put a smooth and stiff skin” An intense work in order that the product gets finished, and the contemporary virtual act of putting and removing turn body parts in a fantastic beauty stereotype.


Mirror, mirror… Who is the most beautiful?

The pass of time on the body (and mostly the female one) is considered as a way of illness and deterioration. Unfortunately, this is the way of the market; big appearances to put nature against naturalness.

Evoking that hostile stepmother from the “Snow-White” tale, there is a woman who does not allow herself to get old and feel jealousy and envy for the beauty of the youngers. Today, in an obsessive wish to keep an everlasting youth, the unreal mirror called “photoshop” cooperates as a time machine.

Allies or Enemy.

More than 80% of advertising images are touched. Normally, the concerned photographers and agencies are the ones who decide to manipulate it, but there are a lot of personalities that demand in advance that the Photoshop application is used. It’s clear that what models and celebrities most fear is to expose their bodies without tricks… and it is a one-way trip.

One example of that is Mariah Carey, who was gossip for the phothoshop excess and the beautiful Madonna. Beyonce, Penelope Cruz and… even Nicolas Sarkosy, president of France, made a bad impression when he cut his paunch in a photograph taken during his holidays.

Madonna a star that doesn't need photoshop!

The last straw

A few months ago, the design brand Ralph Lauren had to apologise for cuting (in an inacceptable extreme) the waist of a model. Before the fuss, the model Filippa Hamilton was to bid farewell to the campaign as she declared that the brand should give “a very big apology to all American women” because she considers that “a model should have a healthy look”.

On the other hand, Playboy Magazine Brazil published the photo of a model so “photoshopped” that they erased completely her navel. In the Argentine edition of the same magazine, they “arranged” for a photo a model left without a vagina.

Golden opportunity

As marketing strategy, several magazines have taken advantage of this boom in their favour: The most sold magazine in Germany, “Brigitte”, replaced the Photoshop with real women. “We are going to show women with identity. To the 18-year-old students, to the boss, to the musician, to the football players”, said proudly of the initiative the editor in chief of the magazine Andreas Lebert.

Let’s applause for this initiative and especially for the model Lizzie Miller who came out naked and showing that a model is a person with wrinkles … and beautiful folds in the paunch.

Another example is Mónica Belluci, Sophie Marceau and Eva Herzigova who resigned the photographic retouch through Elle Magazine from France. They suggested them to shoot and publish natural photographs… and see the results!

Another nice example is’s photo sessions. A company that photographs aspiring models in a natural and fresh way, showing new models without any retouching, so that agencies and anyone else for that matter can see the models as they really are….no tricks….no gimmicks.


Yin y Yan

In spite of the manipulation on model’s photos and the directl consequences on the ideal aesthetic of whom receives it, we cannot affirm whether Photoshop is a negative support in the digital age or not.

This software, and many others, also contributes with excellent technical options that allow professionals to optimize their work across the adjustment of brightness, focus, real colour and quality. Likewise, Photoshop has contributed many tools to the digital art in all it’s expressions.

The alarming thing appears when its use influences with a distort conception of reality, taking onto account the consequences as bulimia and anorexia.

The well known model Nieves Alvarez has given her opinion in the matter: “Now we are all relaxed very much with Photoshop, which is a very nice application inside of a few limits, but when they leave you, you look like a plastic doll”… its not ” The model of Madrid, who years ago has conquered the anorexia she also confesses: “…you have to have your life, your expressiveness … we are not porcelain dolls”


The French deputy Valèrie Boyer (that belongs to the same politic party of Sarkozy) invokes that the “retouched” photos transmit womens stereotypes that can provoke psychological problems or nourishing disorders, and has presented a project of law where the fines come to 37.500 Euros if you do not warn that the image  has passed by Photoshop.

Photoshop & politician / Nicolás Sarkozy, presindent of France.

This initiative is not only for the advertising campaigns, but it also includes the photo press, the artistic ones and even the politician signs which dress the hoardings during the electoral campaigns.

Berlin. FTW Installation show photoshop up in the subway.

Thereby, the retouch images should be accompanied with this notice: “Photography retouched to modify the physical appearance of a person”. France follows United Kingdom steps, one of the first countries in being alerted to the harmful effects that the manipulation of the faces can have in the public.

I wonder what will have happen with the cosmetic surgeons? Have these digital liposuctions and lifting supplemented them? Or are they promoting their consultations with pieces of magazines to exemplify the phrase: “I WANT this nose”? In our hands we have several options to open a debate and to construct a reality that is simply how we want to appear to be.

More info: “The photoshop effect” / Campaña Dove /  Arte Digital (DAM Berlín)

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  1. It’s incredible to see what a little photoshopping can do! Great post, Vanesa.

  2. If only we could Photoshop ourselves on a “bad hair day” before living the house. Haha! cool post Vanesa. A photographer friend of mine chooses his models according to “how much photoshop time” they would mean to him after the session. I am diggin the new law. The tag should be stronger though, kind of like the labels on cigarettes packs: “Smoking causes ageing of the skin” (image included). That one did it for me.

  3. Muy bueno!!

  4. I think every industry has it’s own rules, thus model-publishing embraces PS and other tools.

    However quite important remains that youngsters don’t mix up those results with reality – it’s so depressing seeing the 16 year old crying, cause her nose doesn’t look that perfect.

    Thus it’s good to publish both sides of the coin, then one can enjoy the nice pictures without feeling one would be the only one not looking perfectly styled by the gods of nature…:-)

    Good posting, cheers frank

  5. “The photoshop effect” movie is ridiculous.
    The older lady that is interviewed looks like she has had collagen in the cheeks and nose-job done, and has the balls to talk about “retouching”!

    For those who like to see some comparisons of before/after:

    You have to distinguish “retouching a photo” and “photo-manipulation” which are two different things.

    No image will ever be printed without some retouching even if it is simply colour correction.

    here is an example of a retouch:

    here is an example of photo-manipulation:

    I hope you see the difference.

  6. Dear God! That is ridiculous people are ashamed of their lines! Stupid!

  7. People have been manipulating images for years before photoshop came out. Think about movie lighting where floods of soft light would get rid of the lines on female stars face in those old black and white movies, then when it cut to the male lead the lighting was totally different…..this is just evolution so there’s no point hiding from it.

  8. And not to mention the “air-brushing” that was done before the digital age.

  9. I think we cannot keep in a “terminology” debate… We all understand that it can be useful to optimice the work but where are the limits between retouch and manipulation?

    Definitively, the involved professionals have an ethical responsibility to represent, to report and to mean their own photographies. The inner voice can say each professional how use the professionalism.

    In our current “advanced” societies, people consume more images than values… we may invert it and begin to ask ourselves and others what we think and what we want.

  10. Great and important contribution / thanks Vanesa!

  11. Great posting! I keep thinking that when you love yourself or your job of modelling – no matter how tiresome it can be (as most other jobs are sometimes as well) -this love should somehow show as beauty coming from inside even without photoshop. I have a hard time to find that “smile from deep within” on the “before”-faces of the models or celebrities. So what you see isn’t what you get anyway. Keep going, Vanesa! Andrea

  12. I’m addicted to photoshop and use it to manipulate and retouch images.
    Currently the society is not so naive as to believe that celebrities have no pores and do not age. Photoshop doesn’t lie to us, it just makes us see the world the way we wish it were.

    Great post!

  13. I dont use photoshop, so I cant relate But i that much work needs to be had, then what is it saying about the photographer?

  14. The tecnology sourprise me every day.
    Actually PS is part of the show. But several times became ridiculous.
    And it´s sadly when make bad effects on people who think they could be perfect as a picture…
    Congrats Vane!
    Sorry my english mistakes!
    A lots of kisses from Argentina! LauriTa

  15. This post is great

  16. Do you really want to look at photos like the one you showed of Madonna?

    I sure as hell don’t. That’s scary.

    And would a true photographer let just anyone develop their film? Hell no! You do it yourself and it is done right. It is the same thing with digital photography, you cannot guarantee the success of a work without “developing” it.

    I understand some of the points in this article as giving the public the wrong idea about women, but who honestly thinks this way? As you get older, you realize that you are who you are. Do you really think the public is this impressionable? Maybe teens, but any freethinking adult will realize sooner or later that these images are just for the eye’s benefit, not for unrealistic expectations.

  17. Thank you for the educational post. I was looking for something related and discovered your website in the process.. I will certainly be back for more.

  18. Couldn’t have written it better myself.
    at the moment i am studying graphic design at a small college in New Zealand and am constantly on the quest for new concepts and fresh perspectives on these topics. I thank you for putting up your “Photoshop me! The truth behind digital retouching on your favourite models and celebrities! The Model Management Blog” page! it delivered some really first class info.

  19. [...] La verdad detrás del retoque digital en las celebridades…  por visualito hace 2 segundos [...]

  20. Thanks very much, I have found this extremely useful!

  21. Wow man, that’s extremely helpful info, appreciated.

  22. Very good article, and another point many people forget: photoshop ” fixes” or covers the bad work of makeup artists. Never trust a makeup artist portfolio without checking the unretouched photos!

  23. Thanks for showing women the truth!

  24. Excellent compilation and descriptions. Great post!

  25. Thanks for letting us see the real people. I wonder if I could get rid of my beer belly?

  26. It really is a shame how much people have to photoshop their looks. Natural beauty is the way to go!

  27. About 40% or less is sit-behind-the-computer design time.

  28. I am a retoucher and I can see why people are up in arms about some of the images above and in all of our printed media these days. I think photoshop is something that is a wonderful tool to make things look better. But, just like anything, you can take it too far. To enhance someone’s looks by minimizing some bulges and wrinkles and making the skin more even-toned is a great thing. However, going that 10 extra miles and showing someone – like Madonna or Demi – looking absolutely different from their untouched photos is where the problem lies. Having said that, it’s usually the client that demands the ridiculous. Retouchers try to make it look natural – otherwise we’d be bad retouchers! And we’re hired by the client to do what they want. So, place the blame on the editors, celebrities and fashion execs, but not the retouchers!!!

  29. I also own a retouching studio and I do agree with a umber of points made by Stacie. The retoucher is always working to a brief and, at times, those that are briefing are wanting the ’10 extra miles’. From a retouchers perspective if it is obvious that the picture has been retouched we’ve failed. Unfortunately that is often the case, much to the retouchers distaste!

  30. ewww madonna and demi moore are just hideous. Ill pay to never have to see them un-unphotoshopped again!

    Anthony PIttarelli

  31. Great Post, even though Photoshop is a great program for many uses, it can do wonders. Too bad it can also create a misconception of what really “is”. It is sad that the media is ruining many people by creating a unachievable standard.

  32. Did the person who wrote this just find out that photoshop exists? CGI is ruining movies! Hustler uses airbrushing! Color isn’t as nice a technicolor! Long live the silver screen! Yawn.

  33. Love this post. Veracity strikes! Photoshops are great in beautifying. What’s bad is, they make a real beauty to a lie.

  34. This was actually pretty encouraging just when it comes to body image n what not. I love photoshop, but not when it does stuff like that. Thanks for this

  35. I just want to point out that the cover with Demi Moore, it wasn’t even her body that was on the cover. They photoshopped a model’s body with Demi’s face. There is a picture out there somewhere of a model on a runway with THAT exact outfit and body. So that is a whole other retouch field to talk about with that. Otherwise, great article, it is refreshing to have someone bring it all to light. With the media hitting us in tidal waves of retouched pictures, it is hard to remember that they are just that, retouched.

  36. I agree with Melissa S. The fact that when we do see models and celebs in their natural state and react with disgust is disconcerting to say the least.
    The model with her paunch is beautiful and radiant but when I first saw the picture I was shocked, surely that’s not right. This is what we are, human beings with marks and lumps and pores, not dolls with perfect proportions.

    As someone with low self-esteem it does affect me, seeing these images and thinking “I don’t look like that, what’s wrong with me?” you see so many gorgeous people around you all the time but you forget that these people have been manipulated, you start thinking you have a problem and that’s how they suck you in, to buy useless creams and cosmetics. I really do think we have to moderate it and i’m glad governments are taking notice.

  37. Photoshop: plastic surgery for cheap!

    But the actresses who are comfortable with the way the look and have aged in the French Elle? They’re so beautiful and radiant, without the gimmicks. It’s about having that inner quality after all.

  38. What can i say??? I am a photoshop fan but i can not approve these tricks to make one look better with a software… make up is ok , clothing , hair ok , photograph lighting and posing from a good angle ok but this is too much …. well i guess photoshop is less expensive than a surgery or going to gym!

  39. [...] Das Thema ist nicht neu, aber immer noch hochbrisant: Making of Schönheit in PS [...]

  40. This was actually pretty encouraging just when it comes to body image n what not. I love photoshop, but not when it does stuff like that. Thanks for this

  41. Your site has a very cool design. Also the material here is both free and is of high quality. I am definitely subscribing to your RSS immediately.

  42. Great post on comparing between before and after photoshop. With CS5 release not long, the retouching of photograph will just get better.

  43. George B makes a massively valid point about retouching vs. photo manipulation.

  44. yo digo que madonna es una ruca anciana verdulera jodida que vende su ropa de marca para comer y se renta 50 centavos por 2 horas que aparte de comprar a sus fans esta toda arrugada y su foto shop todo modificado .


  45. I like mostly more the originals.
    Too much is too much!
    … and no more nature…

  46. It’s sad to see people being edited into “perfect” people, but these are some good photography touch ups.

  47. One of the better weblogs I’ve come across for important info in this niche market. I will be coming back commonly for unique articles.

  48. Great article! Photoshopped celebrities – this photos scares me :D

  49. shocked by that greece cover a woman that ugly and haggard dont deserve to be any magazine with the title “is back” was it suppose to be a comeback or something?!?!?! the same for madonna but at least madonna is toned bodywise Why do they lie to general public with this fake beauty YUCK

  50. [...] Photoshop me! The truth behind digital retouching on your 1 Mar 2010. Yin y Yan. In spite of the manipulation on model's photos and the. If only we could Photoshop ourselves on a “bad hair day” before living the house.. Comment by George B. — March 2, 2010 @ 07:03. Pingback by La verdad detrás del retoque digital en las celebridades — April 6, 2010 @ 04:04 Photoshop me! The truth behind digital retouching on your [...]

  51. [...] wonders of Photoshop, as well as make-up, styling and lighting all help to create the image that you will finally see, [...]

  52. fantasitic!

  53. Great debate. Interesting post. Have we gone to far down that path. As a photographer my clients especially the models demand they be put through the photoshop process. My tough problem is, if I don`t do it, i won`t get the work. Tough choice !

  54. [...] true. Photoshop fixes things you can’t normally possibly control. Granted there are some who take it too far, but I think a little mood lighting never hurt anyone :) Share and [...]

  55. I just want people to realize that young girls are looking at these women and believing that this is how they look in real life. Although it isn’t hidden that photoshop is used, teenage girls often forget. What is more important to us as a society, having pictures of beautiful women in magazines or protecting the health of these young girls. Girls are developing eating disorders based on these images of women who are so skinny that know one is real life could possibly achieve that size and weight without killing themselves. This was a great website and opens society’s eyes to what is truly going on. I wish that these kind of posts and pictures appeared in the magazines so that these young girls could recognize that the magazine skinny is nothing that will ever be achieved and isn’t something that they should spend their life striving for.

  56. Wow. I didn’t know how huge differences could be befor and after! And how to belive in the staff we find in the magazines? Feeling dreadfull!

  57. Wow. I didn’t know how huge differences could be befor and after! And how to belive in the staff we find in the magazines? Feeling dreadfull

  58. The “perfect” world we live in. Great post.

  59. Dove Evolution! if you havent seen it, look it up on youtube. First time I saw it I loved it!

  60. Who’s to say that the before pictures presented on here aren’t actually the products of photoshop editing? If this article is telling me not to believe that pictures of beautiful women could be photoshopped, couldn’t ALL of the pictures on here be photoshopped as well? I’m sure there are just as many techniques to make a woman look like a shriveled prune as there are to make her look like a goddess

  61. i am using photoshop for my photos very much, i find it very useful, but trying not to over do it

  62. great story!

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