Photoshop: The only form of art with serious side effects

english project 2by Harleigh Orlando

It appears that in recent years there is no limit to what technology is capable of. In particular, technology has exponentially progressed the methods used in advertisements to sway consumers. Photoshop has made it possible to make any product in an advertisement desirable and impeccable. But in some cases, Photoshop has not been used to make the product desirable, but instead the model within the advertisement. The results of this method have greatly increased sales in the fashion industry. Unfortunately, there have also been some controversial consequences of Photoshop.

 As a teenager I felt pressured to be thin and beautiful because I felt it was the only way to be successful and happy in this country.  Is it just me, or is it harming the already fragile self-esteem of youth today? Or is it simply a form of artistic expression? Either way, I propose that the FCC ban Photoshop since it is harmful to youth, despite that it is also a new genre of photography, because of my own personal experiences with its negative affects. Photoshop can affect anyone of all ages, but it especially affects young women including myself and others I know.

Firstly, there are many influences surrounding a young woman in today’s society that could influence her self – esteem negatively. However, Photoshop is behind more of these influences than may be immediately noticeable. These influences may not seem harmful at first, but when examined more closely they all depict women in a specific way. Women in advertisements are Photoshopped to be beautiful, at standards few to no real life woman could ever achieve.

 When young women see this, they hold themselves to those standards and become insecure when they are unable to reach it. One example proving this was a survey asking young women about their attitudes and feelings towards fashion advertisements given by Daniel Clay a published author, Vivian Vignoles, a senior lecturer in Social Psychology, and Helga Dittmar, a researcher in the field of health and psychology. They concluded that “Airbrushing, digital alteration, and cosmetic surgery further increase the unrealistic nature of media images of women as standards for self-evaluation,” (Clay,Vignoles, and Dittmar 452).  Young girls will strive to appear airbrushed with make-up, they may starve themselves to be thin, or get plastic surgery to alter themselves. If Photoshop were not in ads, women’s insecurities would not force women to reach these last resorts.

Even worse, if a young girl somehow does not pay attention to any of these influences specifically, she may still be affected by people who do pay attention to them. Researchers Yoonhyeung Choi and Jounghwa Choi at the university of Michigan and their co-researcher Glen Leshner, who works for Korcom Novelli Inc., suggest that even if women understand the unreachable beauty Photoshop can depict, they fear that men viewing fashion models in advertisements really can be that beautiful, and therefore they will raise their standard of women to the levels they see in ads (Y.Choi, J. Choi and Leshner 14). If women can receive insecurities second-hand from others around them it means there is little to nothing they can do to shelter themselves from the negative images around them.

On the contrary, it would be difficult for Photoshop to be banned from advertisements considering Photoshop is used world wide as an advertising method.. It is used for nothing more than selling a product, and in fact it is a highly efficient method. Instead of banning Photoshop, opponents would argue that women and anyone potentially harmed by the inadvertent effects of Photoshop should be taught from people surrounding them to critically analyze advertisements. A journalist for The NewYorker, Amanda Fortini, whom has written multiple articles over the years covering social media, expresses this same idea. She believes that parents and teachers need to teach “young women (and men) to cultivate the same critical  skills we urge them to exercise when reading, a more complex task than pointing  gleeful fingers at graphic misdemeanors. The problem isn’t altered photographs;  it’s our failure to alter our expectations of them,” (Fortini par. 10) Once people are able to distinguish between what is realistic and unrealistic standards, people will no longer be disappointed when they do not reach impossible levels of beauty.

 In addition, the way that Photoshop should be analyzed, suggested by it’s supporters, is to look at it as a form of art.  Photography, and other forms of art inspire audiences and encourage them positively. Rachel Tibbs, an editorial assistant at Fit Publishing, argues that “In many cases [Photoshop] can be used in positive ways, to create works of art that are harmful to no one and  helpful to many. Photo editing creates jobs, encourages artistry, and can be  used to promote and generate interest in anything from history to science,”(Tibbs 6). When it is viewed as art, and is analyzed with the same criteria of art, Photoshop will be viewed as a genre of photography rather than a deceiving advertisement. It will then no longer have negative effects on anyone’s self-esteem.

Finally, while I consider myself an artist, I am more greatly impacted by Photoshop negatively than positively. Researching both arguments had me second guessing which stance I wanted to choose though, because I believe that Photoshop could be viewed artistically in a different society or a different time period where being thin was not valued more than being healthy.

 In high school, I struggled like all young girls to understand myself and become comfortable with my body. I was overweight. In my head, being overweight meant that I was worth less in comparison to girls that weren’t. I was automatically going to be less attractive, less desirable, and less important because of my weight. Without Photoshop, I probably still would have been insecure about the size of my body. Regardless, I believe the feeling of being worthless and more of a nuisance than a person was caused by the idealization of being thin in fashion ads. It’s one thing to not care for the size of my body, and another to feel as though I don’t deserve to follow my dreams and to find a loving husband because of it.

On top of this, I see these same problems in my sister-in-law. She is fifteen years old, and she has recently lost 20 pounds in three months. Not only is it unhealthy to lose weight that fast, but she was only 115 pounds to being with. She is underweight, fragile, and constantly sick, but she insists she only needs to lose a few more pounds. It is because of her more than myself, that my artistic side has not gotten the best of me. When I express my worries to her, she scares me even further by defending herself and telling me that all her friends are doing it too.

 Ultimately Photoshop is pushing its limits to the point that I can’t defend its artistic value. Too many girls will starve themselves because they feel fat and are sick of being viewed as a second class citizen for it. Many other girls will get a breast augmentation, or another form of plastic surgery because they fear they will never be loved by anyone. These problems caused by Photoshop are too drastic to be ignored and too unethical to be allowed.

 Photoshop is not exposing us to art, it is teaching society to measure the worth of a human being based on their appearance. One day, I hope it will be considered art, but for now all Photoshop does is play on women’s insecurities enough so that they will buy a product. And selling a product is not as important as it is to raise healthy young women with self-confidence, respect from others around them, and more importantly with respect for themselves.

Works Cited

Choi, Jounghwa, Yoonhyeung Choi, and Glen Leshner.” Third-Person Effects of Idealized Body Image in Magazine Advertisements.” Sexuality Media/Advertisement. Sage publications, 12 Aug. 2009. Web. 23 Sept. 2013.

Clay, Daniel, Vivian Vignoles, and Helga Dittmar.  “Body Image and Self‐Esteem Among Adolescent Girls: Testing the Influence of Sociocultural Factors.” Journal of research on Adolescence. Wiley Online Library,30 Nov. 2005. Web. 23 Sept. 2013.

Fortini, Amanda. “In Defense of Photoshop: Why Retouching Isn’t As Evil As Everyone Thinks.” The Cut. New York Media, 29 Aug. 2010. Web. 25 Sept. 2013.

Tibbs, Rachel. “The Positive and Negative Uses of Photo Editing.” Multimedia Essay. N.p., 7 Apr. 2011. Web. 29 Sept. 2013.

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14 thoughts on “Photoshop: The only form of art with serious side effects

  1. I completely agree with your post 100%, all of your facts back up your agreement. I wasn’t sure when I first started reading this is if it was necessary to take such drastic measures just for a photography, but with your argument, I now believe that there should be a law put in place. I love the quote you used “the problem isn’t altered photographs; it’s our failure to alter our expectations of them.” That really made an impact on me to realize that there really does need to be a change. Your graphic image is great for the post. Very well written article.

  2. I completely agree with your article, Harleigh! I don’t wear make-up often, but if I want to impress my boyfriend, I do. However, I’m one of the most blessed girls in the world because he tells me this: “don’t mess with perfection.” In other words, he’s saying I’m beautiful just the way I am, and that I don’t need to wear makeup because he loves me as I am — makeup-less. I still feel, however, that make-up makes me more beautiful. It enhances how I look. Photoshop and all other image-altering technology does put in the minds of women that they do need to achieve this look of “perfection.” I am one of those people who wish I looked like one of the girls on magazine covers, but I don’t try and aim for it. I know my self-worth and that is way beyond my looks. However, I’d have to say that not a lot of girls know their self-worth without makeup, cosmetic surgery, etc. Magazines, advertisements, T.V. all put pressure among young girls and girls of all ages (but particularly young girls) to achieve this “look.” What really doesn’t help women with their self-esteem is that some men (not all), buy these magazines or buy into these advertisements that that’s how a “real woman” should look. One that’s skinny, has big boobs that don’t sag, a nice firm butt, etc. Us women then buy into this, thinking and sometimes believing that men will only like (or even love us) if we look this way. There is so much pressure put on women today to look a certain way. This should not be. We should be accepted for who we are. Men, I am not saying that this doesn’t happen to you as well (that your bodies get objectified), but it happens more so to women. It is more common.

  3. This might just be a male’s perspective on the issue, but frankly I don’t completely agree with your stance. Removing programs like Photoshop and other image-manipulators from mainstream media and advertisements are going to be detrimental. The reason why image-manipulation is used is to enhance the product and make it seem like the owner of said product is going to be in the depicted glamorous situation the model is in (which is never true I’ll agree with you on that one, but it’s just a marketing strategy). If a company put a normal model with no enhancements and such in, the advertisement would be ultimately less appealing, which is not the aim of the company marketing the product. Photo-manipulation in ads are not going away; product competition and marketing is far too competitive in my opinion. What we should be doing is informing people at a young age (boys too; girls aren’t the only one being targeted by ads that create unrealistic ideas of beauty, which I found a little disappointing that you didn’t reference in your article) that most advertisements are using photo-manipulation to enhance the human body to make it more appealing, and that nobody should strive to look like that because it is most likely impossible and anybody looking for that “modelesque” kind of person is going to be severely disappointed.

    • I didn’t mean to make it sound like a rant either, your article was beautifully written and eloquent. You raised some very good points about the effects of Photoshop on American consumers.

  4. I don’t know if banning photo manipulation would completely fix the problems outlined here.

    You’re certainly correct that, when advertisements and the media create and use “perfect” models and images, that psychologically impacts the consumer. I won’t argue that. Both women and men, but in particular women, are seeing these images and holding themselves up to that unreal standard, and holding others up to that unreal standard as well. This is harmful.

    But it’s not just photo manipulation that is doing that. When you look at before and after comparisons of individuals who are photoshopped to look more attractive, there’s one thing I always notice. In most cases, the before shots are *already* close to “perfect.” The models are thin, have smooth skin, they’re well lit, etc. They all fit this niche of what is defined by society as attractive, and photoshop just erases the last few “imperfections.”

    If we took out photo manipulation from the equation, we would still have the same nigh “perfect” models, and while the standards might be a little less unreachable, they would still be essentially the same. So to fix the problem, we can’t just ban photo manipulation, we also have to promote more body-positive images in the media, so that young women don’t have to feel like their body is imperfect in the first place, rather than giving them an attainable perfection goal.

    And really, if we had body-positive images in media, we wouldn’t need to ban photo manipulation anyway, and we could keep all the positive, artistic benefits that come with it.

  5. I do not remember seeing your graphic in class but seeing it for the first time on here, I thought, “WOW.” The picture adds so much to the blog, great job on that aspect. As for your blog, I completely agree. I have become extremely passionate about the body peace and self love revolution that needs to be set in motion in our society. I am going to school to dedicate my career to helping those affected with eating disorders and hope to soon start a educational/resource organization. With blogs such as this one, the reality of the epidemic can be realized by many. I commend you on your insight on the issue.

  6. This article is very well written. There is no doubt that these pictures affect every single person who views them if they do not think about what they are viewing and understand how unreal it is. I know that people look at photos that have been edited and it changes their outlook on the world. But I would also argue that education of the population is key to lessen the effect of these images. For example, when I see a photograph in a magazine or as an advertisement, I basically assume that it has been photoshopped and changed. We all know by now that the burger we see in burger commercials is probably more paint and special effects than it is a real burger. In the same way, I feel like a lot of people understand that photoshopping images takes place everywhere, all the time.

    My solution to this problem would not be to remove photoshopping from the public. I would simply require a notation visable on pictures or ads that says “photo editing was used in this picture”. This would help every consumer understand exactly what they were viewing. And also might encourage more advertisers to photoshop less because they are required to disclose it on the image.

    It is also important to note that every person is impacted differently from these images. The model’s used in the photos you are referring to, may already portray unrealistic pictures of what is a healthy body anyway. The photoshopping may make it worse still, but many models are experiencing their own issues. Some of these issues are psychological. People’s issues with how they view themselves based on how others look cannot be solved by simply removing photoshop from mainstream media. Because these psychological issues are infused in the person and how they view everyone, not just in how they view mainstream media sources.

  7. First off, I thought your picture was a great addition to your article and it helped to enhance your argument! I do agree with you that Photoshop is highly abused in the advertising industry and is helping to increase eating disorders and body issues among the younger generation; however, I think that even if there were regulation against it, the problem wouldn’t be solved entirely. Photoshop does need to be put at bay though. Girls nowadays are getting unrealistic expectation of how they think they should look, when in reality no one looks like the models on the covers of magazines.

  8. I completely agree! Last year I took a women studies class and we read the book The Lolita Effect and it talked a great amount about women and how they are used in the media and how society gives us an unrealistic picture of what women “should” look like. They mentioned that women want to look like Barbie, but in reality if you took the exact measurements that Barbie was it would be impossible to look like that in human form. Even though she looks “perfect” the size of her body would not fit with the bone structure of a human. They also talked about how men see women constantly on television, in magazines, etc, and like you said will raise their standards of women should supposedly look like. Women need to be able to feel beautiful the way they were created and without touch ups of photo shop. In society today it has gotten out of hand and it needs to stop! I really like our post and you had very good quotes to back up you side! I enjoyed the read!

  9. As it was said in previous comments, my opinion may be swayed a bit because of the fact that I am a male. I personally don’t feel that Photoshop is necessarily the issue here but rather the attitudes and conclusions that people have when seeing an advertisement that has been photo shopped.
    When I look at a magazine, I’m not delving deeply into the subject matter and doing a rhetorical analysis. I’m simply flipping through the pages for a quick half second of entertainment and looking at the pretty girls that pop up in my diesel truck magazine.
    Every guy will have the “perfect woman” in his eyes and let me tell you, it’s rarely seen on the cover or any subsequent pages in a magazine.
    Otherwise, really well written paper! You’re very eloquent and well spoken.

  10. I totally agree with everything that you said. you backed up all of your facts and you also were also able to keep me intrigued in your article. I felt especially close to this topic because i have a six years old niece who is always saying she wants to be skinny, she is only six and what she sees around her makes her feel like she is not beautiful, which she is crazy to me. I guess the key here is to educate ourselves and to realize that what we see in the media is unreal because nothing related to the media really is.

  11. I agree with most of your article. It is tough being a young female in this country, there is so much pressure put on us to fit in and look a certain way. I really enjoyed your drawing,just by looking at it, it made me want to read more.

  12. I really enjoyed reading your perspective of Photoshop. In particular, the points you made about how “it is teaching society to measure the worth of a human being based on their appearance” rather than what is behind that appearance. I haven’t ever looked at Photoshop as necessarily an art, rather a fix; but I, just as you do, hope that one day it can be viewed as an art. Your graphic at the beginning of your blog was great and it really portrayed the point that you were trying to make within your policy proposal. Thanks for sharing!

  13. The problem is not Photoshop, it’s the insecurity of women. Banning Photoshop will not in-turn make women love themselves more or magically attain high self-esteem. If you want to look like those models that’s your choice, plastic surgery is your choice, dieting is your choice. You don’t blame Pepsi for your soda drinking habit because they have such an wonderfully ergonomically designed bottle, and if the bottle was more uncomfortable to hold you wouldn’t drink so much soda. Blaming the medium accomplishes very little.

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