Photoshop or Make Up?

Possibly in an effort to woo the fickle public interest, a previously little known Liberal Democrat front bench MP Jo Swinson has called for an end to airbrushing pictures used in magazines and on advertisements (etc.). From the BBC News:

Airbrushing should be banned in advertisements aimed at children to tackle “body image pressure”, say the Liberal Democrats.

Altering photos to make them look better means children are subjected to “completely unattainable images”, said front-bencher Jo Swinson.

Ms Swinson was even on BBC breakfast news today putting forward her points about the evils of Photoshop and Portrait Professional. This was supplemented by a short video showing the amazing changes that can be implemented in the hands of a skilled professional. Ironically she was supported by a professional make up artist who basically agreed that there is too much airbrushing going on in the media.

I say ironically, because this was a make up artist. He speciality is to turn plain, dowdy looking people into something “unattainable” for photographs and the TV. The irony was compounded by Ms Swinson, the make up artist and the BBC news presenters all being plastered with make up for television. Even in HD you couldn’t see blocked pores, blemishes or even sweat (and they are under some intense lighting). Obviously the make up artist has an issue with Photoshop stealing her work, but that is not good grounds for an unenforceable law.

There is little doubt that the media portrays unrealistic body images but this is nothing new, and it is certainly not because it is “easy” to Photoshop (it isnt). The whole culture of celebrity we seem to have built in the west is based upon the said celebs appearing “perfect” at all times. The appearance of perfection on a red carpet is not achieved by airbrushing, it is through expensive and skilled make up along with the wonders of well tailored clothing, and where necessary plastic surgery. Unless we force all celebs to carry a placard saying “I am wearing make up, underwent plastic surgery and had this outfit specially tailored to hide my flaws” we wont achieve anything. (Note: Ms Swinson, if you are reading, I actually think this would be a good idea …)

The truth of the matter is that the airbrush is last stage in a long process which turns the “normal” looking person (such as you see in the “caught” pages of trashy magazines) into a celebrity. If pictures are forced to label edits (although proving it may be hard), then all that will happen is an upsurge in make up, plastic surgery and other cosmetic trickery. It will not be the catalyst which turns a celeb-beauty obsessed nation into one which glories in the normal appearance.  It may mean some celebrities lose their status for a while, but soon they will recover from the plastic surgery and be back on the front pages. Is this really what Ms Swinson wants? More surgery? More cosmetic use?

The final irony is a more personal one. Ms Swinson states “The focus on women’s appearance has got out of hand” and I couldnt agree more. Despite this, some people think that our obsession with womens appearance in public is an example of how much freedom they have and that any ideas they have of not dressing to reveal as much as possible is simple oppression…

Gorgeous Photo Effect

originally uploaded by Vicky ta.

I love this effect on photographs. From what I can see it is cross processing mixed with a heavy vignette. If any one has a better insight into this technique, please let me know.

Pinhole Tutorial


For people interested in recreating the sometimes stunning effects of pinhole cameras, there is a tutorial on the Ogum blog looking at how this can be done in photoshop.

Boer War Effect

One of my favourite recent photos (has to be recent as my favourites change daily) is this one; taken at the Festival of History and then given an antique look in photoshop.

Boer War Photograph

It was, in all, a great weekend and I would strongly recommend any one in the UK around this time next year go along – even if you aren’t (yet) a history buff you’ll enjoy it.

Faking everything

Photoshop is so much of a celeb product this week that it may now only appear in public in an airbrushed slimline version of its own packaging.

The big Photoshop story was the picture of an Iranian missile firing that had been digitally enhanced to look like more of an explosive occasion. The BBC editors blog had to admit to having failed to spot the fakery.

The great Photoshop Disasterssite got lots of submissions of this image:

Not only do Iran’s missile pictures reveal a shocking gap in that nation’s ability to use the clone tool, our patented Extra-Contrast-O-Vision shows how clumsy they are at comping (from Photoshop Disasters)

Aleisha Dixon made a BBC3 programme about how all magazine pictures are Photoshopped to within an inch of their lives. (No, I don’t know who she is, either, sorry.) The objective was to get a picture of her on the cover of a magazine without enhancement. The idea behind the programme was to show the credulous public that these images of perfection aren’t real and, especially, to convince young girls that they aren’t hideous if they are just human.

However, this was a bit of an unfair test. She is (a) extremely good-looking and (b) was wearing about 5 kilos of makeup when they finally persuaded a magazine to agree to shoot au naturel. So, she was basically already greatly advantaged as well as airbrushed at source. But still, respect for trying.

I hope it was TV fakery when she told school girls that every magazine photo is retouched and they all acted astonished. I’d sort of assumed that everybody already knew that anything that can be retouched will be retouched.

Partly, it’s obvious because the digitally-enhanced world is often so much uglier than the real world. My favourite misuse of Photoshop is this picture of Clive Owen, advertising an anti-ageing cream for men. We don’t normally see this sort of Xtreem- Airbrushing done to men. In the effort to improve him, it manages to make an averagely good-looking man look even more alien than most of the women’s images that we see every day. Clive Owen on photoshop disasters (Pinched from Photoshop disasters)

Obviously, it doesn’t have the same global significance as Photoshopped missile tests.

But, I’m sticking with the comedy Photoshop angle on the missile portrait, because I don’t want to have to think about:

  • What these images mean in terms of a potential war against Iran
  • Whether they are even genuine Iranian productions
  • Why the Iranians would feel obliged to airbrush their missile-testing programme, when you’d think that down-playing any such activity might be the safer course
  • If there is any chance of avoiding another insane and suicidal/homicidal war about oil and Israel

Time to lighten the mood

I will applogise for the last few posts here being a bit morose and screaming about the doom and gloom of our crazy world. To try and make things better (and to shamelessly get more hits on my flickr stream 🙂 ) I want you to have a look at these four castle pictures and let me know which one you think is the best – comments on flickr would be preferred but here will do 🙂

Chirk Castle Tower Scrabo Tower Killyleagh Castle Clouds over Hillsborough Fort

Thanks for your patience and the normal miserable service will resume tomorrow.

Scrabo Tower – Pinhole Effect

Scrabo Tower - Pinhole Effect

Scrabo Tower – Pinhole Effect,
originally uploaded by etrusia_uk.

This blog has been a bit text-heavy of late. Heather has posted some excellent, thought provoking articles (example, example and example) and I have been slack – spending most of my time working or travelling.

In an effort to try and lighten up the blog, I am going to (irregularly) post images here – hopefully to get some feedback and constructive criticism, but if not it will cheer me up 🙂

My first choice is “Scrabo Tower” from just outside Newtownards, Northern Ireland. This is an odd little tower and I am not really sure about its history, however it is picturesque and the views around it are amazing. As this is a fake-pinhole (a picture edited to look like it was taken on an old-fashioned pinhole camera), it doesn’t really add much in the way of “colour” to the blog – but it looks nice! 🙂

[tags]Pictures, Flickr, Pinhole, Photography, WhyDontYou, Photoshop, Scrabo Tower, Digital Photography, Photo Editing, Black and White, Photos[/tags]