Archive for ‘Photography vs. Reality’

March 7, 2013

Photo Retouching: Moving Mainstream, Full-Speed

When Photoshop arrived 24 years ago, the photography community was up in arms as it was affecting photographic truth, according to David Hlynsky, a University of Toronto professor in Photoshop and digital media.

Leaving aside the point that photography is more of a point of view than the truth, the question is whether photo retouching is any more dishonest than wearing makeup.

Now photo retouching is moving mainstream – there is no doubt about it. According to a research conducted by Glamour magazine, nearly 60 percent of respondents feel it’s OK for a woman to tweak her personal pictures, and 23 percent of women ages 25 to 29 do it; that number climbs to 41 percent among those ages 18 to 24. “Several years ago, retouching personal photos would have seemed strange, even vain,” says Ann Kearney-Cooke, Ph.D., a Cincinnati psychologist and coauthor of The Life You Want.“This survey shows it’s common and women are fine with it.”

“[Retouching] is the nature of the digital age, we edit because we can,” says Professor Hlynsky. “Technology will process our image whether we like it or not.”

Why do we do it? Your photo makes a big difference in how people perceive you, so you want to put your best foot forward. Photo editing can help a picture appear to be more professional, and can express one’s personality better. That is if it’s done right.


Retouching: How Much Is Too Much? – Glamour
Personal Photo Retouching: Millennials Going To Great Lengths For Perfect Pictures Online – Huffington Post
Self-Portrait Photoshop Fails – Resource Magazine


July 24, 2011

What Is ‘Natural’ in Photography?

Some time ago I saw an amateur picture of a woman with her baby posted online with a defiant comment that she was proud of her natural unretouched look. The picture looked pretty bad. You could tell there wasn’t enough light in the room when it was taken, so her skin and he baby looked earthy and bluish. The low angle from which the photo was taken was rather unflattering. She had no makeup on and her hair was messy.

I couldn’t understand her logic. If you are shooting a picture for keeps and posting online you would normally pretty yourself up to have a photo that celebrates you and brings you in a good mood.You would ask someone to take the photo of you so that person would give you directions for better posing.

Then there was another comment that made me join the discussion. She compared the “honesty” of her photo to the “naturalness” of Annie Leibovitz photography. Without stating the obvious points of difference between the lady’s self-portrait and the creations of a genius, I’ll get to the educational part: the ‘naturalness’ of great portraits is achieved through hours of collaborative work.

For starters, the photographer will help you with posing and your facial expression to make sure you do relax and do look natural in front of the camera. A real professional will make sure the background doesn’t have any distracting elements to spoil the view: water bottles, bags, exit signs, or any other clutter.

S/he will watch out for stray strands of hair, wardrobe malfunctions, and other obvious issues.

A top-level photographer comes with a crew that includes, depending on the budget, the following type of helpers:

– Lighting Assistant who directs a reflector to bounce light onto the subjects, sets up flash stands and adjusts the settings on external flash units, and holds and aims video lights.

– Photographic Stylist who collects the necessary materials and props before the shoot from various suppliers, arranging objects in the desired fashion and setting up lights and special effects, if any, e.g. fog, wind or rain.

– Hair and Makeup Stylist – Even a natural beauty that doesn’t need much help but a little enhancement can go a long way with some makeup. As a minimum, you need a flash-resistant foundation so that your skin doesn’t appear oily. During the shoot, this professional corrects the smudges and watches out for stray strands of hair.

– Wardrobe Stylist – knows how to accentuate the positive attributes of the people they dress. Choosing the right outfit to flatter someone—in a way that is appropriate for each event—is an art. Fashion styling requires extensive knowledge of the fashion industry and a knack for matching your clients with the clothing that will support the image they want to project.

Depending on the chosen style these professionals can present different facets of YOU.

In 2008, Vogue Paris demonstrated how, without any retouching, and only with the application of makeup, wardrobe lighting the same woman could appear as a 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60-year old:

Vogue Paris November 2008 with Eniko Mihalik by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin styled by Carine Roitfeld, make-up by Lisa Butler

Technically, these are natural (unretouched) photos, unless you consider makeup that women wear routinely to be a grand illusion. But somehow I think that discretely retouched portraits where photography flaws have been eliminated, skin has been cleaned, undereye shadows lightened, static hair removed, and the background clutter eliminated to be more ‘natural’:
Amateur photo edited to look like a studio portrait

Share this post on Tweeter

Bookmark and Share

October 5, 2009

Glamor with a Disclaimer

PhotoHand-blog-illustration-retouchingTo fight self-esteem problems experienced by girls and women who feel pressure to fit the standards set up by advertisers, British and French lawmakers are pushing for laws that force the Advertising industry to disclose when retouching is used on models. According to the proposals, all ads where retouched images of models have been used should carry a disclaimer stating that changes have been made.

You would think that in our day and age, everyone knows that ad images are artistic interpretations. They are decorative. Let’s be honest, you wouldn’t want Calvin Klein ads to feature “guys from work”.

I personally think “feel-good” movies are more damaging for the psyche of young women. And, if we continue along the disclaimer path, they should run a marquee warning during romantic comedies and Cinderella-plot movies saying this is just wishful thinking and no one should fall for this delusion.

As for photo retouching, it has become a natural part of the process of developing an image for publication. It puts fixes where the photography failed. You always do the bare minimum checklist:

– Improve lighting
– Adjust colors
– Remove flyaway hairs
– Remove glare
– Remove shadows from faces
– Even out skin tone
– Cover up temporary skin imperfections
– Correct smudged make-up
– Fix clothes

These are the basics of photography post-production that have nothing to do with manipulation of the public conscience.

And if you still consider this an illusion than the illusion starts from the production stage. There is a crew of workers besides the photographer at any proper fashion or celebrity shoot. If you have ever watched America’s Next Top Model then you should know how a good make-up artist, stylist, and lighting specialists can improve the outcome and make the photo look glamorous, the way you (let’s face it)  like it.

Bookmark and Share

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
March 12, 2009

A New Source of Imagery – Every Man and Woman

In 1953, the Time magazine reported amateur photographers were taking estimated 2 billion pictures a year. In our Digital Lifestyle age, when there is no cost of film and development associated with clicks, one enthusiast might account for this number.

AMATEUR PHOTOGRAPHER: Every man his own artist. Time Magazine - Nov 2, 1953

AMATEUR PHOTOGRAPHER: Every man his own artist. Time Magazine - Nov 2, 1953

Photography today is the national pastime. People seem to be carrying cameras at all times in hopes of one day being at the right place at the right moment. Well, they might get lucky. After all, some amateur pictures made history like the shots of the sinking of the Vestris in 1928, the explosion of the Hindenburg in 1937, or the Hotel Winecoff fire in 1946. Can amateur photos compare in artistry and technical quality to the professional photos? Artistic quality is largely in the eye of the beholder and even Robert Capa himself once observed: “Most of the people in this country take pictures, and most of them take better ones than I do.” And now most amateurs are walking around heavily armed with semi-professional and professional cameras that become more and more affordable with every year. Professional-grade cameras now cost less than $1,000 The borderline between professional and amateur photographers is beginning to blur. Back in 1953, selling your lucky shots means a lot of legwork. These days, all you have to do is open an account at one of the photography microstock websites that serve as marketplaces for images, and you can proudly claim yourself a professional once you have sold. One of such sites iStockphoto’s clients now include bulk photo purchasers like IBM and United Way, as well as the small design firms that used to buy from expensive agencies like Corbis and Getty. As a matter of fact, Getty Images – one of the world’s largest stock and editorial photo vendors has made a deal with Flickr to add a hand-picked set of Flickr users’ photos to its catalog. The deal will almost certainly cut further into the market for professional stock photography. You won’t make too much cash selling your photos though. Thanks to the collective effort of millions of you, stock photos are no longer scarce and the going rate for royalty-free photos is $1. But who knows, you might produce a photo that will be hugely in demand. So, click away for extra cash or maybe fame! Here is the list of some of the microstock websites to consider with an overview in their own words:

ShutterStock is the largest subscription-based stock photo agency in the world.

Dreamstime is a distinguished leader in stock photography and a major supplier of high quality digital images at unbelievable prices.

BigStockPhoto provides designers with an alternative to high-priced stock photography, in addition to providing photographers with a marketplace to sell their work.

123 Royalty Free is your one-stop royalty-free photo library offering stunning, practical stock photos at the most affordable price!

Crestock – stock photo & image bank that has the stock photography industry’s highest standard in royalty free stock photos & images.

iStockPhoto is the Internet’s original member-generated image and design community. We offer millions of royalty-free stock images for as little as $1 each.

YAY Micro claims to be the best creative and editorial microstock agency in terms of quality, turn-over, reputation and satisfaction. Our vision is to be the leading digital content provider.

CanStockPhoto is one of the world’s largest microstock photography agencies.

FeaturePics is an Internet tool for the realization of the free market; where an Artist is responsible for a product and supervises its price, and a Buyer completes this market by buying the Art.

Fotolia offers the largest image bank of free and affordable royalty free photos and illustrations perfect for any medium, web or print.

Cutcaster is a dynamic, licensing exchange where members buy, sell and request the rights to use digital photos, vector illustrations and images.

PantherMedia is an online marketplace for royalty-free photography. Buyers and sellers of royalty-free images meet on one common platform.

Zymmetrical – the site’s moto is ‘Digital Art to Go!’, but they let our Artists determine the prices of their files – you may find some files to be cheaper than you’d expect, some may seem expensive; however you can always be sure the quality is top-notch.

Fotomind is a royalty-free stock photography agency delivering high quality photos under affordable prices.

Albumo is the Royalty Free Photo Stock – where everyone can sell or buy desired images.

ImageCatalog is a Royalty-Free stock photography web site with the goal of providing exceptionally high quality images at micro prices.

ThePhotoStorage – a royalty-free stock photography website where anyone can purchase photos or vector illustrations for less than $1.00

MostPhotos is a democratic marketplace for stock photos and images.

Bookmark and Share

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
January 27, 2009

First I was Myself… Then I Was an Image of Myself…

Our recorded images are playing an increasing role in our lives. Virtual Memory and the Random Generator, a documentary created by Artifact Pictures explores this subject. Here is the synopsis of this intriguing film that you can view in parts on YouTube.

“As we approach the end of analog television in 2009, and enter a new era in the evolution of digital media, our experience of images and information becomes increasingly intangible. One part history and one part poetry, Virtual Memory is a meditation on the essence of mechanical image-making and its impact on human consciousness, from the physical process of photography and film, to the alternate universe created by computers and virtual reality. Using a compilation of found material, the film bids a kind of fond farewell to the 20th century.”

Bookmark and Share

April 16, 2008

Doctored cover photos add up to controversy

Doctored cover photos add up to controversy
By Donna Freydkin, special for USA TODAY

NEW YORK — If you noticed that Julia Roberts’ head is slapped on the wrong body on the cover of the new Redbook, you’ve got a sharp set of eyes.

In fact, Roberts and other Hollywood A-listers are fuming over altered magazine covers that look bizarre at best and disproportionately freakish at worst.

It’s known as airbrushing, or digital manipulation. At magazines, it’s standard practice to zap a zit, or brighten those baby blues. It’s even de rigueur for a supermodel like Tyra Banks, whose flawless printed perfection is at odds with her actual persona, and comes at a price.

“I disappoint people who meet me in person because I don’t look like me,” she says. “But the public is really hard on people in the industry and your image has to be perfect, and I openly admit that I have cellulite and I get that touched off.”

But, as those who do the tweaking point out, there’s a huge difference between eradicating stretch marks and cutting body parts from two separate photos and fusing them together into a composite shot, as Redbook did with Roberts in its July issue and a clipped-together Jennifer Aniston in June. Magazines run such doctored shots to give their covers an air of exclusivity and originality, even when celebs don’t grant the magazine an interview or sit for a photo shoot, as was the case with Aniston.

“It’s not immoral to retouch people, and everyone does it,” says Rolling Stone art director Andy Cowles. “The difficulty is when you mess with the truth, when it’s distorted and done to the point where you can see it and the person doesn’t look real.”

A spate of recent cover scandals proves his point.

The cover: On Redbook’s July cover, Roberts’ head comes from a paparazzi shot taken at the 2002 People’s Choice awards. Her body, meanwhile, is from the Notting Hill movie premiere four years ago.

The commotion: Although this cover was put to bed before the Aniston issue hit stands, it doesn’t bode well for a magazine that, like its competitors, relies on celebs such as Aniston, Roberts and Gwyneth Paltrow to move major copies.

The conclusion: Publisher Hearst admits its mistake: “In an effort to make a cover that would pop on the newsstand, we combined two different shots of Julia Roberts. We acknowledge that we may have gone too far and hope that Ms. Roberts will accept our apology.” Roberts’ publicist, Marcy Engelman, simply says that “it’s a shame they didn’t use the body that went with the head, because it was a great Giorgio Armani pantsuit (that she wore to the People’s Choice awards).”

The cover: Redbook’s June issue promised the real scoop on Aniston’s relationship with hubby Brad Pitt. But the article was a clip job and the oddly flat cover photo’s exact origins still mystify Aniston’s publicist Stephen Huvane. He says he declined a Redbook cover because Aniston had a commitment to Harper’s Bazaar. Redbook informed him eight weeks before the cover hit that she’d be on it anyway.

The commotion: “It’s a combination of three pictures,” says Huvane of the photo. “If you’re going to do it, then at least match her head up to her body, and make the neck look like it belongs to her. I still can’t figure out which exact picture the face came from.” A Redbook spokeswoman refutes his statements: “The only things that were altered in the cover photo were the color of her shirt and the length of her hair, very slightly, in order to reflect her current length.”

The conclusion: Huvane says Aniston is mulling legal action. “She’s doesn’t like the blatant manipulation of her image,” he says.

The cover:Seventeen’s May issue featured Sarah Michelle Gellar, who granted the magazine an interview but not a photo shoot. So the magazine purchased a retouched photo from a syndication house, changed Gellar’s shirt color (from black to purple) — a standard practice at most magazines, including Rolling Stone— and somehow made her left hand look unnaturally long and misshapen.

The commotion: Gellar’s camp was displeased, stating that she looked like a paper cutout, not a real three-dimensional person, and that the printing job was poor quality.

The conclusion: The magazine sent Gellar a nice thank-you gift, and the furor has since died down.

The cover: When the February issue of British GQ hit stands, Kate Winslet’s legs looked stunningly slim. And no, the actress, who has publicly railed against Hollywood’s obsession with skinniness, hadn’t gone on a crash diet.

The commotion: Winslet said her gams had been thinned down by a third. “I was pretty proud of how my legs actually looked in the real picture,” said Winslet at the time. “I have Polaroids from the shoot and I thought I looked fine.”

The conclusion: Editor in chief Dylan Baker admitted that the photo had been altered, but said it was with Winslet’s approval. The actress is not outraged, but says she spoke out because “it just was important to me to let people know that digital retouching happens all the time. It’s probably happened to just about every other well-known actress on the face of the planet.”

Bookmark and Share

April 16, 2008

Fake Photos Alter Real Memories

Fake Photos Alter Real Memories

Andrea Thompson
LiveScience Staff Writer 11/26/2007

In 2003, Los Angeles Times photographer Brian Walski caused an uproar when it was discovered that his picture of a British soldier yelling at fleeing residents in Iraq, published prominently by many U.S. newspapers, had been altered.
Walski had combined two snapshots taken moments apart of the British solider urging residents to take cover as Iraqi forces opened fire. This digital alteration is one of several in recent years to cast doubt on the old saying that the camera doesn’t lie.

Some researchers are worried that digitally altered photos could alter our perceptions and memories of public events.
To test what effect doctored photos might have, researchers from the University of California, Irvine, and the University of Padua in Italy showed 299 people aged 19 to 84 either an actual photo or an altered photo of two historical events, the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest in Beijing and the 2003 anti-war protest in Rome.
The original Tiananmen Square image was altered to show a crowd watching at the sidelines as a lone man stands in front of a row of tanks. The Rome anti-war protest photograph was altered to show riot police and a menacing, masked protester among the crowd of demonstrators.

When answering questions about the events, the participants had differing recollections of what happened. Those who viewed the altered images of the Rome protest recalled the demonstration as violent and negative and recollected more physical confrontation and property damage than actually occurred.

Participants who viewed the doctored photos also said they were less inclined to take part in future protests, according to the study, detailed in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology.

“It’s potentially a form of human engineering that could be applied to us against our knowledge and against our wishes, and we ought to be vigilant about it,” said UC Irvine psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, who designed the study. “With the addition of a few little upsetting and arousing elements in the Rome protest photo, people remembered this peaceful protest as being more violent than it was, and as a society we have to figure how we can regulate this.”

Bookmark and Share