Altering images via Photoshop has become so commonplace that the simple, all-encompassing term “Photoshopping” is now understood by just about everyone. But what exactly is Photoshopping, and how easy is it to do?
This video, from the well-respected software training website lynda.com, shows exactly how to achieve a Photoshopped body in just a few clicks of the mouse.
The video presenter (an employee of Adobe, the company that makes Photoshop) walks through using the software’s Liquify tool to alter the appearance of hair, slim down the body, and add muscles.
Working on three different images (a couple at the beach, a woman in exercise gear, and a child posing as a bodybuilder), she demonstrates just how powerful and fast it is to make subtle and unnoticeable adjustments to the bodies in the photos.
Having never used the Liquify tool, I was surprised at how easily and quickly these adjustments can be made. A little nudge here, a warp there, and people can be dramatically changed.
Watching the video, I was more than just in awe of the ease of using the Liquify tool. I was also fascinated by the subconscious value judgements the presenter places on the bodies of the photographed subjects.
She uses words like “unflattering,” and talks about adding “definition” and “slimming down” to make the images more acceptable. She also talks about making the images “better” by making these changes.
You can just imagine that these were the thoughts going through those designers’ heads when they were butchering these models for Target.
But you might be wondering: what’s the big deal? Why shouldn’t we make a few subtle changes to photos to paint the subject in a more flattering light?
Well, I would argue that it’s a slippery slope. By imposing our subjective beliefs about what is more flattering, attractive, or desirable, onto these images, we are in fact shaping the cultural notion of acceptable bodies.
Perhaps if more celebrities were seen un-Photoshopped in photos, it would become less of a desirable thing to do. And don’t we all deserve to feel better about our un-Photoshopped selves?
Tessa Needham Synnott discovered About-Face while completing her PhD in Performing Arts at the University of Western Sydney (Australia) in 2008. Her thesis explored the potential of performance to provoke change, and part of her research was Bodily, a solo theatrical performance about body image. She loves technology and the creative arts, and is passionate about the different cultural forces affecting the body image of girls and women. She is a freelance graphic designer, photographer, and WordPress developer: tessaneedham.com.