The basics of digital alteration
Did you know that it is estimated the average person is exposed to 3,000 adverts a day? Or that we may see as many as 700 digitally altered images every single day?
With this constant barrage of unachievable images of perfection, it’s no wonder that many women have come to accept self consciousness and dissatisfaction with their bodies as the norm.
Over 100 research studies have shown that unrealistically perfect images can cause depression, worsening body image and self esteem. Yet despite this fact, there has been little movement by the fashion and beauty industries to stop using the digital manipulation techniques that create these images.
While altered images of perfection still ‘sell’ products, there is little chance that digital alteration will be reduced or stopped all together. This leaves women with a choice: either we stop exposing ourselves to these images altogether or we get more media savvy, critically evaluating the images that we see and understanding the purpose and motivations behind them.
Being media literate requires an understanding of how much scope there is for manipulation of an image. Here’s my basic lesson in digital alteration:
Digital alteration basics
Any digital photo can be retouched or airbrushed using an advanced photo editing software such as Photoshop. Such sophisticated software allows total transformation of an image so that it can look totally different from the original. Here’s a list of what can be achieved with Photoshop:
Colour swapping – Everything from eye, hair, skin, or clothing colour can be altered;
Spot removal – Any blemish from a pimple, scar, birthmark or even a tattoo can be removed;
Wrinkle reduction – lines are frequently removed from around the mouth and eyes to make celebrities look younger and bags can easily be removed to give the impression of a good night’s sleep;
Body stretching – the shape of the body can be completely changed: from enhancing boobs, to lengthening legs and the neck;
Tooth whitening – this is one of the most common retouching effects used in magazines and it’s also easy to straighten up crooked teeth;
Fat removal – excess fat can be trimmed away and cellulite smoothed away.
Photoshop isn’t just for the shots taken for adverts either – any snap shot can be altered too. Many celebrities employ personal Photoshop experts to retouch every single image of them that gets released.
There are also a large number of altered images circulating on social media. Every day people are using facilities on their camera phones to create altered ‘selfies’.
Whenever you look at ANY image, whether that is in a magazine, on the TV or on social media, know there is a high probability that it has been altered in some way. Question every image that you see, and certainly don’t compare yourself to them. Taking an objective view of media images will help you to get a healthier perspective on your own body.