This is the magic recipe that everyone has been waiting for. It treats all skin types and all complexions. It does not even need advertising because almost every celebrity on TV and magazines uses it. Yes, it is called Photoshop.
As someone who’s keen to photography, the first software I installed on my laptop was Adobe Photoshop CS6, even before Word. This may sound insane, but this is how important Photoshop is in the photography industry, especially if it involves fashion and beauty. Like my favorite Chinese female photographer Chen Man once said in an interview, “Make-up, lighting and Photoshop, either of the three makes a picture triumph.” I have always admired her work, for her picture always have translucent complexion and poreless skin, yet it appears natural. And this is the trend in the fashion photography industry. Looking at her pictures, people marvel at how someone can have such perfect natural skin. I guess this is the ideal skin condition that every woman dreams of. Below is one of her works featuring a well-known Chinese actress called Gong Li.
However, the usage of Photoshop has evoked tons of questions and criticisms. Recently the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty released a commercial called “Thought before Action” with a software that promises to beautify images with a single click, while, in reality, reverts the edits and shows the photo in its original state, adding a banner saying, “Don’t manipulate our perceptions of Real Beauty.”[iii]
Below is the video:
Dove: Thought Before Action[iv]
During class discussion of “Hope in a Jar”, we talked a lot about natural versus artifice. People debated over the fundamental distinction between facial enhancement that is skin-improving and paint that is skin-masking[v]. Enhancement creams were described as something to “assist Nature, and make amends for her defects”, while paints masked Nature’s handiwork to hide expressions and truth behind an “encrusted mould.”[vi]
If paints are something that hide the truth from others and should be abandoned, then Photoshop should be prohibited because it distorts the truth using manipulation, it can change one’s appearance at will. Using different tools in Photoshop, you can eliminate every pimple or every mole on the face that could cost thousand dollars to remove through a surgical mean. Below is one of my studio shoots taken a few weeks ago, on the left is the original picture while on the left is the retouched version.
People call this a lie, however, it can be seen in almost every beauty commercial or cover of a magazine. An unretouched beauty portrait would look very unprofessional and it would definitely not attract any customer.
Photoshop: the perfect lie[vii]
Here comes the old dilemma, Photoshop does make people prettier as it gets rid of all the imperfections with the click of a mouse, but it is never natural, and it even distorts female consumers expectation when the retouched photo builds a standard that is impossible for them to reach.
So, will YOU use the ultimate cream?
As a photographer, many of my friends have asked me this same question and I have thought about this for a long time. As I pointed out, the pictures will look very unprofessional if nothing is being “done”. So, my choice is that I will keep the retouching to a minimum; I try not to alter the shape of the body or the face, instead, I use color adjustment, highlights and shadows to make the picture “prettier” as you can see from my own picture posted above. Undoubtedly, this is something that is being criticized all the time; nevertheless, in order to follow the fashion trend and consumers’ expectations, Photoshop will still be used, at least for me.
[v]Peiss, Kathy. Hope in a jar: the making of America’s beauty culture. Philadelphia: First University of Pennsylvania Press.
[vi]Peiss, Kathy. Hope in a jar: the making of America’s beauty culture. Philadelphia: First University of Pennsylvania Press.