Photoshopped or Not?

Photoshopped or Not? A Tool to Tell

From left to right, photographs show the five levels of retouching in a system by Hany Farid of Dartmouth. The effect, from slight to drastic, may discourage retouching. “Models, for example, might well say, ‘I don’t want to be a 5. I want to be a 1,’ ” he said.


Published: November 28, 2011

The photographs of celebrities and models in fashion advertisements and magazines are routinely buffed with a helping of digital polish. The retouching can be slight — colors brightened, a stray hair put in place, a pimple healed. Or it can be drastic — shedding 10 or 20 pounds, adding a few inches in height and erasing all wrinkles and blemishes, done using Adobe’s Photoshop software, the photo retoucher’s magic wand.

Joseph Mehling

Hany Farid, a computer science professor at Dartmouth.

“Fix one thing, then another and pretty soon you end up with Barbie,” said Hany Farid, a professor of computer science and a digital forensics expert at Dartmouth.

And that is a problem, feminist legislators in France, Britain and Norway say, and they want digitally altered photos to be labeled. In June, the American Medical Association adopted a policy on body image and advertising that urged advertisers and others to “discourage the altering of photographs in a manner that could promote unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image.”

Dr. Farid said he became intrigued by the problem after reading about the photo-labeling proposals in Europe. Categorizing photos as either altered or not altered seemed too blunt an approach, he said.

Dr. Farid and Eric Kee, a Ph.D. student in computer science at Dartmouth, are proposing a software tool for measuring how much fashion and beauty photos have been altered, a 1-to-5 scale that distinguishes the infinitesimal from the fantastic. Their research is being published this week in a scholarly journal, The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Their work is intended as a technological step to address concerns about the prevalence of highly idealized and digitally edited images in advertising and fashion magazines. Such images, research suggests, contribute to eating disorders and anxiety about body types, especially among young women.

The Dartmouth research, said Seth Matlins, a former talent agent and marketing executive, could be “hugely important” as a tool for objectively measuring the degree to which photos have been altered. He and his wife, Eva Matlins, the founders of a women’s online magazine, Off Our Chests, are trying to gain support for legislation in America. Their proposal, the Self-Esteem Act, would require photos that have been “meaningfully changed” to be labeled.

“We’re just after truth in advertising and transparency,” Mr. Matlins said. “We’re not trying to demonize Photoshop or prevent creative people from using it. But if a person’s image is drastically altered, there should be a reminder that what you’re seeing is about as true as what you saw in ‘Avatar,’ ” the science-fiction movie with computer-generated actors and visual effects.

The algorithm developed by Dr. Farid and Mr. Kee statistically measures how much the image of a person’s face and body has been altered. Many of the before-and-after photos for their research were plucked from the Web sites of professional photo retouchers, promoting their skills.

The algorithm is meant to mimic human perceptions. To do that, hundreds of people were recruited online to compare sets of before-and-after images and to determine the 1-to-5 scale, from minimally altered to starkly changed. The human rankings were used to train the software.

His tool, Dr. Farid said, would ideally be a vehicle for self-regulation. Information and disclosure, he said, should create incentives that reduce retouching. “Models, for example, might well say, ‘I don’t want to be a 5. I want to be a 1,’ ” he said.

Yet even without the prod of a new software tool, there is a trend toward Photoshop restraint, said Lesley Jane Seymour, editor in chief of More, a magazine for women over 40.

Women’s magazine surveys, said Ms. Seymour, a former editor of Marie Claire and Redbook, show that their readers want celebrities to “look great but real.”

“What’s terrific is that we’re having this discussion,” she said. But readers, she added, have become increasingly sophisticated in understanding that photo retouching is widespread, and the overzealous digital transformations become notorious, with the before-and-after images posted online and ridiculed.

“Readers aren’t fooled if you really sculpt the images,” Ms. Seymour said. “If you’re a good editor, you don’t go too far these days. If you give someone a face-lift,” she said, adding, “you’re a fool.”



The Beauty “Look” Myth

What do women feel? How does everyone feel about the Fashion and Modeling Industries?

           In “The Beauty Myth Naomi Wolf discusses much of what the Beauty Myth is, how it started, and how it has evolved. The main point that caught my attention was that of how women view themselves. How they treat themselves, how others treat them, and how are they each affected by each other and circumstances around them. There is the pornography industry, the fashion industry, the modeling industry, and the advertising industry all on the backs of woman and how they “look”. Even if a woman loves the way she looks it’s guaranteed that at some point she was affected by one of these industries. Even if it was just a mental thought, or envy, or disgust, everyone is affected in different manners from these industries around us.

In Chapter one “Entry” the author describes what having “The Look” means and the likely hood of one’s career being short and not as glamorous as expected. People in the Fashion and Modeling industry know of the unglamorous side because they create the look of what others believe to be glamorous. People on the outside who have no personal affiliation with the industries see these models and high-end clothing ads as something almost mystical at times. Of course there are those people who also either have no care for these industries or just choose to ignore them.  The author stated, “A look is not the same thing as a quality commonly called “beauty”. This sentence caught my eye because back home I have a few friends who simply view these industries as vain and shallow yet I always hear them criticizing the way models look on ads, commercials, and magazines. They say statements such as “Oh she’s not even pretty! Hmmm she looks like she’s in desperate need of a hamburger. Wow why is she a model? I could do that and without all that heavy makeup.” In my defense, I’m always trying to stand up for that model that they are putting down because she does not have to be pretty, no one has to be pretty, it what is being sold and if she sold it to you. So in many ways yes the industry is vain but that does not mean that people outside it are any less vain or cruel.

Back to “The Beauty Myth” I wanted talk about something else Wolf said. She stated, “Recent research consistently shows that inside the majority of the West’s controlled, attractive, successful working woman, there is a secret “underlife” poisoning our freedom; infused with notions of beauty, it is a dark vein of self-hatred, physical obsessions, terror of aging, and dread of lost control.” These industries have become so powerful that woman loose themselves in the worry of how they look and the impressions they give off. But I’m curious of what is the biggest issue of all that affect most women. Is it the dreadful weight question? It is Envy of others? Is it something physical that can be changed and if they had the chance to change it without danger, would they? Or would they accept themselves and live as they are.



Bag Man, Bag Man, The Bag Man


Larissa MacFarquhar presented an interesting inside look on the life of counterfeiting in her short story “Bag Man”.  One particular phrase caught my eye that was said towards the beginning of the story and again as part of the conclusion. “Counterfeiting,” the lawyer Harley Lewin likes to say, “is more profitable than narcotics, and your partners don’t kill you”. This statement is true in reality. People who counterfeit depending on how high or low they are in the chain of men make a decent amount to a loaded amount of money. Also unlike narcotics, which could land you in jail for a long stay or life, counterfeiting has a much shorter sentence. Which got me thinking about the other reasons of why people turn to counterfeiting instead of other illegal actions. It could be something that part of “family business” that leaves one to take charge of or leave it behind. It could be something one simply got wrapped into from making a wrong purchase. It’s very possible that most people with exceptions of course have had some type of interaction with the counterfeiting world. Whether that be a purchase from canal street that one knew could be a fake but decided to get it anyway or maybe being on the opposite end and receiving that purchase as a gift but never knowing it was a fake.

Some people do get dragged into that world innocently and others not so much. To some knowing the risk and labor that others are put out to make those products real does not affect them. They simply want the exchange in the end. For most companies that are being counterfeited their business is greatly affected. Sure the huge companies that have load of money will make it by just fine but what about the ones that are not so huge? Some of those companies can be put out of business for situations such as these. It’s an interesting topic to really know where the clothes, our bags, our products that are so personal to us come from

Filene’s Basement-Economy

Even before entering Filene’s basement there’s a sense of direction, for myself at least. I know where I’m going, I know there’s what seems to be three escaladers (just because one is massively long) I have to ride up, I know I have to pass DSW and the pumping music that is always playing on that floor. But when you pass the glass doors into Filene’s Basement there’s a relaxing feeling. Typically people are not running around but more so wandering and browsing to see what they find. It’s two stories, large, sometimes crowded racks within each different section that separates different types of garments, with many designers and brand names to choose from with a discounted price. I know for myself I do not like to be bothered when I shop and I never get bothered at Filene’s which is a plus. One is mostly free to browse and shop as they please. Its relatively quite but one can hear a few conversations going on here and there. The employees are nice; maybe not the nicest but enough to be pleased with. I chose the word Economy for Filene’s Basement because I think it can be a store for many age groups and different income groups. Of course ones not likely to see the high-class woman looking for a discounted Prada dress but middle class is definite. The store has items ranging from ten dollars to five hundred dollars and that’s just an estimate. Also with a broad range of items from tights, to watches, to shoes, to bags, and clothing. Overall for myself I always have a pleasant time browsing around Filene’s Basement.

New York City Fashion