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.”



VS Angels vs. Runway Models

The 2011 Victoria’s Secret Fashion show was aired last night on CBS. 35 models were chosen to walk down the glittery runway, however, were some too skinny?


Tattoo Barbie Freaks Everyone Out

Thought this was appropriate to share today since it sparked a lot of controversy among parents.


Hailee Steinfeld Miu Miu Ad Banned by ASA

There is always plenty of talk about how advertisements in the fashion industry influence their viewers, and it usually revolves around the same things: the ads are too sexual, the models are too skinny, or the ad is just all around too offensive. So I was a little surprised, and albeit slightly amused when I first saw this over Thanksgiving break about young Hailee Steifeld’s Miu Miu ad being banned in the UK by their Advertising Standards Authority, who claimed that the photograph is “irresponsible” because she is a (14 year-old) ‘child’ sitting on some railroad tracks dressed in a very expensive, high-fashion wardrobe.

Some ads elicit an immediate shock or awe for various reasons. As stated in a few previous posts, some are just guilty of terrible Photoshoping or using disturbingly skinny models. Others push the envelope when it comes to promiscuity and sexuality, ala American Apparel or Tom Ford. When I saw the headline for the article and then saw the photo it wasn’t immediately clear to me exactly what the problem was with the ad. I mean, I guess I get it: she’s sitting on the tracks (though unrestrained) and she may or may not be wiping away a single tear. Does she want a train to come and run over her because her life is in shambles? Because for a fourteen year-old who’s pondering suicide, a fashion magazine running this ad would probably be their last source for information on how to do so. had a funny response to the ban, showing different campaigns that could also be deemed “unsafe” on the same grounds as Miu Miu:

Karlie Kloss for Oscar de la Renta: I mean, a car could come out of that garage at any moment.

Marion Cotillard for Dior: While impressive, climbing the Eiffel Tower in heels while carrying a handbag is probably not a great idea.

Daphne Groeneveld and Anaïs Pouiliot for Louis Vuitton: Ever heard of a seatbelt?

Sisley: Doesn’t this make you want to do drugs?

The funny thing is that while some brands go out of their way to walk the fine line between edgy and offensive for the sake of stirring up some controversy, I think Miu Miu was merely just aiming for a campaign with beautiful photos portraying a mundane story. At the end of the day, however, there’s no such thing as bad press. How many people would have taken the time to observe and scrutinize this fairly plain ad? Because of all the press this has been getting, thousands of people across the globe who would have never even picked up a fashion magazine in the first place suddenly are acquainted with this image, but more importantly with Miu Miu.

Photos & captions from

Heel Height Times Tweets?


By: Eric Wilson

Published: November 23, 2011

THE 1920s notion of a “hemline index,” in which the economist George Taylor posited that skirt lengths rise and fall in relation to the economy, suggests that fashion is socially determined. In a modern twist, a report about the direction of high heels, issued by I.B.M., proposes that fashion can now be determined through social media.

To promote its software and consulting services, I.B.M. announced that its computer analysis of “billions of social media posts” pointed to a downward trend in heel heights. This was surprising, the company said, because heels usually go up during an economic downturn.

While an intriguing thesis, it bears some fact-checking.

First, I.B.M.’s case: By mapping the most influential participants in online conversations about shoes, the company was then able to eavesdrop on a dozen key bloggers. It found that the median heel heights mentioned on those sites dropped to two inches this year from seven inches in 2009.

But did women really wear seven-inch heels in 2009? Is that physically possible?

Trevor Davis, who led the I.B.M. survey, argued: “The absolute number is not really what is of great interest here. It is the relevant movement.”

There is, indeed, anecdotal evidence of a decline in heel height, but mixed opinions about whether that has anything to do with the economy. Colleen Sherin, the senior fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue, wasn’t buying it. Yes, flats are going to be big for spring, but so are wedges.

“I know that people like to take an economic read from heel heights, skirt lengths and selling red lipsticks,” she said, “but it is just the cycle of fashion.”

Elizabeth Semmelhack, the senior curator at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, has proposed that heels grow higher in a bad economy, citing the introduction of platforms during the Great Depression and their reappearance during the oil crisis in the 1970s and again during the dot-com bust. But even that was a “casual observation,” not gospel, she said.

Valerie Steele, the chief curator at the Museum at F.I.T., said the evidence does not hold up, even if people are talking about it online.

“You can have absolutely vertiginous heels and, at the same time, sell billions of ballet flats,” Ms. Steele said. “It all goes back to that Mark Twain quote: ‘Lies, damned lies and statistics.’ ”

I found this article interesting. I heard of the skirt lengths moving up and down with the economy, but I didn’t really know about the heel heights or the red lipsticks. I don’t think that this applies to us as much as it might have before. There might have been some cases where it might have followed the trend, but I don’t think it really should. It is cool, that people can forecast trends with the economy, but should we really follow it?

W27 Newspaper-The Tech Issue

Page 14, Tumblr Generation, Technologically Speaking

Social Media has altered the face of the Fashion industry. Rich Tong, the (recently resigned) Fashion Director at Tumblr partially paved the way for how we see and spread trends. We’re in an age where most teens we know have blogs (for the most part, in one way or another). With his resignation as the Fashion Director at Tumblr, how can we expect to see a change, if there is one at all? How is social media developing our own tastes by letting us explore them?

the “ideal” body

While Hannah already posted about this article, I thought I had some different ideas about why I chose this particular article on a non-photographers stand point.

The reason why this article attracted my attention so much tonight was the fact that I stumbled upon it after watching a couple minutes of the Victoria Secret fashion show. While watching the fashion show and the exotic models with the perfect bodies strut down the runway I realized people’s opinions about the show were blowing up my twitter. Posts such as “thanks for making me want to jump off a bridge now #VCfashionshow” is the kind of comments I found from my normal sized, petite friends who can only dream of looking like these super models.

Why do young women feel the need to look like these models. This body type is very unusual and takes a lot of work (and sometimes surgery) to achieve. Even though most people know this, we still dream of looking this way. Why do we even have to waste our time with these unrealistic thoughts when we can be dreaming of things like becoming successful, strong and independent women?

I can’t help but think that photoshopping in magazines is just another catalyst to this terrible obsession which women have in striving to achieve this unrealistic, yet idealistic, “perfect” body.

Kate Moss for Alexander McQueen Fashion show

This show is amazing. Holographic 3d image of Kate Moss floating during the Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2006 runway show.

Photoshop Disasters

Being that I am studying to become a photographer, I find it interesting how involved the fashion industry has become with fashion. I can understand the need to photoshop a “healthy,” model, but I find it excessive when magazines start liquifying (photoshop talk for “skinny”) models who are already 5’10 and 105 lbs. What becomes ridiculous for me is when the industry has this notion of skinny as normal. There has been a lot of talk in previous years that models aren’t skinny enough. Now what we’re seeing is that models want to be plump, they want to become more robust curvaceous woman.

The Huffington Post discusses Demi Moore and her cover for W Magazine, where she is seeing wearing a Balmain leotard that has been badly photoshopped from the runway image of Anja Rubik. Moore, a 46 year old actress, replaced with a 26 year old body – seems to me as if that’s a far stretch from reality. What the media is doing with women, taking years off their aging process – creating products, giving them procedures, is a large cry for youth and that tuck everlasting experience. It makes me wonder what women will be doing when our children are our age.

Another article where The New York Times discusses magazines and the retouching world. The article explores the photoshop industry and the need for celebrities and models to become more ideal. The NYTimes goes into detail on how the retouchers think, what they do to steer away from the obvious and make it become the subtle.

Video on retouching:

The New York Times discusses the lighter side of retouching, the good if you will. It gives a good reputation for the retouchers of the industry, but it also considers the disruptions on the woman’s self esteem from the retouching images. The video challenges all magazines to publish an issue where the entire month has been natural, no retouches, all positive body images. What would this to to the media? Would it slow it down? What would the average woman say? I am curious to see what would happen and IF this could ever happen.

I found this ar…


I found this article in The New York Times Style Magazine (Design Fall 2011). The photograph is of three individuals Anna Lindgren, Sofia Lagerkvist, and Charlotte Von der Lancken. Together they are the design team “Front”. Pictured with the designers is a couch they have designed which actually appears to look more like a bench, but this is an illusion. The clothes as well as the sofa in the picture appear to have a wood veneer finish but are actually printed textiles. I believe that these designers are trying to make a statement on our world’s resources. Rather than cutting down a tree, they feel that recreating the visual qualities of the wood on a textile is much more environmentally friendly. Aside from the visual qualities of this piece they have now made a comfortable sofa rather than a not necessarily as comfortable bench if this piece were actually made from two slabs of wood. As a product designer I feel as though, in this photo, these designers are attempting to bridge the gap between fashion design and product design. At first glance, I thought that the clothing and the furniture where all part of one collection but actually they are wearing pre fabricated clothing. I think that the fact that they did not design the clothing they are wearing furthers the movement that they have contributed to, being this wood veneer cloth. This is an example of how furniture and clothing can evoke trends within one another. The design process can be applied to a variety of objects, they all relate in this way. I feel as though when you are designing for any field, whether it be clothing, buildings, lighting, furniture or accessories the same considerations are taken into account. When designing anything the creator thinks about aesthetics, longevity, quality, quantity, manufacturing processes no matter the object being created. All areas of design relate to one anther whether they are physically a part of our bodies, an object we physically interact with, or an environment created by a variety of objects in a space.