Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Friday, April 23, 2010

To Photoshop or not to Photoshop Faces

In the world of the computer and digital photograph, ordinary people are faced with choices they never had in the past. Once upon a time only photographers had access to the ultimate face changing tools. Today with all the places we are asked to put up profile photos, all the people who don't really know us, our options have grown.

Even before I received more photos of my grandparents, I had a few old ones, the kind they paid a photographer to take as anniversary photos. At first I hadn't realized what had been done to the one below and then I had to ask-- is that even Grandpa? Well it wasn't the grandpa I had seen in earlier and later photos. The photography studio had given him a new nose.
The question would be why? Didn't people who paid for a photograph want it to look like themselves? Did some photographer decide they should look like an idealized 'them'? If you are going to straighten a nose, why not add hair? Well maybe they did although the next photo was obviously taken years later. I included it so you can see the shape his nose should have been.

This link below talks about the problems professional photographers face with their own photos of celebrities where even young people are photo shopped until they look like dolls.

Vanity Fair's January 2010 issue had an excellent example of the outrageousness of this. Meryl Streep was being featured with the question of how she has managed, at 60, to still be playing romantic leads in hit movies.

Clearly the photographer or magazine decided the only way she could was a photo face lift. That cover photo (and the supposedly current ones inside) aren't what Streep looks like in her films or anywhere else. Whether the photographer made the choice or the magazine, it undercut their entire article which was supposed to be how women of a certain age, who have not had major reconstructive work, can still play romantic leads.

In her films, at any award shows, Streep looks her age. She also looks beautiful. She has proudly indicated she has not had a face lift. I don't know if she has had eye work, little tweaks, or some Botox; but to me she looks like a woman 60 years old. That Vanity Fair cover, supposedly recently taken, did not look like a woman even 40 years old. Why write an article of a woman being proud she can still play a love interest at 60 and then make her look 30 in the photos? Never mind the question of why women need to continue to look 30 and for some even that is regarded as too old.

Average, ordinary people have the face lift option where it comes to their own digital photos. It is possible to use tools that take out every wrinkle, every line and (except for having friends who'd know) it'd be darned tempting except back to the original question-- what was the point of taking or sharing a photo to begin?

Photographs of today are a lot more revealing than those little 3x5s I grew up seeing. These are big and sometimes on a big screen with lots of light. We see every flaw far too clearly. Sometimes the digitizing even creates those flaws by its unique method of putting together an image.

Today even amateur photographers can 'adjust' photos if they so choose. There is no reason to apologize for using photoshop either as, in my opinion, it is part of what creates a photo that goes beyond the 'catalog' (as in recording an event or person) type. How we crop, light, tweak colors, and sharpen can turn an average photo into something special. It also can change what we saw so greatly that the subject is unrecognizable.

What I try to do, where it comes to photos of myself, is look in the mirror and decide what I see. If the camera put in a dark shadow that isn't there, I have been known to soften (but not eliminate) the shadow. Sometimes the photo is the product of a combination of reality and what lighting does.

From one of our beach trips, I had such a picture that I liked except... it clearly showed my eyes looking my age. The sunlight was indeed harsh but when I checked in the mirror, yes, my eyes do have some sagging. Heck, I am going to be 67 this fall, why not some lines?

Suppose though I wanted to change it-- take out those lines, lift some sags. After all my digital painting, I can do it (and I don't even have a fancy photo program. I use Corel Photo-Paint7).

Below you see the results of a few minutes using clone and smoothing tools. I could have even straightened my own nose had I wanted to do so. Our faces change with age; and although I didn't have the sagging at 30, I also didn't really look like that photo then or now. So, what would be the point of changing it? Would I fool anybody here, who knew no way did that look nearly 67, if I 'adjusted' it? Certainly not friends who have met me in person.

This whole issue is the one magazines are beginning to face up to. Plastic isn't better. A photo should look like us... lighting carefully selected or not... or what is the point?


Paul said...

Betty a beautiful woman like you never needs to be retouched !

robin andrea said...

It's an interesting dilemma. Sometimes we want a photo to look like our ideal self, other times we just want to look like our natural self. When I'm sending pics to my family, I just send the photo as is, but if I'm posting to the internet, I tend to photoshop out the things (shadows, age-lines, etc) that I think make me look older than I feel! In some ways I wish we could just go back to those black and white 3x5 pics and being glad just to have the preciousness of the image.

TaraDharma said...

do you suppose that hundreds of years from now, people will look back on all these photo shopped faces and think, "wow, people never used to get wrinkles or show their age!" Or, perhaps, the fountain of youth will have been discovered by then and photoshop won't even be used.

i am endlessly fascinated with the aging process in this culture of youth. I am not immune to the lure of photoshopping my visage, nor to the idea that I could surgically lift these sagging eyelids.

Meryl, my goodness but she is a goddess.

Dick said...

I owned a portrait studio for some years in the 70s and retouching was always a "touchy" subject. Some want more, some want less, and most didn't really have any opinion on the matter until the portrait was finished. My usual approach was to take out temporary things such as blemishes and slightly soften lines if they were too sharp, although that was usually better controlled by lighting and focus. People just look like plastic dolls if you remove too much of those character lines.

Ashleigh Burroughs said...

To Photoshop: The picture you're sending to the high school reunion you're not attending.

Not To Photoshop: You, on the beach, with the sun in your eyes and the wind in your hair and the joy of being alive shining from every pixel.

Diane Keaton and Candice Bergen are also aging publicly and beautifully, don't you think?

Rain said...

Yes, I agree there are some who age beautifully and openly and should be admired for it.

It's funny how the other day we saw the classic, 'High Noon' again, hadn't watched it for awhile. When I was younger, I thought Gary Cooper looked too old in it. Now he just looked magnificent to me. I guess it's all relative ;)

Ugich Konitari said...

About 52 yeas ago my parents took us(my 2 brothers and me) to New Delhi during school vacation, and then PM, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (Indira Gandhi's father) , had a public audience every morning in those days, where we went. Since then, a photo of our family with him, has had the pride of place in my folks' house. Today my parents are no more, and my brother recently had that photo from the old days (now in an old frame falling apart) scanned and reprinted. The guy at the studio, used photoshop and made everyone including the PM look very much younger, and my brother had a hard time convincing him that people could and must look their natural age !. It took 4 hours of sitting with the guy to get the print to a level where it looked like we remembered everyone from those days. Technology is wonderful when it allows us to preserve memories such as these, but is basically being misused for narcissistic purposes....

If you ask me , all that beautification simply removes all the character...

Rain said...

And that is the exact same problem with face lifts-- removing all the character. I have yet to see any of the people who had one who look younger or even like themselves. They might think they are tweaking but in reality they are losing. Plastic is not better.

Darlene said...

I earned every one of my wrinkles and I'm going to keep them; even in photos of me.

Meryl Streep only looks her age in the black and white photo in the slide show. There is not a sagging line or visible wrinkle showing in the color photos. Either they were taken 30 years ago or the photographer did a heck of a job erasing all signs of aging. She is even more beautiful in those photos than on the silver screen.

Kay Dennison said...

No photoshop!!! I like reality.

Rain said...

i agree, kay, especially with smoothing out all the bumps or whatever. Although a photo isn't real either. It adds 10 lbs to what someone really looks like which if you are thin is not bad but if you are not thin is not good. They sometimes capture shadows that don't exist. They are at the best a second in time as expressions change constantly. I love them but they really are only reflections. What really gets me sometimes is realizing we never see ourselves ever. It's always reflections... unless we do out of body travel maybe *s*

Fran aka Redondowriter said...

And you are gorgeous photo shopped or not. I use PhotoShop but I never alter faces. That's interesting about your grandfather though, especially way back then.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

This is such an interesting post Rain. What you were able to do with your picture was subtle and lovely....I wish I knew how to do Photo Shop or some other Complex Program, just to see what I could do....!
I agree that the "air brushing" or whatever they call it now, of Celebrities pictures has become an epidemic of sorts---maybe it was ever thus, but it seems as if so very many people are doing some kind of enhancements , whether Botox or Collegen or Surgery of any kind---It is rather frightening! No one looks their age or in some cases they have become unrecognizeable!.