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.
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?