Women Given Photoshop Transformations Say They Prefer Their Before Images

It’s common knowledge that Photoshop is used, in varying degrees, to help models and celebrities look their best in magazines. But is ‘their best’ really all that great? Does removing imperfections, smoothing skin and trimming waistlines really something desirable?

BuzzFeed wanted to find out, and so they offered four women professional photoshoots and Photoshop makeovers to see how they reacted to their before and after images.

The results are ironic, if expected given the amount of retouching that was done: all four women felt like they were looking at strangers. After years of flipping through magazines and asking themselves “why don’t I look like that,” they realized that looking like ‘that’ is not only impossible in some cases, but not something they wanted at all.

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One laments at the loss of her freckles, which she says add character. Another went so far as to say that the after image was so different as to have changed her very identity. In all cases, the women seem to prefer to keep their imperfections intact.

We share this not just as another anti-Photoshop rant or to point out the difference that makeup, lighting and Photoshop can make, but because there’s an important lesson here for anybody interested in portraiture: more often than not, less is more.

The beauty of portrait photography, at least if you trust many of the portraitists we’ve spoken with, is that you are working with and capturing a unique individual. You’re capturing the essence of a human being on film or pixels. Photoshopping away what makes that person unique is a step away from portraiture and towards digital art.

Of course, that’s just our two cents. What do you think? Let us know in the comments down below.

(via Laughing Squid)

  • Smarten_Up

    The better B&W photographers do/did get it a lot more right in the camera than relying on a darkroom fix, and the same is true for digital–get it right in the camera. Since modern digital cams are really computers, apply the old computer proverb: GIGO–garbage in, garbage out… Best starting place is a good negative/RAW. Learn your craft.

  • Chris Pickrell

    “When someone takes away your imperfections, there’s not much left of who you are…”

    Did that woman just say what we look like defines who we are?

  • Mr Hogwallop

    The best photographers have Costo process their film. :^)

  • Photobomber

    Natural light photography is best

  • Julia Kuzmenko McKim

    That is the best comment I’ve ever read under a post bashing retouching! Thank you Steve! Would you mind if I quote you in my upcoming video book on retouching? Please do contact me via my Disqus.

  • Julia Kuzmenko McKim

    You keep talking about extremes. Ugly and ridiculous extremes. I wonder where you live that you have been exposed to women who try THAT hard.

    Everything is good in moderation: makeup, heels, healthy tan or bronzer.

  • Zamfirescu Vladimir-Alexandru

    Romania. Trust me, Cirque du Soleil could find an entire army of bearded women and so forth. Don’t take my word for it, visit. The common sense and the sense of ridiculous are not known here.

    Crappy togs (for the most part), women with truly horrendous views of fashion and aesthetics (again, for the most part). But I swear, I haven’t seen a girl who looks awesome with ‘just the right amount’ of whatever her secret sauce is in ages.

  • nick

    I did laugh at the woman who said “after someone does your hair, and someone does your makeup, and someone directs your body, and someone removes imperfections… there’s not much of the real you left”. Simply take a selfie in the mirror in the morning in your jim jams. Job done. Anyway – what I really don’t like about these ‘shop bashing vids is the sappy effect music and poor lighting / photography to begin with.

  • Steve Nuth

    Sure, no problems. I run a makeover studio with the ethos of helping anyone to feel better about themselves and how they see themselves. Ive photographed over 400 ladies in the last 18 months and not one client has said can you make me look spotty and fat.

    It’s a curse among ladies to be as to complement each other but not themselves. They could have 99 perfect qualities but be critical of the one thing that they don’t like.

    We are all dreaming of a perfect version of ourselves. I have a faith that deals with that one knowing we’re all created beautifully. But many ladies have been affected not by magazines and photoshopping but by the curse of poor self worth.
    It’s easier to blame others when we’re the ones to blame for the thoughts we have.

    We can all make our own choices good or bad, no one should blame anyone else but ourselves for the way we think.

    To be able to help empower women is a wonderful thing but I can only take nice photos I cannot bring healing.

    Healing comes not through airbrushing but through forgiveness

  • Scritch

    I think they should have at least set a control group: Who would only get shown the photo manipulation, but are not told its been photoshopped.

    Then lets see the results of that one.

    This entire ‘survey’ sounds amazingly biased. Is this a Dove advert or something?

  • Steven

    More power to them. Being confident in your appearance is far more attractive than being airbrushed beyond all recognition.

    And this is coming from a retoucher.

  • Jackson Cheese

    I believe she was talking about imperfections in general, appearance & otherwise.

  • superduckz

    I think the key line in the story that is being overlooked by most of the sincere, skilled and reputable photographers on here who are rightly aghast at the shoot, is that they were told they would be photoshopped to look like glamor magazine cover models. IMHO THAT is a significantly more sever level of manipulation that a straightforward, well lit quality portrait. And it’s evident in the edits. The shapes of their faces, cheekbones and noses are significantly altered. In effect, they become different people. Who would want that?

  • arachnophilia

    photoshop is an extremely flexible tool with a vague general purpose and a wide variety of applications. it doesn’t make sense to argue against it based on its purpose, since it doesn’t have a distinct specific purpose, and doesn’t really do the same thing in anyone’s hands.

    now, portrait professional, on the other hand, is a different story. it pretty much always makes people look like different people, and does ridiculous skin-smoothing and feature exaggeration.

    so yes. guns kill people. fast food makes people fat. portrait pro makes cheesy transformations. but photoshop’s okay.

  • imajez

    I prefer Happy Snaps myself.

  • Julia Kuzmenko McKim

    Very true, thank you!
    I’m saving your comments and will contact you when I continue working on the video book. Thanks again!

  • Peter “Pots”

    Rule one-never show a client a “before.” Rule two-tread lightly. Rule three-BS is for growing flowers(organic, you know)….;-)

  • pathological

    really, because, I have three guns in my house, and they have never killed anyone (not even a deer). And if people would stop eating fast food, they would stop getting fat. Its not like the food is hunting them down.
    The point is, don’t blame the tool, blame the person using it.

  • James

    I think it doesn’t help that ads like this try to show people that it’s either photoshopped or not, good lighting or not, makeup or not. When in reality there is a full spectrum of combinations that go in to making you look the best you can be, sure these guys can retouch all of the texture out of a women’s skin, and they think that’s the epitome of good a photoshop, she disagreed; I could liquify her head to look like a squash, and i don’t think she’d like that much either.

    The point is, just because you can do something in photoshop doesn’t mean that you necessarily should; and from that, just because you can do things that you really shouldn’t in photoshop doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use photoshop, you should just be careful about it.

  • Chris Pickrell

    Cool story.

    Contextually, she was talking about retouching.

    Not metaphysical, intangible flaws such as she bites her nails when she’s nervous.

  • Mark Dub

    Thank you Pathological!! Exactly the point :)

  • P.J. Sparkle

    many of us wonder why we look in the mirror and think “Yeah!” then take a photo an think “Oh…no….”

    I just thought I was unphotogenic. This makes me feel better.

  • Matt

    Wow, really? Very good example of confirmation bias. The conclusion is setup from the question. What do you like better yourself or a fantasy that you can never attain. How could anyone really say they like a version of themselves that is impossible? Like asking a guy if he would like an image of himself a foot taller. Maybe if the version was attainable it would be a fair question.
    Even super models do not like the “overly photoshoped” images, becasue they have a different ideal in mind than their employer. Not a surprise.

    I’am not for overly photoshoped images. But this is not exactly a proof of their conclusion.

  • Marvi Jokhio

    Thank u for sharing

  • Anonymoused

    Piggybacking on fed up’s comment — while I personally don’t do those things, many people do and it’s NOT just to enhance how they look.
    People will do what they want that makes them most comfortable with themselves. Whether or not it “enhances” their features, or accentuates them, or whatever is none of your business.
    Women do those things for themselves, not for others.

  • Anonymoused

    The function of the bra is to lift breasts to make you more comfortable so they’re not flopping every which way as you walk.

  • Jedy

    The photoshopped images have lightened their skin to the point that they look pale and ill. No wonder these women preferred the original, the end results look worse. And all to prove a point that’s been made 1000 times already!

  • AlexMay

    They’re ok with studio lighting, tons of foundation and makeup, styling, selective picture selection though.

  • Anton Berlin

    “Uh… I prefer the original photo, but can I have the Photoshopped one instead?”