Target Apologizes for Photoshop Goof Up, Still Dealing with Thigh Gap Fallout


Target has officially come out to apologize after an embarrassing and very public post-processing mistake has left the company dealing with a PR nightmare. But for many, the apology isn’t enough. What the general public is asking is “why?”

As a few of the astute retouchers who read PetaPixel pointed out when we first reported on the Target mishap, this was probably a masking error, and not somebody just going crazy with an erase tool. Each of the offending images have the same issues in the same spots, so it makes sense that whoever Target outsources their post-processing to was editing multiple images at once and simply screwed up.

But in an age where the term “Photoshop” is quickly becoming something of a curse word among those who only ever hear it mentioned in the news, Target’s woes don’t end when they admit it was “an unfortunate error,” apologize and have the photos taken down.

As ABC explains on Good Morning America, people want to know what Target was doing ‘Shopping a Junior swimsuit model in the first place:

Chances are, Target won’t come out and answer these questions directly… there’s nothing to be gained by admitting publicly that you were making skinny models skinnier. More likely, they’ll have to do some PR cleanup by instituting some sort of “no Photoshop” policy on Junior models in order to appease the public.

Whatever the case may be, there are a few lessons big corporations ought to learn here. The main one being: if you’re going to drastically Photoshop your models (and these days, you ought to think long and hard about where you draw the line), post-processing isn’t where you want to ‘cut costs.’

(via ABC News)

  • cryofly

    Oh boy, this ought to really bring their stock down.

  • Danielle

    why would it bring their stock down? women and men like thigh gaps, and target was trying to appeal to those customers like every other company does with advertising

    google a book called the thigh gap hack and you’ll see its selling very well… because thigh gaps appeal to women

  • Dani Riot

    it’s the arguments of the misinformed.

    Even if a fashion brand doesn’t touch a pixel of skin or clothes. The images will still have their backgrounds removed so the model will fit seamlessly onto the page, so if the page is white, the images background is white, if it is pink, then the image background is pink, and so on.

    it is a area of transparency.

    so when this cutout fails, like above, it gives really odd looking results.

    When people hear the word “photoshopped” they think “retouched to the point the model is unrecognisable” when there are actually 1000’s of subtle things that don’t change the model, which would still deem it as photoshopped.

    colour correction,

    adding text

    vector masking

    Its all photoshop.

  • pgb0517

    You make good points, but they don’t apply here. It is obvious that in this case, they were trying to make a slender model horribly skinny.

  • Steven Wade

    Because mishaps like this cause stock prices to fall, people who own stocks in the company don’t want to be affiliated with that, etc. It doesn’t matter what they were trying to do, it matters what they actually do. This is a fantasy world where trying to do something matters and not what you actually do. Your final product is what has impact, not the product you were trying to make. Who cares if they like it or not, they failed at whatever they were trying to do.

    Glad to know the public is so easily swayed by what society deems attractive, must be why people try not to give fake images… and thigh gap just isn’t attainable on a majority of body types.

  • Dani Riot

    I disagree. I have been shooting cutout fashion for seven years, and would like to think I can spot what a mistake looks like.

    This image looks like it has been lit from both the front and back. This backlighting would have given areas of highlight along the edges of the body. Its done to create a three dimensional effect when the background is removed, so it doesn’t look like someone hacked at a picture with a scissors.

    The fastest way to get rid of the background, which is a cheat in my books but when people are pushed for quantity of output and not quality, it is easy to chose it.

    Its the magic eraser tool. The magic eraser will delete everything in an image that looks the same.

    The way the edges would have been deleted in the way of the image above is either the tolerance control is too high. For example, if you click delete white with a tolerance of 5, anything within 5 shades of the clicked pixel will be deleted. When you launch PS, tolerance is set as default to 32. if they pressed delete with this tolerance, it is very plausible that the highlighted edges of skin were deleted at the same time. Minus the shadows of course, which as seen are still intact.

    No one would have retouched that section of an image and felt it was acceptable. And I mean no oneā€¦

    The second way the highlights would disappear the way they have is if the retoucher double clicked the white, the first time deleting the background, the second time deleting the nearest pixels.

    If this magic eraser was their last stage of their process, and was done so the image was no longer at 100% on the screen, then it could easily go un-noticed until after publishing.

    Please do have a go for yourselves. Find an image taken on a white colorama and delete the white, and then do it with less delicacy and you will get the exact same results as above.

  • Dani Riot

    Thought I would illustrate my point. Here is an image I am working on at the moment, I have pressed the magic eraser button at tolerance 5, tolerance 10, and tolerance 20.

    You can see that the higher the tolerance, the more of the image pixels get deleted along with the background.

  • ThatGuy

    Not really. It’s pretty clear they were thinning-up their model in these photos.

  • Esprit

    How is that obvious exactly? You don’t know what you’re talking about.

  • Dani Riot

    see my illustration below.

  • Jason H

    “As a few of the astute retouchers who read PetaPixel pointed out when we first reported on the Target mishap, this was probably a masking error, and not somebody just going crazy with an erase tool. ”

    Good job, PP. :)

  • Jason H

    Dani, thanks for having the patience to explain these things to people. I didn’t have that, myself.

  • EO

    Isn’t it obvious that this isn’t an issue of adding “thigh gap” and it SHOULD be an issue of “a production artist accidentally let a masking layer get unlinked and it shifted on them”?

    If you look at the arm holes and the bottom of the hands, you can tell the mask is shifted. Poor workmanship, but it’s silly to think that this was some thigh gap fisaco.

    Not that photoshopping models doesn’t happen, and not that they didn’t thin these models in photoshop, but to say this is out of the norm for editing is wrong.

  • imajez

    Why blame an obvious mistake when you can rant about body fascism/photoshop being evil etc? The fact that several parts of the body were weirdly misshapen or had parts cut off is as you say likely to be a slipped mask.
    But did the ‘news’ report do anything sensible like ask someone who knows how to use Photoshop/deals with this sort of imagery? Hell no.

  • John Deaville

    from the image shown – i completely disagree – the image has been pathed either in order to cut it out – to put it on a cleaner background or to slim down certain areas – the gap in the thighs and the arm next to the waist – somehow, these paths have shifted up and to the right, so part of the models body has also been cut out in error – you can see that the unintended gaps are shifted in the same direction

  • headshots Los Angeles

    This whole story is much ado about nothing. It was a sloppy mistake by an employee that is probably underpaid.

    The media loves to whip up outrage about how retouching generates negative self-image amongst women, but they will happily run stories about which celebrities have gained weight etc etc

  • John Deaville

    i am a pro retoucher – you can see a path has been drawn between the arm and waist – probably to make it slimmer – also another path has been drawn between the thighs and briefs , these would have been used to turn those areas to white – thus making those areas look slimmer / aeshetic – somehow the paths have been shifted up and that area has been knocked out to white

  • imajez

    Whilst on the subject of the thigh gap, it is in fact a result of wider hips. Wider hips increases the angle between your legs when your knees touch, making a thigh gap more likely. If you are slender and have slim hips, then no thigh gap is likely as your legs tend to be more parallel.
    When I was at school, I recall the term where girls were sometimes described as ‘A’ frame or ‘H’ frame, which was a reference to the shape of their legs. They were nearly all slender but only h-frames would have had thigh gaps.

  • Touch

    But then the cuts would only be in one lateral direction, and there would be an area of background left on the oppsite side.

    The cuts in the image happen in all directions.

  • John Deaville

    if you look at the image shown, if you imagine where the line would have been drawn to make the area between the waist and arm white – this has shifted up and left (as i look at it) – this shift is the same in the area between the legs.

    the instructions would have been to make a gap between the legs and a gap between the waist and arm – to make the image more slim / aesthetic , this would have been done by drawing a path / making a mask – these have mistakenly shifted up and left, thus cutting those areas of the model out to white.

    sorry if I am not explaining myself very well

  • battlepriest

    “The media” are not “whipping up” anything. Target bears editorial responsibility for anything published under their banner, and as such an apology by them is appropriate.

  • battlepriest

    This was NOT a simple mask shift. If that were the case, the missing areas would all be shifted in the same direction the same distance. This was simply clumsy Photoshop work by an inept employee. The fact that the same issue appears on multiple images is another clue that this was done by someone who should not have been employed for the task.
    The larger issue of manipulating body image into something physically unattainable is very much a part of this discussion, and needs to be addressed.

  • battlepriest

    The fact that the same “error” appears on more than one image suggests that this was not an accident – it was, instead, the work of someone who did not know what they were doing. The work somehow avoided any sort of editorial approval process before being published, and here we are.

  • John Deaville

    I don’t know – if it appeared on a whole batch of images, is it possible someone set up an batch action to resize / crop images for the web and somehow this screwed up the clipping paths ?

  • John Deaville

    and it’s not as if who did the retouching did not know what they were doing – a path/mask has clearly been made at some point – and it is accurate, it is just that somewhere / someone has screwed up and the paths/masks have shifted – it is likely there was a review and the images approved, but whoever batch processed in order to stick on the web screwed up


  • Mike

    You’re missing one critical point: The lines that go “inside” the body continue the curves of the external ones perfectly. Shifted masks don’t act like that.

  • EO

    The larger issue is being discussed every 32 seconds in every media platform that exists. The issue here is the assertion that this is some unrealistic thigh gap “standard,” and that’s wrong and ridiculous.

  • Doc Pixel

    The person(s) responsible for this crime against sobriety… oops… society, need to be found immediately and be brought to justice by walking and sleeping no less than 1 year with a basketball between their legs to compensate for this hideous “thigh gapping” fiasco! /s

  • EO

    Maybe if the image was scaled separately from another mask and the mask wasn’t scaled. Either way, it’s more bad photoshop than “beautifiying” the image.

  • Keith Silvas

    In other words, good time to buy.

  • RandyRant

    Give me a break, more than just this modals thigh gap was photoshoped, it just so happens that is what everyone is focused on at this point and time. I hate Target, but, they are no more guilty than any other top retailer in the business of touching things up, they just happen to be guilty of having a really bad editor and my 10 year old could have done a better job of photoshoping that photo. Everyone acts like they had no idea that retailers do touch-ups of their photos, if you really didn’t know than you are the dumbest person alive.

  • Peta

    Target hired someone lacking basic skills in how to use Photoshop. But what is concerning is the image that target wants to present as normal for young girls. Shame on Target and any retail store that photoshops girls under 21 years of age.

  • brebay

    Yeah, the proportion of the arm in relation to the leg is not even human.