Photoshop Experiment: 1 Photograph, 27 Countries, 27 Definitions of ‘Beautiful’



They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and if journalist Esther Honig has proven anything with her fascinating Photoshop project Before & After, it’s that whoever ‘they’ are (it turns out, Margaret Wolfe Hungerford) is right.

The idea behind the project was simple: the 24-year-old radio journalist took to freelance website Fiverr to find Photoshop professionals from around the globe. 27 artists from 27 different countries have replied to her ad so far, and each of them got one photograph and the same instructions: make me look beautiful.

The results are, if you’ll allow us a paradox, both expected and surprising. Expected because most of the artists, regardless of culture, performed certain alterations to the size of her nose, the bags under her eyes, the color of her skin etc. Surprising because of the vast differences and shocking transformations some of the images portray.





















Sometimes specific clothes and accessories were added, other times it was copious amounts of Photoshop makeup, and at times Honig could hardly recognize herself in the images. Cultural divides, it seems, make it impossible to even identify what might be considered universally ‘beautiful,’ much less aspire to it.

As Honig writes on her website, “Photoshop allows us to achieve our unobtainable standards of beauty, but when we compare those standards on a global scale, achieving the ideal remains all the more illusive.”

To see more of the set or read Honig’s thoughts on the project, head over to hear website by clicking here.

(via designboom)

Image credits: Photographs courtesy of Esther Honig

  • Oj0

    Most of these look like the end result of one of the hundreds of poorly done how-to tutorials with an exaggerated end result so you can clearly see the differences. I think I can guess the tutorials:

    Morocco – How to Fake Touring the Middle East
    USA – How to Add Hair Extensions
    Argentina – How to Create a Teenage Beauty Queen Effect
    Serbia – Next, paste the dress below the dotted Line
    Pakistan – How to Give Yourself a Tan
    UK – How to Turn Yourself into a 3D Model
    Bangladesh – Turn Yourself into The Little Mermaid
    Bulgaria – How to Increase the Power of Your Flash in Post
    Greece – What to Do When You Can’t Afford a Makeup Artist
    Serbia 2 – How To Turn Yourself into Sims 3 Character

  • Junaid Javed Khan

    Pakistan one is best lol

  • Catsy

    Those are awful… I like the Bangladesh one, it’s pretty natural

  • arachnophilia

    you should see them in higher res. they’re really, really bad.

  • df

    Was that english?

  • df

    Would love to hear you elaborate on the “Spanish” Influence on this country….? Considering beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Would you rather she look obese, because that would be more accurate.

  • Rick Scheibner

    I didn’t say Spanish (originating from Spain), I said Latino, originating from Latin-American countries. I was only surmising that if the edit was done by somebody in the US and she appeared Latino, there’s probably a reason. That look is gaining in popularity as the number of Mexican-Americans go up. Nobody said anything about obese. Personally, I think it’s a nice look.

  • Sarah Linnea Tatom

    I think the most interesting thing about it, is the number of countries that changed her eyes to blue.
    The running theme in the images is everyone drew focus to the eyes. Universally we understand that the eyes are the window to the soul. So despite the poor editing and over the top retouching (which was the point of the challenge so that isn’t so bothersome to me) I think it did achieve its goal in finding a theme in the human definition of beauty.

  • Antonio

    The result of the experiment is that if you want a good work you have to hire good professionals. Around the globe.

  • Tuskan

    Bangladesh I think is the best. Suits her very well, and I am from the USA. She is beautiful in every country, IMO.

  • John Nathaniel Calvara

    Goddammit, Philippines, YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS.

  • E-Ching Chiu

    Looks like a couple kids with crayons got to some of these images.

  • Denis Germain

    Grat concept but REALLY poor execution…. most of these are done by amateurs…
    not by retouching pros.

  • Marty Troum

    Ukraine & Italy are the clear winners IMHO. They made the subtlest changes and came out with a beautiful picture. Kudos to the creative talent behind the work.

  • Pamela Prospero

    The execution of the experiment is not that reliable. I think this only shows how creative a graphic artist can be.

  • Tyler Brown

    Apparently everyone loves full lips. At least they didn’t change that on her.

  • mikhas

    It´s actually very bad photoshop

  • Đorđe Savanović

    change serbia with bulgaria and u got it correct

  • MSM

    They should have had ones from Japan and South Korea. What South Korea does when you go in for a simple passport is stunning… (and not in a good way)

  • Greg Shirley

    I would not have changed anything, except adding glasses. However, the Serbian collarbone rocker is pretty awesome!

  • James

    “Except adding glasses.” I love it.

  • James

    I feel the same about the US one.

  • James

    Yeah they would have gotten better results posting this on 4chan.

  • James


  • James


  • James


  • James

    When I started the article, I thought the Philippines did a bad job. It’s my favorite.

  • Timothy O’Brien

    What’s going on with Serbia? Did they give her chest tattoos?

  • Gregory

    Uh Oh. Here comes the grammar police.

  • Poster999

    I like what Bulgaria did — they kept the same basic image (she’s already beautiful imho) and did what one would normally just do with makeup — minimal changes. Looks natural.

  • OtterMatt

    As a person who has a vague, passing familiarity with Photoshop and absolutely no experience critiquing photos for print, much less actually doing it professionally, I can say truthfully that these make me want to throw up, they’re so badly done.

  • Angel Daniel Sosa Muñoz

    Kenya with a pale skin prototype of beauty?
    Dark brown skin is beutiful too!

  • Angel Daniel Sosa Muñoz

    Beauty isn’t a overuse of blur effect.

  • John Nathaniel Calvara

    The PH retoucher must have been a 2×2 Rush ID manager. I mean, that’s how they roll if they had the Rush ID option. No time for a wardrobe change, just shoot, and add a clothes template. Boom. done.

  • Wlck Prescilla

    Really USA?? Smh

  • Binoy Mishra

    Whoever did the Indian version was obviously smoking something. Comeon, the entire collarbone removed??? It looks like someone took a rollerpin and rolled her body flat. Not even remotely associated with anything Indian.

  • Korios

    We do not like excessively make-upped girls in Greece, they are wrong about this.

  • AgiHusseinofy

    before I looked at the check of $8543 , I accept …that…my
    neighbour woz like they say truley earning money parttime on their apple
    labtop. . there sisters neighbour has done this 4 only 19 months and by now
    cleared the debts on their house and bourt a gorgeous Ford . visit this site C­a­s­h­d­u­t­i­e­s­.­C­O­M­

  • Kaybee

    I would remove the forehead crease and ease the parts around the eyes a bit because her eyes looks sad/ worried or maybe even angry with that crease. I can do an Indian version. BTW, I like the Pakistani version out of all.

  • Frozen Bee .GFKS

    i would send her back the same pic she sent as stock…i think she is already beautiful…am i wrong?

  • Momo

    The Serbia portray is the best one to me, all others are eh or ughh…

  • Roy Hubbard

    The only worthwhile retouches at all are the first from Serbia, and
    Bulgaria’s. The US version is vaguely competent, but looks too stupid to
    be considered. The liquify on her lips and eyes actually goes out of
    its way to give her a vapid expression. Telling? Argentina’s probably
    wouldn’t suck if the artist’s concept of beauty wasn’t horribly confused
    with a barbie doll and a bottle of bleach. The rest all look like they
    were done by a chimp who was forced to sit down in front of Photoshop
    and not let up until someone was satisfied that the photo was utterly wrecked.
    Even if the concept is valid (it isn’t), this kind of ‘experiment’ will
    never make sense as long as the retouching is done by obvious amateurs
    or hobbyists. The conversation is NEVER about the vision of the artist,
    it’s always about how bad the Photoshop sucks. Complete waste of time.