Photoshop has so invaded our cultural mindset as the magic button that makes things better, more beautiful. But it’s more dangerous than you might believe, both because of the myth of what it can do and the subconscious damage it does do.
Now please don’t misunderstand, I love my Photoshop. It has opened up whole new creative avenues that would have been impossible 20 years ago.
And really, it’s not so much Photoshop that is dangerous as it is the person who wields the mouse, or more often the tablet pen.
First, the danger of the myth of Photoshop: it’s viewed as the universal ‘make better button’. The phrase, ‘I can fix that in Photoshop’ almost goes without saying now. Photoshop, or rather the operator because somehow they have become the same, will improve on reality. Create in every image the essence of beauty.
So the myth is that Photoshop makes things better. That suggests two things: that things aren’t good as they are, plus that if a little Photoshop is good, then more must be better.
That premise has birthed plugins to Photoshop. One in particular has become massively popular with photographers. They have so refined it that the software analyses the subject’s face and reshapes it to better fit with its researched vision of beauty.
Faces become thinner, eyes wider and better placed, lips fuller with enriched colour, brighter teeth and whites of the eyes, along with colour shifting skin. In the end, you often don’t look like you, just enough to at least resemble you, though.
Often Photoshop users go too far. Skin becomes plastic, no pores, glowing white eyes along with trimmed body parts that are just impossible anatomically. You can find piles of websites called Epic Photoshop Fails.
The damage it does. It subtly tells us that we are not good enough as we are. The subconscious reads it this way, chipping away at our self-image, like we need fixing some how to be presented to the world, to those we love. Like spin doctors, our image is being managed.
Watch for the signs that Photoshop is transforming from a friend to a dangerous felon.
However, done carefully it can represent you like a good dress does. You don’t go out on a hot date wearing your dumpy clothes.
It does correct for things that the camera causes. For example, some lens and angles used will shorten your legs, and Photoshop can bring them back to the right perspective. Blemishes and sunburns that come and go, can go. We can gently correct an errant fabric flow or hair wisp. We can creatively colour match the outfit to the background or to your lipstick.
So be wary of images that feel like Photoshop has been used to save it. Often what is being saved is a photographer’s weak base skill set. Most things Photoshop fixes can be looked after in camera and with posing. Just because something can be done, does not mean it should be.
With all the corrections and fixes and tweaks, it’s very easy to suck the delicate life – the character of a woman – from the image. It may look lovely, but in a mannequin sort of way.
Photoshop can be a girl’s best friend, the same way a sexy pair of heels can, or a wicked form-fitting dress tricked out with makeup that brings out your eyes, accenting your lips.
Like your makeup and style, it’s always best never to go to excess.
Now it’s your turn – what do you think? Can you think of a time that Photoshop worked against you or for you? I would love to hear about it.