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Let’s Be Real! When Does Photoshopping Go Too Far?

Life Outside Work, Posts

Stacey Campbell-Coady

Recently my kids brought home their picture day order forms from school. Every year I question the price (crazy!) and the need for these photos. But, looking back on my own childhood, I recall my parents getting all excited to see how I’ve changed from year to year, comparing these cheesy shots from school. Some of mine were good, some I’d rather not see again. Now that things are digital and we can basically take photos whenever we want, it’s hard to really see how much our kids actually do change from year to year.

So, each year, I order a few photos of my kids for my parents, family members, and, yes, even little wallet sized for me. They’re handy to show off if I happen to not have my Blackberry on me (but when does that ever happen?) This year, as I perused the choices of backgrounds and poses, I noticed a new feature called “premium retouching.” …What?? As I read the photo company’s explanation of what premium retouching was, I started to get angry. Imagine my horror to find that a company taking photos of children aged 4 to13 deemed it necessary to offer parents: teeth whitening, blending of skin tones, and the usual hiding of any other imperfections like scars or blemishes. Sure, I can see my teenage daughter wanting to conceal a blemish if she had one smack-dab in the middle of her forehead, but why, oh why, do our children need their skin tone evened-out or teeth whitened?

After I vented a bit, I started to think about all the photoshopped images we see on a daily basis. I think about how many pictures I’ve deleted on my blackberry of my kids or myself that I didn’t like. I’ve got an impressionable teenage daughter who is smart, artistic, sensitive, and lovely. She loves everything related to fashion and design. She pours over magazines looking for inspiration for her latest fashion ideas and her upcoming collection (circa 2025). We’ve had lengthy discussions about how most, if not all, of these photos are photoshopped to make the models (mostly women) appear supposedly perfect, when in fact, they have flaws just like the rest of us. Luckily, my daughter is keenly aware of this, and realizes that she is beautiful because she is herself. I’m thankful for companies like Dove, who make it their social mission to empower young girls (and boys!) and inspire them to reach their full potential. They utilize normal, everyday people in their marketing campaigns and offer self-esteem workshops and tips for kids as young as 6 years old.

Now, I’d be a hypocrite if I said there weren’t photos of myself where I’ve changed the lighting, or cropped my body out to appease my own critical voice inside. (Have you looked at my HSI® bio –yeah, that’s me, but just a wee bit better!) But to have a company that wants you as a parent to pay to have your kids’ teeth whitened, or skin tone evened-out, seems a bit excessive. How bad can a 7-year-old’s skin tone be anyway?

So I ordered their photos, untouched. In my humble opinion, the best part of looking back on old school photos is seeing a blemish or two, a wayward hair, or even, god forbid, the odd booger.

The photo chosen for this blog is my daughter’s selfie photoshopping handiwork. Thankfully she makes fun of the concept, rather than allowing it to reflect her self-image!

Stacey Campbell-Coady

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