Glorifying reality through photoshop: yes or no?

Have you ever made a picture that you wanted to post on social media, but before you did that you had to remove the red eyes? Or did you ever want to make a photo album, but you had to adjust the sharpness of every single one of the pictures you wanted to add? There is a big chance that you answered ‘yes’ to at least one of the questions above. Photoshop is something that is used by a lot of different audiences nowadays to edit digital imagery. You will probably agree with me that removing a red eye or making a picture lighter often takes the photo to a higher level. The question is, however; what is photoshop exactly? And what are the possible (dis-)advantages of it? I myself are pretty much a layman in this area, which is why I would like to dig a little deeper into this subject in today’s blog.

The logo of Adobe Photoshop

Photoshop; what is it and why do people use it?

            Originally, Photoshop comes from ‘Adobe Photoshop’, which is a program that makes it possible for desktop users to edit the visual appearance of a picture. Users can use it to every extent they desire, from removing disturbing elements to adding rain or sunshine. However, nowadays Photoshop has become a synonym for ‘image editing’, and the term is not only used for the Adobe program anymore. But it still comes down to the same, which is editing pictures by removing, adding or changing image elements. In this blog, I would like to talk about Photoshop as this synonym for image editing. Besides Adobe Photoshop, there are a lot of other photo editing apps that do more or less the same. You do not need a computer for it anymore, as there are several photoshop apps for phones available as well.

Often, photoshop is used to make images more beautiful, cover up particular components in a picture or creating an image that is not quite real. There are several motives for people to edit their photos, such as the fact that it makes a photo nicer or that it’s just ‘fun to do’. If you want to get more out of your photos and take them to a higher level, Photoshop is a good opportunity to do this. However, it is good to think about the different settings in which photoshop is used before you decide whether it is a good or a bad thing.

Various fields in which photoshop is popular

            In journalism you’re supposed to convey reliable information. In that sense, you would expect news channels and -papers to exclusively use real photos. It would detract from the news itself if these photos are manipulated. Photojournalists themselves often go against this, simply because they think some editing always is necessary to make the photo’s look better. In my opinion this is debatable, because a news source should always publish reality and reality only. However, this might not even be possible because photojournalists always create their own image of reality. In the end, there should be made agreements about the do’s and don’ts in photojournalism, but in my opinion those photos should be as real as possible.

            Next, I would really like to talk about the use of photoshop in the fashion industry. It sometimes happens that companies in the fashion industry use photoshop to make their models prettier. Their goal is often to make the product (e.g. clothing or jewellery) look as nice as possible, to encourage people to buy it. However, it sometimes happens that models are edited in a way that they are slimmer or their skin is smoother than it in actually is. I think this is alarming, because of the effects that this can have on the models themselves or on the people that see those pictures and think that that’s how it’s supposed to be. In my opinion, a little bit of photoshop should not be a problem, but photos should still be realistic and therefore photoshop in the fashion industry should have it limits.

Example of how photoshop is used in the fashion industry.

            I think the use of photoshop in the fashion industry might be one of the reasons why people started using photoshop in everyday life as well. When models always look skinny in their photos, this can make other people insecure. Women compare themselves a lot to other women on the internet, and this can have a negative effect on the self-image of a woman. This might cause people to start using photoshop on their own photos. I think this is a bad thing, because in the end no one might know what’s real and what’s fake anymore. If people just start posting themselves as they really are, there will be a more truthful reflection of the real world online. This might eventually be a good step to reducing people becoming insecure because of the fake (body) images that are being spread online.

My conclusion

            In the end, I think that there are both good and bad arguments to list about the use of photoshop. On one hand, photoshop is a way to take your photos to a higher level by giving it a nice colour or editing the saturation. Photoshop can really be a way to make or break your photo. On the other hand, I think this ‘positive’ thing about Photoshop does not outweigh the negative consequences that come with it. When using photoshop, there is a possibility that you lose sight of reality. Indirectly, photoshop may cause insecurity or make people feel that they are not worthy. In my opinion, that is something that should be avoided. So either people should stop editing their photos, or one should be made aware that photos posted online or in fashion magazines are often not a good reflection of reality.