Numerous studies have found that the excessive use of photo editing in advertisements has negative effects on the confidence and self-image of consumers, especially young women. When even supermodels are airbrushed to perfection, the idea of what a normal body looks like gets distorted. They start to yearn for an unattainable type of beauty.
In recent years, there has been intense pushback against heavy photo editing. There have even been suggestions to ban it from advertising. In France, images manipulated to make models appear thinner now come with a warning that says “photographie retouchée” or “the photograph has been retouched.” In Norway, a new law will force social media influencers to add a disclaimer if a photo they have posted has been modified.
Photoshop and other image enhancement apps are not inherently bad. Their role is not just to make models appear inhuman in print. They are mostly used to remove elements you do not want or make the image look as vibrant as you imagined. There are times when it is abused to manipulate the audience, but the tool is for photographers to enhance their work.
When used correctly, photo editing is invisible. However, it will be very obvious when handled by someone who does not know how to use it. Many professionals hire services to enhance images without completely changing the original photo.
Here are a few examples of ads being called out for editing mistakes.
Trick of the Light or Photoshop Fail
Each member of the Kardashian-Jenner clan has been called out for using excessive digital photo editing at some point. However, the ad that was released in 2018 that stirred attention was not their own doing. The brand Calvin Klein seemingly edited Kourtney Kardashian’s right forearm to look thinner than normal.
The brand came out with a statement explaining that the issue was the lighting, but internet users called it “photoshop fail.” Others also speculated that two of the sisters were later added in. All five women were criticized for excessive airbrushing.
The Case of the Missing Leg
“Pretty Little Liars” is a popular teen mystery-thriller television series that aired from 2010 to 2017. It was about four female friends who are investigating the sudden disappearance of one of their friends.
However, in one poster for the show, their friend is not the only one missing. One of the leads seems to also be missing her left leg. The actress Sasha Pieterse, unlike her costars, is wearing a long black dress which could be concealing her left thighs, but there is still no sign of the whereabouts of her left foot.
The Disappearing Leg
Missing legs are quite common in ads because, in another photo, another actress was seen without a limb. In the case of a Burberry ad from 2010, “Harry Potter” star Emma Watson was a victim of “photoshop fail.”
In one of the photos, she was posing alongside her brother Alex. Both look fantastic, but what caught the eye of fans is the actress’s right thigh. Her thigh, which was positioned behind her brother, just vanished. There is still no word on where the rest of her leg went.
Not Thin Enough
A photo of French-Swedish model Filippa Hamilton for Ralph Lauren is one of the most popular examples of “photoshop fails.” The ad drew criticism because the brand made the model thinner – much thinner than normal. So thin that her head is bigger than her waist and her hips.
Of course, in real life, Hamilton has model-like but normal proportions. Her waist and hips are not smaller than her head.
Ralph Lauren said that the image was not approved. It was released and used by mistake in a department store in Japan. However, after the controversy, Hamilton stopped working with Ralph Lauren. The model claimed that the brand fired her because they thought she was “overweight.”
Neck Like a Giraffe
According to this 2014 ad for Chanel’s foundation, the “new definition of beauty” involves an impossibly long neck.
The model that was featured in the ad not only has skin that was airbrushed to look almost like a porcelain doll, her neck was also elongated and then bent in such a weird angle. No one knows what exactly Chanel is going for here. Undoubtedly, her normal neck does not need more inches.
Photoshop is an important tool for photographers. However, it should not be used in a way to manipulate the audience, especially in ads. Moreover, when used incorrectly, it becomes obvious that it takes the viewer’s attention away from whatever product is being sold.