Let’s Talk About: Photoshopping

Hi friends 😀 How are you? It’s almost the weekend… and almost the day when the Pilot is home for good! (SATURDAY) I’m so excited, I can’t even stand it.

Bfast was a smoooothie:


-1 C almond milk

-1 banana

-frozen organic blueberries

-1 scoop vanilla Sun Warrior

-organic spinach

Perfect. Even though my mouth is blue-ish now 😉

I’m off to orientation at the new j-o-b, so thought it would be the perfect morning for a discussion post about media influence on self image, namely photoshopping. This is something that my friend Caitlin has brought up a few times on her blog, which has sparked some fantastic discussion.photoshopped-jessica-alba_a

A tweep asked me the other day if I “was sick about the Photoshop debate.”

The answer: definitely not.

I’m not sick of the Photoshop debate for the same reason why I’m not sick about the “why you should buy organic”, “HFCS” and “can you wear black with brown” debates.

The reason: I feel like each time these topics are brought up, I become aware of an entirely different viewpoint and take away something new. Especially when it comes to the blog, since ya’all are so wise and fab 😉

I brought up this topic because I read *this article* (nsfw- not dirty, but an intense visual) the other day about Kate Winslet refusing to conform with her celebrity peers – she didn’t get breast enhancement surgery post-children. It made me think about pressure celebrities face, pressure on us non-celebrities thinking we need to look like celebrities and photoshop. The negatives of photoshopping are frequently discussed, but what about the people who think it’s not such a terrible thing?


I’ve always been a magazine fanatic. I started at the age of maybe 7 and haven’t looked back since. The thing is, reading magazines (even Cosmo and Seventeen when I was in middle school), never made me feel bad about myself,and I was overweight throughout most of my adolescence. I was too worried about what dress to wear to the school dance and what makeup look I could copy, rather than comparing myself to the models in the pages.

Even today, I think of magazines as art and use them for ideas (particularly recipes and fashion ideas), and fully expect the models to be photoshopped. It’s kind of a given, and my thing is if I’m having a bad self esteem day, I’m going to have it whether I look at a magazine or not, ya know?

On the other hand, I’m not the parent of a young, impressionable daughter, so I have no clue what it feels like to have little eyes looking at photoshopped models and wondering if that *should* be them when they grow up.

So what do you think?

Do you loathe photoshopping? Think it’s not so bad? Over the whole debate?

Hit me up in the comments- I’m curious to read your thoughts 🙂

Enjoy your day and I’ll see you after work!


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  1. Leanne (Bride to Mrs.) on May 19, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Seeing the picture of Jessica Alba really shocked me because she looks JUST PERFECT in the “before” photo… and I feel like I can relate to her more in that photo.

    I think photo-shopping sends the wrong message… why can’t we just celebrate REAL bodies?

  2. Vivianne on May 19, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    I hate photoshopping… I barely realize it’s happening when I look through a magazine which is bad. I see all of the photos and think why can’t I look like them. Then I snap out of it.

    I try not to compare myself to celebrities for the simply reason that we have different lives. I do not have the time to go to the gym for 2 hours to pay $1000 for a personal trainer every day. I do not have cooks at my beck and call to make me the purest, healthiest foods. I don’t have the money to go to the finest restaurants. I don’t have thousands to spend on the best skin care and hair care. I don’t have designers begging me to wear their clothes.

    Reality check- I’m a college student. I’m broke. I’m going to be a biology major, and I don’t always have time to whip up a great meal for myself. I have a meal plan in the dining hall. I’m not saying I can’t be healthy, but I can’t look like a celeb. It’s just not going to happen, and I accept that and love myself.

  3. Stephanie on May 19, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Oh god I hate photoshopping so much. I mean, just with your example above – they photoshopped JESSICA ALBA! Seriously. It’s no wonder people have a warped sense of what’s “beautiful”. =/

  4. Tori (Fresh Fruition) on May 19, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    I wish it wasn’t the norm. It seems silly to me that changing the way someone looks in a picture to the extent that we do is expected. I think there’s a fine line between perfecting the “shot” and going completely overboard by making the model look like a different person / body.

  5. Cat on May 19, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    The odd thing about this whole issue to me is that we make choices to do these things. No one is forcing us to buy magazines, no one is forcing us to watch things on TV and no one is forcing us to care about celebrities. You know? So, I guess I’m in the camp of personal responsibility. If something offends you, don’t buy it. All of these things are businesses and the bottom line is important to them right? If people didn’t buy them, they wouldn’t make them. It’s sort of like the idea that you “vote” with your dollars.

    I also read tons of magazines when growing up and I remember one of the things I was always looking for was “tips”. Like, I remember reading in Seventeen once that if your rinse your hair in “cool” water, it would make it shinier! I read that when I was 16 and I STILL think about that all the time. But I don’t remember or care AT ALL about how skinny the models were. I don’t know why, but that’s just my experience 🙂

    • Michelle C on May 19, 2011 at 1:52 pm

      Yes. This. All of this. 🙂

      I get that it’s a sad comment that Jessica Alba’s waist is photoshopped but don’t buy it. Don’t keep it in your house. If your kids ask about it or even before your kids ask about it download some free editing software and show them what can be done. It’s only sending a message if you let it.

  6. Wifebot on May 19, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    I worry that if I have sons they will believe that for a woman to be beautiful she must have poreless skin, be free of “bumps” (muscle and fat alike), and possess the vacant look of someone’s whose eye contrast has been blown out to such a degree that she looks like she’s on fire from the inside out.

    • Wifebot on May 19, 2011 at 1:34 pm

      *someone whose

    • Jennifer on May 19, 2011 at 8:56 pm

      That is exactly my thought!! But then I think my children will hopefully take my emample of what a wife is supposed to be like and a healthy lifestyle! Not get their ques from magazines! I just hope they make a good choice (they are only 4 and 2, I think I’ve got a while 😉

  7. Greta @ California Girl on May 19, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Those photos are seriously disturbing. It’s not only unrealistic to readers, but I think that if I were Jessica Alba I’d be infuriated. There’s already so much pressure to look perfect, now she has to compete with the cartoon version of herself…

  8. Julie on May 19, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    I’m sick of it, but I also know that to sell magazines, a few touch ups need to be made. And I’m pretty sure by know most people know the lengths magazines go to to make their cover models look perfect.

  9. Jessica @ Jessica Balances on May 19, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    I really identify with this: ” I was too worried about what dress to wear to the school dance and what makeup look I could copy, rather than comparing myself to the models in the pages.” — I, too, have loved magazines forever and I’ve always known the girls (and guys) on those glossy pages were photoshopped and it was wildly unrealistic to think I could look like them. However… I don’t know how I’ll feel when I have kids one day. For now, I kind of take magazines with a grain of salt. I’ve actually worked for a couple of magazine publishing companies and, honestly, most of the content you see in there is an advertisement even if it looks like an article…

  10. Rhoni on May 19, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    I’m gonna go with loathe. It’s one thing to smooth out someone’s skin to hide a blemish or two, and another to give her a body shape that’s not her own. I definitely know I grew up reading magazines and thinking I should try to look like those celebrities – and now I don’t read them precisely because I know there’s too much photo shopping; I want to see real women. And regardless of whether I know something is probably photo shopped or not, doesn’t change the issue. The issue is, that these pictures are altered because the media or whoever believes that the picture should be altered. That a picture of a person who is a little meatier, or might have some love-handles is not attractive enough or “perfect” enough to be included in their magazine without a virtual “tummy tuck” or some virtual “liposuction”. So even if it doesn’t personally influence your self-esteem, the image is still being perpetuated that we must look a certain way to be considered attractive. I think women especially need to learn that healthy can come in many shapes and sizes, and by not photo shopping magazine images we can do a better job of this. It should be okay for a celebrity to be beautiful and have a little cellulite. I think it affects the men in our culture too. Men need to see what real healthy women look like as well so they don’t impose their impressions of beauty on women…but I could go on and on about this. 😉

  11. Nic on May 19, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    I’m definitely NOT over the debate because this photoshop thing just keeps getting more and more out of control. These are not real people in magazines any more. And I’m probably totally reaching here, but I’m also seeing more and more tutorials about how to use photoshop at home. Sure, right now it’s how to enhance certain colors, and bring out different details but part of me starts wondering, are we going to start making our own family portraits poreless?

  12. Shannon on May 19, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    I think photo-shop isn’t going anywhere, but we all just have to remember that the people being photographed have a lot of help. After all, photography is an art, and part of that art is photoshop. I think there is a big difference though between enchancing colors and changing lighting etc. and making a model half as skinny and enhancing their boobs to twice their size. It definitely puts unrealistic expectations on young readers, but I think the more we educate young girls to be healthy not skinny, the better their self images will be.

  13. kaila @ healthy helper! on May 19, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    I really don’t think photoshopping is necessary…but since it happens so often I have learned to just keep in mind that it’s there and try not to compare myself to an image that is not even real. I think I would respect celebrities and magazines more if the photo’s were less photoshopped because it would make everybody more relatable instead of creating this image of perfection that is seemingly unattainable by the “normal” person. I like when magazines feature reader pics because they are always so candid and real! I actually enjoy looking at those more than the uber sharp, perfect magazine shots!

  14. Mac on May 19, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    I don’t find it to be the worst thing in the world, but they do some pretty extreme things with photoshop and magazines. I know when I was younger I used to compare myself to the models in the magazines. Fortunately I was not one that was affected negatively in terms of mental or physical health. It can be a serious issue though, but if it’s something minor I have no issues with it.

  15. Clare @ Fitting It All In on May 19, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    Thanks for being honest! I’m totally with you on this one. I’m a magazine junkie, but just kind of expect the photoshopping. That doesn’t mean it isn’t sad that it happens, but it doesn’t affect my self-esteem.

  16. Stephanie on May 19, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    I’m not tired of this debate at all. I have found myself scrutinizing the size of my thighs or how my tummy has a tiny bit of fat on it. Of course, this is MY problem that I have with MYSELF, but I wonder if I wouldn’t think like this if it weren’t for Photoshopped pictures. Isn’t it Oxygen magazine that swears they do NO Photoshopping? If that’s true, then I commend them. All of those women have beautiful muscle tone!

  17. Sunday Baker on May 19, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    I want to see the real woman, not a fantasty version. I think real is hot! In fact, in the photo you posted of Jessica Alba, I think the non-photoshopped version is sexier. Really.

    I do think that society for the most part realizes everyone is photoshopped like crazy at this point. I would just love to see a magazine that publishes only real photographs of women. It would be so refreshing in this robotic-you-all-must-look-perfect world.

  18. Katelynn on May 19, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    I’m not tired of the debate either-society holds us women to an impossible idealized vision of “beauty” that we cannot live up to. I would be lying if I said that I don’t compare myself to celebrities and models and feel utterly and completely inadequate. On a sidenote: where did you get that cute bottle for your smoothies?

  19. Katie on May 19, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    Such great comments going on here.

    I am a total believer that our self-worth and definition of beauty should not be so greatly influenced by what we see in the magazines or on t.v. I think we have a responsiblity to teach our children, especially our young girls, what true beauty looks like. However, I also think it is a bit presumptious to say that the images we see on a daily basis never affect us. Just because you don’t develop a poor self-image or become severly unhealthy to try and look like the covergirl, doesn’t mean you haven’t thought about the “what if’s”. What if I was skinnier, or taller, or had her skin, or her legs, or those eyes, etc. When the whole time, we are wishing for something that is just a skewed image of reality.

    I don’t really take to one side or the other in regards to the photo-shopping. It is something that probably will never change. I do think it is sad that our society focuses so much on outward perfection. How great would it be to see magazine ad’s that featured real women (celebrities and models included!) with no cropping AND no judgement. I think it would be refreshing.

    Great topic Gina! 🙂

  20. sarah on May 19, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    The only publication I can look at without feeling a little bad about myself is: the Athleta catalogue!

  21. Katherine: Unemployed on May 19, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    it totally fuels my trigger so it’s like my disorder is never sick of the photoshopping but healthy me is

  22. Babs on May 19, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    I dislike it but accept that it’s not going anywhere.

    I’ve done modeling in a previous to somewhat current life and seen pictures of myself before and after. It can be REALLY startling because you think …”Wow, I look amazing” and then look at the actual shot. Yeesh…maybe not so much.

    I love the artistic mindset that goes into these magazine photo shoots. As a female, I relish looking through magazines, staring longingly at the pictures of yummy clothing. I also have wished I had her thighs or her hair….it has helped create doubt inside me. I don’t enjoy that aspect of it at all.

    It’s difficult to be happy with oneself when so much propaganda being thrust at us is about THIN,PERFECTION,RICH,POPULAR, BEAUTIFUL,BOOBS….you get the picture. At my age, I really wish I was less concerned about those things.

    Le sigh…

  23. Suzanne on May 19, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Okay, this isn’t on point, but I love you and, accordingly, I desperately want you to share with you (and hopefully the rest of your readers, if you in turn kick this link to them ) this hilar link: http://consumerist.com/2011/05/pejazzling-is-vajazzling-for-men.html

    And, hey, the article is about self-adornment, so aaaaactually it does fit into the discussion about appearances. In fact, maybe it’s hyper-relevant, because just as some view photo-shopping as extreme, this article discusses a practice that takes beautification to the extreme (regions of the body).

    Btw, I loved the cross-fit post! I love programs that place emphasis on functional training. I’m always prowling the farm equipment category on craigslist in hopes of finding cheap tractor tires and other rando heavy crap that I can lug around and call it a workout. XOXO

  24. Samantha on May 19, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    I am glad it’s still something that is out there and being recognized. As a graphic artist, I’m eyeball deep in photoshop daily, and a large part of my clientele come to me for photo purposes. In the past I’ve been asked to do cosmetic retouch, I WILL do corrections such as red eye or an unwanted glare, I will NOT change body composition (ie: enlarge chest, tighten waist, shave off inner thigh).

    As someone recovering from an eating disorder, that is still overweight and can’t lose a lb to save her life, who is early 30’s and struggling to not verbalize my thoughts around my 5 and 8 year old boys who catch on all too quickly, I think it’s quite the shame that the entertainment industry as a whole puts such an emphasis on attempting to perfect the already beautiful and squeeze them into a certain mold. But it doesn’t affect me personally. Sometimes I feel that’s because I do work in graphic arts and I know just how easy it is to make something appear quite different from it’s root image. My self esteem challenges are mine to own, no magazine deserves the credit or flak. But as your first commenter said, it does concern me some that my boys will grow up with this image of the ‘perfect physical woman’ in their head.

    These are actually a bit old and have been widely publicized but it just goes to show how EASY it is alter the appearance of an image using photo editing software. Thus, magazine reader beware…photos viewed are RARELY ‘as is.” Taking Katie Holmes and aging her by half a century in mere moments: http://www.exguides.org/photoshop-tutorials/age-progression.html , a girl taken from larger to thin in a matter of minutes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dJujKM635s .

  25. Mary @ Bites and Bliss on May 19, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    I don’t mind photoshop to improve images, but when it goes so far as to change the image completely..then I don’t like it. We actually learned today that photoshopping things to that extreme a measure is actually plagerism. The end photo should look exactly like it did when you shot the photo. Colors and what not can change, but as for the photo/poses itself, it shouldnt.

  26. Alicia @ This Organic Body on May 19, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    Don’t mind the photoshopping, it really doesn’t bother me. When it’s really bad it’s great comedy and I love a good laugh!

  27. Amara@GirlinaWhirl on May 19, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    I think it’s gotten worse though in recent years. Even in the 90’s they weren’t doing what they’re doing now, so magazine’s effects on you may not be what you should go by.

  28. Amber on May 19, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    As a mom of two teenage girls and one pre teen son I have to say I _hate_ the overdone Photoshop craze.
    As Wifebot pointed out- we have to worry that our sons will grow up expecting women to look this way- there are many studies out there that are proving this to be true sadly, and we have daughters who, while they may not compare themselves to the images in relation to their self confidence, they too become brainwashed and just assume that this is what normal looks like. (obvs, it’s not)
    I started talking to my kids about the non reality of these models and actresses at a super young age simply because we are bombarded with magazine covers and ads that project perfection. No can can live up to that- and no one should have to or expect their future mates to.

  29. Chelsa on May 19, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    I think you just have to know that it’s not 100 percent real and if you’re a mom you have to let your daughters know it too. I agree with you on this.

  30. Rebecca on May 19, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    I am a photographer and I can say you can do A LOT in photoshop. But I do think that if you are hanging a photo on your wall or using it for the cover of a magazine, it should be the BEST version of you possible. Sort of like (lots of) makeup. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing – it’s just AMAZING to see the before and afters of photos I do. It makes me not feel so bad when I see the magazine covers – I know what it probably looked like in real life 🙂

    I love the new blog look by the way!

    • Fitnessista on May 19, 2011 at 8:54 pm

      thank you!

  31. Michelle on May 19, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    Totally off subject, loooove your site and the new look.
    Just wondering…where do you get your wonderful smoothie containers?

    • Fitnessista on May 19, 2011 at 8:54 pm

      tj maxx! 🙂

  32. Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin on May 19, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    I don’t really have a problem with photoshopping out small imperfections like pimples because that doesn’t fundamentally change the person’s body. But I’m definitely against changing someone’s body shape, like making them skinnier or making their chest bigger. Those kind of images had a huge impact on my negative self image as a teen!

  33. Kristen @ Chocolate Covered Kristen on May 19, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    I just think it’s overdone and basically says that the perfect version of someone with a great body isn’t perfect enough. Take this month’s issue of Shape with Jillian Michaels on the cover. Her body is fansatic – strong and not too thin; amazing muscle tone, yet still maintaining a feminine shape. The cover made her arms and waist so much smaller. While we all know that they do it and it isn’t real, I still think it’s hard to be a young girl (or guy) and look at an extremely photoshopped cover and not think “if only I could make myself look like that.” But I have the same issues with fitness magazines providing diet plans to readers that are only 1400 or 1500 calories… I could go one forever about that one haha.

  34. Babs on May 19, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    i love that Kate Winslet went against the grain. Stars have a lot of power, and I wish more of them fought against the fake stuff.

    **woot, woot to the real girls**

  35. Pure2raw twins on May 19, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    great topics, and I agree it is nice when big topics come up again because always something to learn. For me I understand why magazines do photoshop, but there are times when it is too much. What is wrong with natural?? I know magazines sure make me second guess my self, but then again I remember this is me, I love all my imperfections, as I know many other ladies out there do too!! But I do not make photoshop a big deal as I know others do. It is just part of this world, this life-time.

  36. Nikki on May 19, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    I’m completely against photoshop. Not because it gives women poor self-worth, or because it provides a false perception of the female body.

    I’m against photoshop because it teaches our peers and children that it’s okay to lie about things in our lives. Don’t like the way the model’s skin looks? Let’s lie about it. Not happy with how blue the sky was in your honeymoon photos? We can fake it. As a researcher and scientist, I find this completely unacceptable. We should continually strive for completely honesty and openness with ourselves and the world, and photoshop will continue to limit us, holding back our progress.

    • Christena on May 19, 2011 at 10:24 pm

      Was trying to think of how to describe my feelings about photoshop & realized this comment summarizes it perfectly.

  37. Ashley on May 19, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    It’s not the photo shopping that bothers me. It’s the fact that these actresses and models think they need to starve themselves, do crazy “cleanses”, and take drugs when every photo of them is just going to be altered anyway. Now young girls and even grown women are going to think they need to do the same thing. I can’t tell you how many people come into my work to buy lemons and syrup for their stupid master cleanses (and then a week later they are back to buy ice cream and potato chips since they are starving). I have asked some of them why they chose to do the cleanse, and half the time they say that they heard some celebrity does it and swears by it “and look how skinny she is”. Give me a break.

  38. Sarah K on May 20, 2011 at 12:42 am

    I definitely was one of the girls who payed more attention to the fashion and make up in the magazines when I was younger than what the model actually looked like….although I figure it all still probably subliminally effected my view on what women look like. I think I’ve had more of a problem in the last few years about my body imagine than when I was growing up, but I definitely don’t blame it on magazines. I think by now we all realize that no one is that perfect. No one’s skin is that smooth or body that sculpted to “perfection.”

  39. Beth on May 20, 2011 at 2:43 am

    I think it’s sad and says a lot about how nothing is ever good enough for our culture. I know if I was as gorgeous as these actresses and models and had someone telling me I need my pictures photoshopped, I wouldn’t feel so gorgeous anymore! There is no doubt in my mind magazines and other media are the #1 cause of low self esteem in teens. They are looking to these women as roll models and boys are looking at them as sexy (real) women. It makes me sad how girls and young women feel this desire to be the impossible.

  40. Kelly on May 20, 2011 at 8:47 am

    I guess it doesn’t really make me feel bad about myself but it does make me wonder if my husband expects me to look like those magazine covers he sees. I feel like it depicts an unrealistic ideal for men as well as for women. I showed my husband that picture of Kate Winslet’s boobs and he was very shocked that that is what childhood and breast feeding do to you. Why was he shocked? Because all he sees in the media and in movies is what Oprah said…the pictures of women laying down with their boobs sticking straight up. So photoshopping, in my opinion, also affects men and makes men think differently about a woman’s body too. I don’t understand why photoshopping is even a practice that takes place. I mean as the model it would make me feel bad…what…my own body wasn’t good enough? I can honestly say that the more real a model looks to more willing I am too buy those clothes or read that article or pick up that magazine. I don’t get it…I truly don’t. But I also know that no matter how much I bitch about it it is never going to change.

  41. Katie on May 20, 2011 at 9:22 am

    Role models and people we can relate to are important – whether this be diversity based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, mixed families/relationships, religions, etc. OR body types. It’s hard to not see yourself in magazines or represented as much on tv. To see this ‘norm’ of ‘perfect’ and ‘ageless’. The articles bother me more than the photos, but the photoshopping is unnecessary and ridiculous, if you ask me. I want to see all types of women, and women like me. Magazines still lack in all sorts of diversity.

  42. Lisa on May 20, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    I think the debate over photoshop is great, it just puts more information out there and informs more people that this stuff isn’t real. I relate with most of the people on here, I grew up with a subscription to Seventeen magazine and others and it didn’t really have a significant effect on my self-esteem. However, I am affected by the pictures now more than ever. I have all the knowledge and perspective that I need to know what these pictures are and how they were made to look like this, but it really saddens me deeply. I subscribe to Self magazine and I find myself turning the cover down when I set them down, or putting something on top of them so that my husband won’t see them and realize that I don’t come close to this. I am a fit person, an avid runner and I have very little fat on me, but I’ve got these short legs and a strong figure that doesn’t compete even with the “athletic” models, whose figures are still waifish. It’s the point that I see these pictures and I know it’s silly, but they still make you feel like you should be trying harder to make yourself into that girl.

  43. Tori on August 23, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Sorry but I have to ask: can you wear brown with black? (I have been known to rock it a few times…major faux pas?)

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