The Photoshop Debate: Where Do Bloggers Weigh In?



Zits. Wrinkles. Errant hairs. Chipped manicures.

These impurities and imperfections are all a part of our lives, and ones we'd often like to hide from the world if we could. And through the magic of Photoshop, we often can and do.

The debate of the use of Photoshop to digitally alter womens' appearances for the sake of editorial and advertising content is one of the most hotly debated issues in media at the moment – especially in the fashion industry.

Teen magazines Teen Vogue and Seventeen are currently in the spotlight and under scrutiny by SPARK Movement, a girl-activist group that's petitioning the magazines to feature images of unaltered models that haven't been retouched. The group has staged demonstrations outside both magazines' offices, drummed up enthusiasm from young girls everywhere, and prompted Seventeen‘s Editor In Chief to publish a “Body Peace Treaty.”

Issues with altered and retouched images in fashion media have been around nearly as long as fashion media itself. It seems like these days you can hardly open up Fashionista or Jezebel without encountering a story of another botched magazine cover or a missing limb on a model. We've put seemingly every publication under the microscope, but where to style bloggers factor into this debate?

We all understand that magazines and brands are always selling something – an ideal, a lifestyle, a $20,000 handbag or a $7 mascara. The thing is, many of us bloggers are selling something too, whether or not we come right out and say it. We want more readers, to have our images pinned and repinned, to work on projects with brands and to potentially make a commission from selling items through affiliate programs.

There really may be no right or wrong answer, and there aren't any concrete rules to follow when it comes to bloggers and altered images. The images on your blog are not about being perfect or pretending to be perfect – they're about presenting the best version of yourself. So is it okay to use a clone stamp to hide a blemish or “iron out” a garment's wrinkle? If blogging is all about the democratization of fashion – are we negating our own cause by adapting to industry standards?

Do you think bloggers have a right to touch themselves up with editing software? Do you use a program like Photoshop to improve your images? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.


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20 Responses

  1. Megan Zietz

    I think bloggers are allowed to photoshop themselves, though they could save themselves the trouble and just use good lighting to hide imperfections, that’s what I do.. 🙂


  2. Yasmeen (Castle Fashion)

    I think reshaping and removing limbs is a little bizarre. I don’t read magazines anymore but it’s hilarious that they’re still doing this kind of stuff. If you wanna remove a zit or a piece of fluff in your hair, fine. But completely changing your body shape or lightening your skin is so extreme. And, girls reading these magazines and looking at these photos will feel they have to go to the same extremes to be beautiful. Here’s what young girls really need to see:

    I’m was so happy the day these images were released, not because she look particularly good or bad in either photo, but because she proved a point.

  3. AJ

    I think as a blogger you have to decide how much editing you’re going to do. I usually only adjust exposure and curves on my photos, rarely do I do anything to alter the subject’s appearance.

    However, I’ve found myself ridiculously annoyed at the fact that my clothes get so wrinkled and so many bloggers seem to have perfectly smooth frocks, so last night I took a blur tool to one of my dresses and discovered the digital iron. I liked what Seventeen released to show what they actually photoshop – just things to clean the picture up, like stray hairs, wrinkles, bra straps. If it makes the picture look cleaner, that’s fine. But if someone wouldn’t recognize you walking down the street, then that’s a little crazy.

  4. Milena

    I don´t think that nowadays there is a picture of anything published anywhere that has not been digitally edited. You want the image to tell a story or to create a mood and this is where you need Photoshop. Protesting against magazines retouching their images to me equals to protesting against them using gorgeous models and a crew of professionals whose sole purpose is to make sure the end result is appealing.
    As for bloggers, we are telling stories via images as well but we are not magazines. We are normal people to whom other normal people can relate and this is why they follow us. Our imperfections and individuality is our appeal. I believe it is ok to retouch our images in terms of light and color, and oh well cover up a zit but we certainly don´t need to and shouldn´t do more than that.

  5. Ley

    I think that Photoshop is an amazing tool, that really allows an artist to ensure that their finished work matches what they see in their heads. I use it to add filters, adjust lighting and sharpness, and (from time-to-time) use it to edit out a crow or garbage in the background of my photos. I always love the end result.

    That being said, I don’t agree with using it to entirely change the photo! Slimming bodies, changing hair colors, making people taller, or cutting and pasting bits and pieces from different photos to “build” the model is going way too far. They might as well save the model’s fee by animating a photo instead!

  6. Mignon

    I think using photoshop is inevitable. It’s not only used in fashion magazines but personally as well, such as with wedding photos and family photos. Most people are aware of what they look like and how they come across in photos, but having a nice clean photo to share with readers helps credibility too.

    We use concealers to cover blemishes, foundation to hide the appearance of uneven skin, blush to make our cheeks appear rosy. Some people take drastic steps and have plastic surgery (not condoning this however). So what is the difference whether you fix it with cosmetics or software? The cover up is still taking place.

    I think helping young women have confidence is more than making the girls in magazines look “more real.” It starts at home, in schools, amongst family and friends. Let’s stop passing the buck and own up to it. We all have played culprits when scrutinizing another’s appearance. That is where the insecurities start, from those closest to us.

  7. Esther de My Fashion Break

    I´d just started a blog and when you see youself in the computer, of course you think of using something that make you look better but at the same time you think you want to be true or you want to PRETEND you´re true and little by little you become a phony.
    We women can´t be all sexy and young erasing wrinkles or celulites, it´s childish and it´s very dangerous. So, no I don´t use photoshop in my blog.
    I love fashion magazines but sometimes I think : For whom are they? For the designers or for us, real women? Many of my women friends they don´t even open the ones I have at home. So, maybe, that little touches are doing big harm in people, girls and women in particular.

  8. Aimée DesOrmeaux-Lewis

    I only edit my photos to bring out color, light, etc. I NEVER hide my flaws. I think realness is extremely important. In fact, I’m the first one to mention my flaws, but I know that it helps my followers. We see enough in the media. We don’t need to see it on blogs.

  9. sacramento

    I don´t use photoshop.I don´t know how anyway, but if everybody does we all end up like cover magazines. What a bore!!!

  10. Sarah

    The whole point of my blog is to portray what I actually wear in my real life and how I look on a normal day. Now obviously I choose the photos that I think look the nicest, and I touch up the color/contrast/brightness so that the quality is the best that it can be. I don’t erase blemishes and things like that, because I think in my case, it is hypocritical to the mission of my blog.

    However, I won’t deny that I enjoy looking at pictures of professional bloggers that I know were likely touched up. I think the amount of editing that is appropriate can vary depending on the purpose of each individual blog. There’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer to this issue.

    Sarah’s Real Life

  11. Fabiola Rostran

    I photoshop just because sometimes I dont get good lighting and pictures are more interesting with much better contrasting! Although, going overboard I would never do. I want to be a real person not a plastic barbie!

  12. District of Lights

    I think it’s okay to photoshop to a certain point. Making the photo look nicer/cleaner is okay, but if the picture or subject looks completeeeeely different from the original then that’s going overboard!

  13. Kate

    I think my general rule is whether the “flaw” is a temporary one, or something that is a constant…. for instance, I am okay with editing out a pimple, a mosquito bite, or a wrinkle in my dress, because all of these things if you saw me in real life may or may not be present! However, I would never alter my body shape, my eye color, my hair color, etc, because if you saw me walking down the street you might think “whoa, she’s way bigger in real life!” but you would never think “hey, I didn’t see that mosquito bite in her post yesterday! What a phony!”

    … I don’t know if that makes sense, but that’s sort of my general rule of thumb!

  14. Super Kawaii Mama

    This is a really interesting question and I know bloggers who all take different stances on this. For me it comes down to the questions, “Is it honest?” As someone that is not only a fashion blogger, but also a model and hair and makeup artist; I endeavour to create the best possible results using the same tools that are at everyone’s disposal. Lighting, composition, hair and makeup. In saying that though, I do use PS, but in an obvious manner.

    I use it to create artistic colour effects or to improve the lighting in shots where the conditions were unavoidably poor. It’s also taught me that learning and improving my photography skills is the key to a better shot, not time consuming post production.

    Just as with all the other elements of my blog, I’ve developed a personal code of conduct that I abide by. My rule when it comes to using PS, is that I never alter my physical appearance. No shrinking, removing wrinkles, dark circles etc.. But that is just my personal view.

    It has always been my motivation to share myself and my style exactly as I am, so when you meet me in person I am exactly as you see on screen. Both in personality, humour, age, flaws, style and appearance.

    Authenticity is at the heart of what makes my blog so special to me.

  15. Hanna Marie

    I always photo shop myself, not just to have better skin or get rid of a stray hair, but to make myself have a sharper chin, smaller nose and bigger eyes. I don’t see how its any different than wearing make up…

  16. Toni

    I agree with a previous user that many girls use make up everyday to hide flaws and blemishes. What’s the difference between that and doing it digitally? With that said, I agree with most everyone that PS is a great tool to “enhance” a photo, not completely change it.

    All photographers, whether portraits or landscape photographers adjust lighting, white balance, sharpness, contrast, etc. Doing it just because there’s a subject in the frame isn’t portraying anything fake in my opinion. It’s just enhancing what’s already there.

  17. Megan

    Usually I photoshop small blemishes or noticeably stray hairs out of portraits – for both myself and my clients – and I’ll add a slight action onto the photo. But I would never go as far as to make someone look smaller or physically change their body, that’s what great posing is for. Do the work in camera – and you have less to fix in photoshop 😉

  18. kendall

    you know, I think the blog world is taking a turn – and although to me, photography is more important than the clothing on my own blog, a zit is a zit.

    I recently did a shoot with mosquito bites all over my legs, and a nice little blemish on my check, meh – you know – everyone gets them and I think, personally, it makes me seem a little more relatable.

    I am not a robot. or a model.

    I think we need to remember who reads blogs, and why – because these people are “relatable”, as soon as you remove yourself from that category and start over photoshopping, your readers will either follow along or become absent followers in my opinion.

    I also agree with Megan, do the work in the camera and you wont need to photoshop the hell out of everything.