To Photoshop or Not to Photoshop?


There' a difference between having well-edited, good quality, clear photos, and down right altering them into oblivion. When is it going too far for a blog, and is it deceiving to readers to Photoshop certain things? These questions came into my mind after a reader had posted a comment on a closeup, detailed shot that I should have Photoshopped out a few strands of body hair — ouch!

…a reader had posted a comment on a closeup, detailed shot that I should have Photoshopped out a few strands of body hair — ouch!

When editing the photos for size and any minor enhancements like sharpness or saturation, it crossed my mind that my practically white, blonde hair caught the light, but why would I alter that? We all have hair, and in my opinion, the whole allure of bloggers is that we are supposed to be “real people,” celebrating our imperfections, flaws, and natural beauty instead of banishing them. Within the realm of that, keeping your images as nice and professional quality as possible is key, and its one thing to correct a photo-related flaw like red eye, but actual, physical differences start to get into the blurred lines category.

Sure, I'm not a fan of my perma-dark circles under my eyes, and think my toes look like weird spores, but we all have our hangups, some of which we can easily reduce with normal remedies, just like everyone else does with a pair of sunglasses and concealer, and others, we just have to live with and learn to accept, and if we are lucky, eventually appreciate as unique to us. Plus, the bottom line is, my priority with my blog is as a writer, and although I'd like to do my best at everything, I'm not planning on, nor have the time and resources to produce high caliber photo shoots; it's just me, a camera, and my limited photo editing skills.

An Increase In Blogger Status & Expectations

I'm curious to figure out when things changed and what ideas of what a blogger is and does might give the impression that magazine-quality photos and professional photography skills is the standard. Perhaps the rise of “blogger as celebrity” has caused the bar to be raised unreasonably high, and as blogging gets bigger and bigger, there is an expectation (see Ashe's feature that discusses this) that our content and images mimics that of the big publications. Sure, most bloggers hold a multihyphenate of roles from IT, to editorial, marketing,  photography, and the more time we can invest in these the better we get at them, but does that mean that if we even can, we should we be masking or enhancing ourselves digitally?

Keeping Blogging Authentic

To me, it feels to be the antithesis of the appeal of bloggers and quite disingenuous; I think it's important to take a lot of photos so that you end up with a few clear ones to work with, sans distractions in the backgrounds, so that you have even less to worry about it when it comes to photo editing, and can pretty much run the pics as-is.  You can also completely destroy a photo by overly Photshopping it (see Jennine's article on the subject, here); magazines are constantly coming under scrutiny for drastic retouching with some vowing a “no-Photoshopping” pledge. So many times I've seen a cover image on a magazine, to which the celebrity is unrecognizable as his or herself, due to a heavy retouching job.

With that being said,  is that what readers ultimately really want, or assume they should see in a blog? I'm quite skeptical of this, and I'd love to figure out where the line truly is drawn (according to the IFB community) when it comes to bloggers digitally correcting their own bodies.

What say you: are you for, or against, Photoshopping your body?

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21 Responses

  1. Lara

    I like seeing photoshopped Images – if they are digital art. I’m not fond of fashion / beauty / lifestyle bloggers photoshopping themselves tho, I prefer authenticity as well. Real people. I can usually tell what has been shooped and what not, and if I see a photoshopped person I end up wondering how she / he does look for real. I use filters and play with the color asjustments but don’t go changing my appearance. Must admit that I have “deleted” a scratch from my face for a couple of blog posts previously so I’m not 100% angel.

  2. Kate

    My personal rule is that I won’t edit anything that you’d notice a difference if you were to meet me in person. I will edit things like mosquito bites on my legs in the summer or the occasional zit or lint on my shirt because any given day if you saw me walking down the street, I might not have those things. I will NOT edit my body shape/anything I was born with! I never want someone to meet me in real life and think I look way better/different on my blog than in person!

  3. CynthiaCM

    I’ll fix lighting and maybe filter it a bit if I find that the image is too warm/cool and perhaps blur some background out, but that’s it. A lot of my pics actually come from my phone! I only use “real” cameras for galas, outfit posts and more “serious” fashion shoots (fashion shows, for example).


  4. N'war

    I’m not a fashion blogger but I blog about concert and stuff happenings at my country. I such have no luck with camera or photoshopped so what I can do is only resize the pictures and put watermark on it. Extra maybe the brighter and darker mode.

    Anyway, thanks for this. How about a blogger that doesn’t have camera and photoshopped skill? What can she do?

  5. Kenneth Jacobs

    I might fix some small blemishes on my skin/clothing and lighting, but nothing more. I think that if you’re going to go deep into editing your photo, focus more on the detailed shots, not the shots where it’s full body. I always say to “Keep it Simple”

  6. Alysa

    I won’t edit my pictures. Generally, I’m taking enough that I feel I don’t need to.
    But this article reminded me of something that happened a little while ago… I posted pictures (untouched) and someone anonymously commented saying that they could see a camel toe when it wasn’t really apparent unless they must have really extremely zoomed in (thx for looking so hard at my crotch, bro) and then on one of the blogs I follow, a bunch of people gave the person flack for having photoshopped that out.
    like, what do you want from us?!

  7. april

    I don’t edit my pictures…unless the picture came out too dark and needs lighting…or I want some filter effect to go with my outfit…like if my outfit is vintage…I want a vintage look depends…other than that I want to keep it real…so people won’t be shock when they see me in real life…specially that my friends are on my facebook page .

  8. Eden Castaneda

    Personally I do minor edits to all of my photos, there always an issue with lighting and exposure or white balance so I easily fix them in photoshop. I like playing with the curves of my photographs but do I fix the actual composition by removing and adding things, no way. I think anyone who does that shouldn’t have taken the photo in the first place, you need to be read with your readers.


  9. Barbara

    Definitely against Julia. Apart from the fact that I am hopelessly clueless about photoshop I think is wrong for a blogger to photoshop their images. I do some marginal photo editor tricks to sharpen, brighten and perhaps take out some spots and the like but that is about it.
    A couple of weeks ago, someone said to me on Instagram that i should take off my upper lip hair or take it out of my pics and I have considered it on several occassions and even tried it once (and itched that area for days) but it does bring back to me that the perception of bloggers has changed and this really shouldn’t be the case.
    I won’t photoshop my pictures and any brand that wants to work with me should take me as is or move right along same goes for my fans too.

    Lagos, Nigeria

  10. Eva Tornado

    I edit only the things that hurt the eyes. I do not love bluring etc. But all we are humans and have sometimes problem with skin. If it is temporal problem, then it can be retouched (I retouch occasional pimples, or scratches of my kittens on the hand etc). After all, the picture have to be beautiful =)

  11. Nancy

    I don’t even have photoshop, but I do edit my pictures sometimes. Usually, I just crop and fix the coloring with an auto correct. That’s about the extent of my editing knowledge.

  12. The Science of Happy

    I hate it when people overuse photographic effects (like Instagram effects) to make things look arty. Especially when it’s used on a product. It changes the colour and look of the product entirely making it a more or less useless photo!

  13. Oh K

    Just because one makes a comment, that doesn’t reflect the opinion of one’s entire audience! I think that if you want to photoshop, go ahead. If not, go ahead.

    Freedom of the internet!

  14. Arielle Berze

    I’m a journalism student and we’re trained that anything besides editing the levels and curves (and possibly sharpening the image for print) is technically considered a photo illustration in the news works, so I prefer to stick to those rules. Otherwise outdoor lighting and a bit of concealer will do wonders.

  15. Anubha

    I totally second what you say about expectations having rocketed sky high from “professional bloggers”. Having worked in mainstream print for zillions of years, I always saw blogs as an independent voice, as a free speech kind of medium that scored because they would give readers the true story. But as blogs are increasingly getting corporationised (is that a real word?) many are falling prey to the constraints of having to please clients or hook on a celeb angle. Hence, glossy, photoshopped pix and saccharine sweet reviews. How does that make us different from magazines then?

  16. Olia

    I personally like to edit my pictures before uploading them into my blog.
    Sometimes I do a full on air-brush edit, sometimes its just the brightness/saturation.
    I try to be a fair judge of what the picture should look and always think from my readers perspectives to make sure that I deliver most enjoyable picture.
    When I visit other blogs I also like to see a good quality picture, I think it is very important in blogging.
    Please do let me know what you think of my photography as it is a hobby of mine and is important to me.
    Thank you

  17. Suzanne Amlin

    I just recently got a subscription to Pic Monkey. I like to play with the contrast, saturation and colours mostly because it’s something new to me. The only thing I Photoshop about my looks is I whiten my teeth. Pic Monkey can do it pretty convincingly and it takes a second to do it. My teeth are stained from too much diet coke but readers don’t need to know that!

    A Coin For the Well