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Is the overuse of makeup and Photoshop making beauty unattainable?

As a photographer, I always strive to create art that shows my clients at their very best. I find good lighting, shoot from their more flattering angles, draw out their personality, and in Photoshop, I will edit the image to bring my vision to life. My clients hire me because they want to look attractive, beautiful, lively … but still themselves. For a portrait to stand the test of time and remain impactful, it has to maintain a high degree of authenticity.

And so when I look at virtually every single piece of fashion and commercial advertising out there, I am simultaneously intrigued and troubled by the extensive use of makeup, photoshop, and ridiculously beautiful models. We are constantly bombarded with messages that entice us towards a standard of perfection that is not only unnatural, but frankly impossible. And by impossible, I mean the fact that even when celebrities and models have gone through hours and hours of makeup application, their pictures still have to be extensive edited before they’re approved for publication. Facial imperfections are removed, thighs are slimmed down, the skin is lightened, noses are minimized, bust lines are raised, eyes are repositioned, etc etc. I don’t mean to bag on makeup artists or models at all, and I have friends in both industries whose work I highly respect. What I am trying to say is this: what is expected is something not even the most beautiful among us can attain. 

We protest that true beauty is within. We say that we just need to “be ourselves.” (But what does that mean, anyway?) However, the truth is, we are still a product of our environment, and none of us–whether guy or girl–can escape that subconscious realization that we are not measuring up.

So when the fashion magazine French Elle decides to publish an issue featuring eight celebrities without makeup or Photoshop of any kind, it’s cause for some degree of celebration. Sure, these celebrities are incredibly good looking to begin with, but a decision like this gives me hope that at least some imagemakers are feeling a little pressure to return to something real and authentic.  (via The Frisky)


french elle no makeup issuefrench elle no makeup issue

What do you think? Beauty is something we should all strive for in life, whether it’s in our appearances or our work or our relationships. Yet how do we balance the pursuit of genuine beauty against the media’s unhealthy standards? And do you think that decisions in the commercial world, like this “no makeup” magazine issue and Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, might slowly turn into a trend away from our current plasticized/botoxed/photoshopped version of beauty toward something more natural?

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  • Tammy - Nice move that ELLE’s making. It’s about time someone new stepped forward to take advantage of the undercurrent of dissatisfaction brought on by all the Photoshopping in the commercial industries. I do know that Dove’s been doing this for years–I can always recognize a Dove campaign simply because they seem to be the only company that consistently focuses on “real beauty.” Kind of sad that so few (if any) are following their example.

    I also found it kind of unnerving when guys asked me to Photoshop them to look slimmer. GUYS … not girls. (I’d like to believe that my girls feel comfortable with themselves, at least when they’re with me.)ReplyCancel

  • estherjulee - they still look beautiful! :)ReplyCancel

  • Gerald Ho - i think it has a lot to do with a renewal of the mind. Like you said, we are a product of our environment. I think we have to start redefining beauty once again. Perhaps, to begin with is to remind ourselves that what we see on mags and etc are not where beauty is defined……

    just a thought..:)ReplyCancel

  • yanni - wow.. that retouching website surprised me.. i thought they were beautiful already..ReplyCancel

  • Matthew Saville - I think that’s bad-ass and awesome. Bravo to both the magazine and the models. And you know what? They still look beautiful. One note though- Not only did they avoid photoshop etc, it also looks like they intentionally went with a cool hue / tone to the images overall, which gives a clinical, sickly look to any fair-skinned subject. VERY interesting, considering they could have easily done a “no photoshop” image with a slight warm cast to the white balance. (Since warmth is 10x more flattering by default. I’ve taken “hotter” (pun intended) portraits (w/o PS) than these with AVERAGE women, let alone stars / supermodels, simply by finding a flattering pose and warm light… I’m just sayin’! Bold move on the magazine’s part!

    =Matt=ReplyCancel

  • Kim nodurft - Oh, I totally agree with you! It’s an unrealistic level of beauty that’s sending our teenage girls into anorexia. Even the stars don’t recognize themselves in the images. I need to go buy this issue of Elle just to support it. With this economy I’m hoping women (and men) who would have done plastic surgery will reconsider. We seem to be coming back down to earth as a people and living a higher quality of life with this economy. We’re spending more time with our families and less time keeping up with the Joneses. I hope this helps turn this trend around. Thank you so much for blogging about this.
    KimReplyCancel

  • Ruby Slippers - Well said. I LOVE those pics without any make-up or touch-ups – it really redefines what beauty is and what we should strive for! (That said, I know I look better with makeup on! Haha)ReplyCancel

  • Renee Adams - Wonderful. Let’s have an American issue!
    I was so impressed with Kim Kardashian’s response when her unretouched photo appeared on the website of a magazine, and people put the before and after up side by side. She said, “So what if I have a little cellulite” Let’s have more so we ladies can stop being as neurotic and men can see what real women (even goddesses) REALLY look like. We’re still beautiful in our natural containers :)ReplyCancel

  • Ace - I find it very ironic that you would discuss the overuse of Adobe Photoshop when it is evident that a large sum of your photos spend a great deal of time in post processing (Adobe Photoshop). Case in point, the contrast and saturation levels in your photos are highly unnatural and the lighting of the photos are either way too dark or way too light and in most cases it looks as if you try to make up for it in Photoshop. I think it would have been more authentic or genuine if you would have posted that you admittedly spend quite a bit of time in post processing instead of saying that you find good lighting and take pictures from more flattering angles.ReplyCancel

    • Junshien - @Ace: Lol … not sure where the hostility is coming from, and I usually don’t respond to trolls, but for the benefit of my other readers, here’s my reply to an otherwise legitimate question! =D All the images on my blog and website have obviously been post-processed. I’ve made it clear a couple times before in my blog, and everybody knows that my images are not straight out of camera. My clients see my befores and afters when booking me, and they know very well my editing philosophy. In insinuating that all I said I do is find good lighting and use flattering angles, I guess you completely missed the 2nd part of the sentence when I wrote “in Photoshop, I will edit the image to bring my vision to life.” Nothing gets your point across as effective as a selective reading of the text, eh? =P

      On my list of future blog entries is one about my editing philosophy. I’ll be explaining why images are processed a certain way as well as showing a handful of before and afters. My post-processing is done to bring to completion the vision I had in my head prior to shooting each image. I bring out my clients’ personalities during the shoot, and after post-processing, they still look like themselves. I don’t photoshop noses, reposition eyes, increase bust sizes, make lips fuller, etc etc. Which really was the point of the blog entry, not a call to arms to not use Photoshop! lol

      Anyway… thanks for your time! And if you enjoy being a troll, please go somewhere else. I don’t think I’ll be feeding you again. ;)ReplyCancel

  • Ace - I apologize if I came off as hostile I can see how it would appear that way. I just think that a lot of your photos look unnatural and I found it interesting that you would write about it as if you did not. Nevertheless, I do like the portraits more than the wedding photography as the people in the pictures look as if they are enjoying themselves rather than feeling uncomfortable in front of the camera.ReplyCancel

  • Karen Stringer Qiang - Junshien did a fantastic job for our December Wedding in 2007. He captured our best and funniest moments. Junshien really made our 12 bridal party feel comfortable and well appreciated.

    Thanks Again Junshien!
    KqReplyCancel

  • christina - One specific commercial that reminds me of all you said is a makeup brand, I think Covergirl, with Drew Barrymore looking overly tan with loads of eye makeup. I’m certain just about every picture I’ve seen of her has been doctored, but this in particular was over the top, whereas the pictures from Elle are simply gorgeous, and it’s because their natural beauty makes its own point. Even in my day-to-day, what strikes me about friends and strangers that’s beautiful often isn’t what everyone would doctor, it’s just a combination of their beauty and naturalness.ReplyCancel

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