A group of University of Calgary researchers is looking into the ethics of photo manipulation in advertising. In their recent paper, titled ‘Maybe She’s Born With It, Maybe It’s Photoshop’, they ask whether the advertising world today, in which virtually no image goes untouched by Adobe Photoshop image editing software, is misrepresenting products and their capabilities. More seriously, they wonder, is it creating ‘a false ideal of perfection’ especially in the fashion and beauty industries:

Photoshopping and manipulating photos has become such a regular occurence that we often see many distorted images on a daily basis without questioning them. … Issues that have risen with the increased use of Photoshop are seen to occur mostly in journalism and advertisment[s] and have placed an immense amount of pressure on young females to achieve the look of the technologically altered ideal … women.

The research team, which includes three women and one man, credits the Dove soap Campaign for Real beauty and other similar efforts as a valuable countervailing force against the unceasing flood of doctored advertising photos.


From the Dove Campaign

Especially noteworthy are the results of a 2004 Dove survey of women across North America which revealed that:

  • 63 per cent strongly agree that society expects women to enhance their physical attractiveness
  • 45 per cent of women feel women who are more beautiful have greater opportunities in life
  • 68 per cent of women strongly agree that, “the media and advertising set an unrealistic standard of beauty that most woman can’t ever achieve.”
  • 76 per cent wish female beauty was portrayed in the media as being made up of more than just physical attractiveness
  • 75 per cent went on to say that they wish the media did a better job of portraying women of diverse physical attractiveness, including age, shape and size

The entire Calgary U. paper is available online at the University wiki.

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