Photoshop: A Creative Crutch?

by Feb 3, 2015

Everyone has seen it, even if they didn’t know it. Pick up any magazine with a cosmetic ad and it’s there. Staring at you. Holding up an invisible measuring stick and judging you (even though it really isn’t). Perfect and flawless models posing with products, telling you to buy them. Celebrities walking the red carpet for some big event with bodies that look like they never leave the gym (and never ever eat). I’m of course talking about Photoshop. The tool that launched a million eating disorders. OK, the program isn’t solely to blame for eating disorders, but it has played a heavy hand in presenting unrealistic body images. It has also changed the game of advertising.

Back before the era of computers, photo shoots relied on a slew of people to capture that one perfect image. Lights and scenery were set up just so, makeup artists and hair stylists made the models look near flawless. Some editing was done after the photo was selected, but advertisers relied on the creative team to get near what they wanted in the physical world. Now, Photoshop has become the (mandatory) final step in the production process. Was the lighting too light or dark? Adjust it in Photoshop. Did the model have a few stray hairs after four hours of shooting? Fix it in Photoshop. Could you see blemishes and bumps on the model’s cheek that don’t bode well with selling makeup?

Airbrush it in Photoshop. Is the model too fat, short, small breasted, or anything other than perfectly proportional? Stretch and bend them like clay in Photoshop till you get the desired shape and size.

While Photoshop has many other uses, it has become an entity on its own that set the standard how models in ads should look. The heavy reliance on the program to fix production flubs and flaws makes creatives lazy. Another behemoth of the digital age is Computer Generated Imagery, or CGI. The ever present use of CGI in movies and t.v. shows eliminated practical and “real” special effects. Puppets were replaced with CGI. Prosthetic makeup and costumes were replaced with CGI characters. Vast landscapes and fantastical interiors are now green-screens with CGI placed over them. Producers have full control over creating a world that will never exist in real life. But we have come to expect that of our entertainment mediums. We know it’s all fake to begin with. But what will Photoshop eliminate?