Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Perfection - with the help of Photoshop

I wish this entry was about taking photos for eBay, but this one is not about eBay, but about a topic that holds a lot of meaning to me.    I needed to get this off my chest, whilst I have the words to say in my head.

A topic came across my Facebook newsfeed this afternoon from Upworthy - an American website who post great videos on topics that matter right now.

The lady in the video/picture below is Boggie, a Hungarian singer who released this video in 2013 about what we do to the already-beautiful human body to sell an unattainable ideal.  She also sings the lovely song that is played during the video. 

This is the screen capture for the video, or you can look at the whole thing HERE (it only goes for 3.34 minutes).

This video struck a chord with me, and I watched it in tears.   There is a moment in the video when the software is used to make a copy of one of her eyes (presumably, her "perfect" eye), and it is mirrored over her other eye.

This reminded me of a moment when I was offered the same service on a photo of me. 

Lucky imperfect me.

It was 7 years ago, and my parents were having their 50th wedding anniversary.  My siblings and I decided to get a family portrait done of us as a gift for them, as we'd never had one done.

I awkwardly allowed my photo to be taken, only because it was a special occasion.  I usually avoid cameras like the plague.   I was so glad when it was all over.  

When we came back two weeks later, the photographers showed us the resulting photographs via a slide show on a huge screen.     I sat there cringing, and holding back tears at every photo with me in it.    I was still married at that time, and they had taken a couple of photos of just me and my husband.  I "really" wanted a photo of us, as we'd had no formal photos since our wedding some 14 years earlier.      

The photographer asked if I wanted to order a copy of the photos.    I shook my head violently, and she asked why not.   "Because I look like I've had a stroke,"  I blurted out.

I should mention that I have a sagging eye due to nerve damage that was caused during surgery 15 years ago.  The surgery was to remove a cancer.  

"We can fix that," said the photographer with a big fake-white-teeth smile.   "We just copy your good eye over that one."

I can't imagine what the look on my face was.   "But that wouldn't be a photo of me," I remember saying, tempting as it was to have a photo of me with two "good" eyes - an imposter hanging on my wall.

I'd kind of pushed that memory to the back of my mind until this video found the splinter that's still there lurking in my mind, and hiding under my skin.  Now I can pick at it again, and renew the pain.   

I have only had my photo taken once in the last four years.  It was a nerd moment, and I needed to have my photo taken with a Dalek from Doctor Who, on display in a bookshop.    

 I tried to take a selfie once about 4 years ago when I thought (very briefly) about joining an on-line dating website, and I cried for a day when I saw the result.   How nice it would have been to upload a "perfected" picture to their website, and have my date, looking for the false me, walk past the freak hiding in the corner.

My niece was taking selfies on her phone the other day, and showed them to me.   She's making faces in some of them, and goofing around.    I smiled at her and I told her she looked beautiful in all of them.    She showed me a few of them and told me that she didn't like them because she "looked fat".     She's ten years old, already as tall as me and has arms and legs like sticks.

What are we doing to these girls?   Next thing you know they'll be photoshopping the school portraits to show perfection instead of the growth of awkward child to (in my case) awkward adult.   

When will it end?  Soon the reality of photos modified on our phones and computers will be our reality, and what we see in the mirror is just a myth.   Whilst I don't like what I see, at least it's real.

I still have my favourite photo of me.  I am 6 months old - my skin is perfect and both my eyes are "normal".    Photoshop did not exist, and I had not yet learned to despise what I see in the mirror.


  1. Hi Karina, your post really touched me and I feel that I need to comment. I'm actually a professional portrait photographer and studio owner and I agree with you. I would never do something like that to a client unless they ask specifically for that type of retouching. I do retouch every and all portraits I take, but retouch in a way that makes the client look exactly like themselves only polished. That's for my regular family work. However, I also have a pretty good boudoir business where the retouching is a little heavier. But what I love about my boudoir business is that I can make ordinary women (with good hair, makeup and a bit of retouching). Look and feel gorgeous and glamerous of a day. I get amazing feedback and testimonials from women who tell me they are so unphotogenic on how beautiful the images are and how beautiful they feel. I want them to realize that all the stars/celebs are normal and have imperfections just like the rest of us and that hair, makeup and photography are what make them look good. As can anyone else.

    But I don't like how that photographer handled the situation. I would NEVER bring anything up that might make someone feel bad. I think everyone is beautiful and will do basic retouching, unless I am specific requested to do so. So sorry about your experience.

    Just like the salon I went to where the hairdresser told me that my scalp shows too much and that I can try this and this technique to hide it and that it's a problem with all curly haired peopled. I never bothered me before he brought it to my attention. :( I'm over it now..LOL

    1. Margaret, thanks so much for taking the time to reply. I'm interested to hear your comment as a professional portrait photographer. This place was a 'one-size-fits-all' shop in a large shopping centre, so they were probably just drones that did the work, and didn't really think about what they're saying. The fault is mainly with me for storing up these negative things that people say about me, and then torturing myself with them years later.

      I DO appreciate your kind words, and I'm sure your thoughtful nature makes you a better photographer.