“Photoshop is just like makeup. When it’s done well it looks great, and when it’s overdone you look like a crazy asshole.”
- Tina Fey, bossypants
I hope you're ready to read because I'm about to do a lot of typing. I have a background in publishing, fashion and currently television. Working with all types of images for a million different uses. When I tell people I use photoshop for work, sometimes to retouch images sometimes on people, many are curious and would ask me if I had any interesting stories. Some times I'd get dirty looks as if I told them I was a professional "puppy kicker". I end up having to go into detail about what I actually do.
A few weeks ago a group of teenage girls went to Teen Vogue to complain. This was after they went to Seventeen magazine and some other publications that catered to a teenaged girl audience. The media labeled the protests as "anti-photoshop". This is a ridiculous oversimplification by the media. But I agree with the sentiment of these protestors. I will try to explain what working with photoshop means. And why it's not all rotten.
To be clear I am 100 percent against over retouching to the point where an image is unrealistic. Many Retouchers abuse the liquify tool or don't know the program well enough to begin with (never mind not having any anatomical aesthetic). Rubber people with no texture on their skin and no shape in their bodies. But getting rid of photoshop is not the answer. It's like getting rid of makeup, or lights, or camera lenses. It's a tool. Side note, a lot of the models you see in those ads are really super thin because they're really young, sometimes art directors would ask the retouchers to add some "curves" onto the models. An unskilled retoucher wouldn't know what to do and you end up with shit image that ends up on huffingtonpost or photoshopdisasters.
One of the biggest problems in the industry is the art directors, untrained (or unskilled, you pick) , they don't have a vision of what they want so they always ask for "more work done", the retoucher wanting to please the client, goes to crazy town. I've told many clients that if I go further on an image, it wouldn't look realistic and a shitty ad will make everyone look bad.
Retouching people is about 20 percent of the Photoshop user's working pie. 50 percent is to coverup for a lazy photographer (retouching out wires on a shoot, people who wander on to a set, street signs, etc). Another 30 percent is technical stuff (basically everything in the newsstand needs this). Color and look of an image. When I worked in fashion I would have to match the shirt in a photo to the actual product. This can't be done without photoshop because they are selling a product, this is important. The program is called Photoshop for a reason, it's a modern darkroom. We need to adjust colors and contrast to fit a "look" the photographer or art director is after. None of this is real life. This is commercial art. They aren't shooting documentaries (there's a room in hell for people who retouch photos for news organizations).
Most importantly, we have to recognize what we see in these ads are not natural, they were set up and posed and lit and made up to look a certain way. This is a process, a craft. Teach the children not to let anyone determine their self worth, especially not pictures in a magazine.
Does that make sense?