Playing devil’s advocate and defending Photoshop

Tracy recently complained about Photoshop that it sets unrealistic beauty standards for women. Tough enough to look like a super model but now the images are so perfect that not even super models look like the super models on the web and in magazines.

And I get it. I really do.


But I’m also a philosopher. And philosophers love to play devil’s advocate, defending unlikely positions and views. Someone’s got to defend wildly indefensible things like Photoshop. I’m also a bit of an optimist, tending to see the silver lining in every cloud.


So here I’m going to say a few things in favour of Photoshop. It might not be the case that all things considered, Photoshop is a good thing. I’m sure, in fact, that it’s not. But it’s not all bad either. That’s my only claim, it’s not all bad. So this is a pretty minimalist defence of Photoshop.

This is also minimalist in another sense. It’s not a fully grown up blog post. It’s more like a comment on Tracy’s post that got out of hand.

Oh, and to be clear, it’s a defence of Photoshop done well. I’ve got nothing good to say about the model with the missing butt cheek that Tracy was talking about.

Here are some things in favour of Photoshop:

First, when my son was taking a modelling course and hanging out with some models, I was surprised to hear them defend Photoshop but actually it made sense. “Yeah, I’ve gained a few pounds and lost my thigh gap but I’m not worried they’ll just fix it with Photoshop.” Huh. Photoshop means less pressure on actual teenage models to be perfect because flaws can be fixed. To a one, the aspiring models were fans.

Second, among the would be models at least there was no thought or expectation that these pictures matched reality. Of course, it’s all Photoshop. No pressure to look like that. No one does. Not even them. Maybe word could spread and we’d stop thinking of these images as attainable for anyone. They’d be more like computer art.

Third, and finally, and this is a wish and dream, if we’re going to be creative with Photoshop can’t we be really creative. Why stop at thigh gaps? I think models with wings would look great. How about wild, multicolored tentacles? Or scaled skin or hooved feet. I think I’ve made the same point about cosmetic surgery on this blog somewhere. I’d like it better if it were more imaginative and playful, less convergence on a single ideal of beauty.

So that’s my few words of defense. Not very long or very very strong. But I had to get it out of my system!

One thought on “Playing devil’s advocate and defending Photoshop

  1. I like photoshop the software, and there are a lot of things that can and are done with it that have nothing to do with unattainable beauty standards, so I first wanted to say that I think it’s important to differentiate photoshop in general and specifically the way it is used to alter model’s appearances to look more attractive. You made me me think of this in mentioning wings, tentacles, et cetera- because photoshop is used for that by people. It can be used to recolor photos as well including adding color to old black and white photos. But that’s kind of a different think that photoshopping models to look thinner, younger, et cetera.

    As for just recognizing that they are not realistic, I really don’t think people can do that. We can know they are unrealistic but seeing it over and over and over still ingrains those standards into us. And I suspect that it does for models to, even knowing it’s not real. I suspect that because I know it has the effect for me! I know how I look with make up isn’t how I look without makeup and knowing that doesn’t stop me from feeling more ugly without makeup when I get used to seeing my face with makeup all the time. And the thing is, I actually have this thought with my pictures of myself all the time! Most pictures of me posted on social media are me with make-up, from a flattering angle, and even often have some kind of digital retouching that makes it look more flattering, even if that is just adding a filter. And when I do take and post a photo with no make up, with no filter- most of the time it’s a good day in terms of appearance- acne isn’t flaring up, bags under my eyes aren’t as dark, et cetera. And the effect of that is that I will actually see my own photos and think “I wish I looked like that all the time!” Knowing that thought is unrealistic doesn’t stop it.

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