What is photoshop and what has it done to our images?

Photoshop is a type of computer program, which can be used to alter images. When it comes to the media (magazines, album covers, posters, advertising etc) many of the images we see of women have been altered using photoshop – this is called retouching. This could be anything from changing the colour of someone’s eyes, to bigger changes like making someone look thinner, paler or removing blemishes like pimples.

Today, digitally altered images are everywhere – the average woman sees over 600 images photoshopped images per day.  In some cases, real women’s bodies have been abandoned completely, as in the ads created for retailer H&M that put models’ heads onto computer-generated bodies.

What! You mean most of the images in the media – magazines, on TV, billboards, record covers, tshirts etc – have been retouched?

Yep. Sad isn’t it?

Advertisers are well aware of the buying power of women and they try to exploit it. This means that most adverts feature images of women who are far too “perfect” for real life. Using photoshop, these women and girls are made to look flawless. Blemish-free. Wrinkle-free. Fat-free. Hardly human.

Image from

The reason why advertisers do this, is to make people viewing the images feel inadequate or like they need to change something about themselves.

Often these feelings will lead to people buying that ‘magic’ product that will make them a slimmer, taller, smoother version of themselves. But no beauty product, superfood or one weird exercise trick going to make anyone resemble a digitally altered woman – because that woman is not real.

Photoshopped images can also make people feel really down about themselves, anxious about their appearance or depressed. The best way to combat this kind of imagery is to be aware of it. And if you feel like you’re being affected by these images – seek help.

4 ways you can combat photoshop manipulation:

1. Be aware
The first step to combatting this shameful manipulation of women’s bodies and minds is to be aware of it. Advertisers push these impossible body ideals onto the public, making consumers anxious, leading them to buy products. It’s manipulation, pure and simple.

2. Harness your buying power
Have you noticed an obviously photoshopped image advertising a certain product? Show your disapproval by boycotting that brand. Stop buying it, cancel your subscription, unlike their Facebook page – these actions go a long way.

You could go even further and write to the company,  explaining that you’re offended by their advertising practices and that until the issue is resolved you won’t be purchasing any of their products.

3. Speak out
Tell your friends and family about it. Most people are in the know about digitally altered images but we all need a reminder from time to time that those image are not real, and they have nothing to do with real bodies, real people, real lives.

Everybody has complex feelings about their body. By starting the conversation and talking about photoshop, the media and the ridiculous advertising standards placed upon women, we can all get that bit closer to body acceptance. And that’s exactly where we all need to be.

4. Support yourself & your friends
You are not the sum of looks. Or in other words – your worth is not defined by your appearance. I bet you already knew this, but believing it – that’s another thing all together. And it takes time. You need to train your brain to reject these impossible beauty ideals.

Focus on your smarts, your kindness, your strengths. And if you’re feeling like it’s all too hard, talk to someone about it. Don’t let the media and the beauty industry define what is beautiful – decide for yourself.

Wanna know more? Check out these videos from folks who are in the know about photoshop:

How Photoshop Changes What We See
Looks Aren’t Everything. Believe Me, I’m a Model.
Singer Gets Major Photoshop Make Over in Music Video