Photo Editing Creates Unrealistic Expectations
BY JALESSA CASTILLO, TIMES STAFF WRITER
Photo shopping, photo tweaking, editing; whichever term you use, they all relate to the alteration of a photograph to achieve a desired result.
Image manipulation is by no means a new concept, although the process has grown in popularity within the past decade. It is rare if not completely impossible to see a photo in an advertisement or in a magazine that has not received any form of “retouching”. Some of the main methods used are the representation of women as extremely thin, men as overly muscular and toned, and any other changes that fit the brand’s idea of beauty. However, just because most people are aware of this practice that does not mean that it is a problem that should be overlooked.
The manipulation of these photos has a major impact our society’s view of what is normal, healthy, and beautiful.
According to statistics given by Center for Discovery, a center that provides programs for those struggling with eating disorders, 80% of women in our culture have some level of dissatisfaction with their bodies and are exposed to over 5000 messages per day that reinforce the importance of thinness.
“When women believe they can achieve perfect physical features simply because photos can alter images to appear as if it’s possible, they feel badly about their bodies,” said Vivian Diller, Ph. D. and author of Face It: What Women Really Feel as Their Looks Change.
Unfortunately, these alterations can have a very negative affect on people’s body image views and could possibly lead some to develop eating disorders in order to look like the models portrayed in media.
“No one thing causes an eating disorder. However, social and cultural factors (such as photoshopping) can influence a person's belief that they need to attain a certain image to be accepted by culture,” said Dr. Kelsey Latimer, Assistant Director of the East Coast, including Orlando, Outpatient Programs at Center for Discovery.
This issue has continued to grow with the advancement of photo editing software. So much so that in June 2011, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted policy to encourage advertising associations to work with sector organizations to develop guidelines for advertisements, especially those appearing in teen-oriented publications, that would discourage the altering of photographs in a manner that could promote unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image.
“The appearance of advertisements with extremely altered models can create unrealistic expectations,” said AMA Board Member Barbara L. McAneny, M.D. "We must stop exposing impressionable children and teenagers to advertisements portraying models with body types only attainable with the help of photo editing software.”
Moreover, young people are not the only people affected by the unrealistic body standards portrayed in advertisements.
“Our youth oriented culture equates beauty with turning `back the clock, leaving women over 40 fearful about aging,” said Dr. Diller. “They become convinced that if they age naturally, they’ll lose out – in their personal and professional lives.”
In response to this growing problem there are some companies that are attempting to create a solution.
“There has been recent efforts by various beauty companies to remove ‘anti-aging’ (a phrase that is actually not possible) from their products and to use more authentic looking 40 + women to promote them,” said Dr. Diller.
For those already suffering with negative body image views Dr. Lamiter gives some advice.
“First, I think it is very important to help those facing body image issues to understand how normal that struggle is. Second, I also want those out there to know that it can indeed get better. Finally, though it is very normal to feel a level of discomfort with one's body, I want to emphasize the importance of seeking support if those discomforts begin to take over a person's quality of life.”
While photo editing is not bad in its own right, and at times it even helps to make a photo more appealing, an issue arises when the alterations are so extreme that people begin to hurt themselves to meet the unrealistic expectations.