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Photo Editing -

Art Or Deception?

By Sara LarcaPublished 11 months ago 6 min read
Photo of Author by Author

I​’ve been a photographer for over ten years now, and although I’ve dabbled in photo editing, it’s only recently that I’ve decided to really dive in. It’s made me take notice of what other people have done, what’s been photoshopped and why. The more I pay attention the more disheartened I become. Everything is photoshopped… and that got me thinking…is photo editing art…or deception?

The first Photograph (or oldest surviving one) was a black and white print taken by the French scientist Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826. It was titled “View from the Window At Le Gras”. Since then, we have lived through film and Polaroids, we have gone from taking dull expressionless photos of families and buildings to explosively active and brilliantly colorful images. And as society advanced, so has the technology, towing a delicate line between truth and deceit. Where do we go from here? Will we live in a world full of avatars…with no recognizable traits to their human selves?

T​hey say a picture is worth a thousand words, and it’s our job to decide which words we want to say. P​hoto editing is like making a movie. The author creates a story… but it’s the director who interprets it. Whether it’s on paper or through the media, parts are changed for the benefit of global interest and likability. The same can be said for photos. It becomes the job of the editor to tell the story that they see. In this sense it’s art.

T​he difference is that most true stories at least have a disclaimer — “based on a true story” or “a dramatized recreation of actual events.” But photo edits do not come with such explanation and are instead presented as truth.

S​ure… I’ve been guilty of making the sea a little bluer and giving that engagement ring a bit more sparkle, but where do we draw the line? When do we say ‘OK that’s enough’? When does enhancement become a lie?

We all have little tricks that we use before the photo is even taken; make sure the angles are flattering, use light to hide ‘imperfections’ etc. Does this count? Is this perpetuating the lie as well?

I thought hard about why I edit photos at all, and in what way the changes I make effect them.

I use editing to enhance the mood, to help evoke emotions that, while present, sometimes get lost in translation. Adding a moody filter and blurring the background may be minor changes but help to draw you in… to help the viewer connect more strongly to that moment. (Also apparently my eyes are crooked because my pics always come out slightly tilted.) To me, these changes are artful, tasteful and still allow the truth to shine.

Here is an example of an engagement shoot I did recently, and the edits I made. Which Picture speaks to you more?

Photo by Me! Skendallphoto


S​o when do changes become deceitful? I believe once they begin to act in a way that is detrimental to one’s self-confidence, that is when they become deceptive.

According to a study done by the dealers of the Phone Case ‘Case24’;

81% of people in London (77% in Scotland, 75% in the Northwest and 55% in the Northeast) will make some kind of changes before posting a photo of themselves. Of that 9​0% of them are women. 33% of those enhance their lips while others focus on their nose and eye size, skin complexion, and body shape.

Those are some scary numbers…but with so many apps designed specifically for this reason can we blame people for wanting to be ‘perfect’?. Are these creators helping people or teaching them that the way they look naturally just isn’t enough? Are they perpetuating the lie? Does the existance of these apps allow people to feel like they’re just ‘putting thier best foot forward’?

I wanted to provide an example, but I felt asking someone to let me take an unflattering picture so I could edit it to make them ‘beautiful’ would be awkward… so instead I volunteered myself. I​ had a friend of mine take a photo of me, without my glasses on, in terrible lighting at an angle that would create heavy shadows. We threw it into a face tune program and over-editied the crap out of it.

Photo by Michael Tomassi - @PictureThis

Now I am by no means self conscience or insecure but this process had me feeling some type of way about myself. I hate the edited one, I don’t think it resembles me, or any real human being I’ve ever seen. Yet after looking at the edited one and then at the original I started… for a second… to think I was hideous. This surprised me, and I was able, for the first time, to understand the appeal… not when it’s done to this extent… but in general. My under eye bags were gone, I no longer had any wrinkles, and got a full face of makeup (which I NEVER wear) in 2 seconds. But I will never do it again because of how it made me look at myself…. how it made my ‘flaws’ so obvious. Maybe you think the second picture is more appealing, but for me it’s a lie.

Unfortunately the editing apps aren’t even the worst offenders. I’ve noticed a shift in the size and cultural background of models in the fashion industry and was initially happy about this societal advancement… until I looked a little closer and noticed that while they made a small step forward that they too were guilty of deception.

I​n the age of body-positivity what kind of message are these editors sending when they so heavily photoshop their plus size models? It’s like they’re saying ‘Sure you can be bigger, curvier, thicker, but you still can’t have cellulite or stretch marks or lumps and bumps.’ How can we take a step towards inclusion and acceptance if we are going to continue to body shame? (I’d like to show an example but don’t want to photo grab — I’m not sure of the copy write infringements… but hop onto Amazon and check out the lingerie section and you’ll see what I mean.)

There there’s the extreme side of editing. I have seen some completely outrageous ones…legs that are 12 feet long…waists that couldn’t possibly contain organs… faces with no shadows whatsoever. Is that what we find attractive now? Plastic manaquin people?

No one has the perfect body, and no one has the perfect face according to the high standards of today. We all have areas that we’re unhappy with and while I believe these are the things that should be celebrated, instead they instill shame and self loathing. This is the deception.

I​’d love to know what your thoughts are on this… am I just overthinking…or am I on to something? Do you edit all of your photos? If you do to what extent? And most importantly… I’d love to know why!

T​hank you so much for reading! Comment away!!

(Previously published on Medium)

Copyright © 2022 by Sara Larca. All Rights Reserved.


About the Creator

Sara Larca

Just trying to thrive in life one story, photo, and drawing at a time!

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Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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