The Reality of Photoshop

  • Freya Hill

Models have received a lot of bad press in the last five years for being underweight. We fully appreciate why; we have seen thousands of girls hit magazine pages looking perfectly formed with little pert bottoms, toned stomachs and cellulite free limbs which hand in hand has caused millions of adults and youngsters to feel insecure about their own self. The same can be said for the male population of the modelling world (although they underwent much less scrutiny) for having muscles in places we didn’t know existed and flawless, perfectly tanned skin.

Then reality hit! It was understood by the general public that these pictures weren’t 100% realistic and that Photoshop was to thank for these seemingly faultless people. Suddenly the general public’s anger turned away from the guys and girls that featured in the images and fired straight towards retouchers, photographers and editors.


If you’ve not yet been introduced to the concept of Photoshop, it is a digital tool that allows people to alter photographs via their computer. In the modelling industry, Photoshop is used to change the appearance of models thus making them look ‘better’. (We put ‘better’ in apostrophes as some people think that Photoshop actually makes people look worse. It’s a matter of opinion.) Whether this is to enhance the appearance of a model’s skin, or indeed their weight, anything is possible if a retoucher is talented enough to achieve it, can put in the man hours required and has the right technology at his fingertips.

We’re writing this post to make you aware of how many pictures are Photoshopped and why your own might undergo a little retouching too. Our main aim is to reassure you that even the most ‘beautiful’ men and women undergo this modern day digital transformation and the people we see in magazines and on billboards are not quite as ideal as we conceive them to be.

The best way to demonstrate this is to show you, so below you will find three examples taken from across the industry. (This post isn’t about saying whether we agree with Photoshop or not, it is simply here to show you what gets Photoshopped and why).

Perhaps the most striking two-set is Madonna’s photographs. She has wrinkles under her eyes, around her nose and across her shoulders – naturally so; she is no longer in her teens. The photoshopped version is a good example of a heavily airbrushed image. Her skin is faultless and much brighter, thus making the picture naturally more appealing (if not quite computerised).

A swimwear model (her tummy and thighs are slightly fuller before photoshop) and a commercial model (whose skin has been dramatically transformed). We want you to focus on these two as they feature alterations most likely to be seen in your own photos. As many in the industry believe, they are simple changes to enhance one’s look.

So why has this technology taken the world by storm? Brands use Photoshopped images because it has been proven that idealism and beauty sells. Take fashion as an example; if a garment or product is modelled by a man or woman with clear skin, bright eyes and a healthy look, it is more likely to sell than if it was modelled by a tired looking, overweight/underweight model. You see?


We are not here to say whether this is right or wrong, that is an entirely different subject altogether, but we do want to prepare you for when your portfolio pictures/professional images are Photoshopped and airbrushed by retouchers. Regardless of whether you love the results or actually feel quite uneasy about them, please do not take the process personally and do not let it worry you. This is common practice in the industry that thousands of models experience on a day-to-day basis.

As ever the team at UK Models are on hand to answer any of your questions and if you decide to have a set of professional portfolio pictures taken with us, an experienced image consultant will talk you through your own Photoshopped shots. In the meantime we hope this post helps enlighten you about what Photoshop does and why it is used in the modelling world.

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Posted by Freya Hill

Freya is been writing for many years on fashion and modelling. Her hands are a bit too wrinkly for a 23 year old and she has worked with MTV, New Look and Vauxhall Fashion Scout.