The Ethics of Photoshop: Part I - Self Image

I would like to introduce a discussion in this post.

Photoshop is the industry standard for image manipulation and creation, and with its powerful abilities to perfect and idealize the human form it has created an ethical dilemma.

I hope for this to be a continuing series to discuss and explore the ethical issues of Photoshop and its societal effects, particularly between media creators and consumers.

To start, I would like to talk a bit about how we perceive ourselves in images and why some of us hate to see photos of ourselves.

The Mirror Theory

You are the most knowledgeable of how you truly look. Every time you brush your teeth or comb your hair a mirror sits in front of you to inspect. This is how you see yourself, but this isn't actually how you look. It is, of course, mirrored.

This means a photograph shows an un-mirrored version of you. Since most people are not truly symmetrical a bit of an uncanny-valley effect happens. This photo looks very close to you, but something is just a bit off and it's unsettling. If you come across a photo like this, try flipping it horizontally, you may find you like it a lot more. I actually do this for a lot of my own self-portraits, and so far its worked pretty well.

A point to take from this mirror theory though is that photographs, or a mirror, are not true representations of what you look like. A lot of them are close, but never actually right. Many people see photographs as a form of absolute evidence, but like every medium it can be manipulated.

Up Next

In the next post about the ethics of Photoshop I would like to discuss the effects of edited models in advertising. A podcast is being considered for this series as well. Interested in being a part of the discussion? Leave a comment or use the contact page to get in touch on how you would like to participate.

Questions for the Reader

Have you ever had an uneasy feeling about something being just a little bit off of a photo of yourself?

What issues about "photoshopping" concern you the most?

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