Photoshop is used a lot. It’s used in ads, on magazine covers, movie posters and on selfies. Sometimes it isn’t obvious and other times it is about as subtle as a train driving by with fireworks exploding out of it. All Photoshop isn’t equal and that is true when you compare the way men and women are photoshopped or digitally enhanced.
Can you think of a time when you’ve seen a women with wrinkles in an ad or on a magazine cover that wasn’t proudly advertising it was Photoshop-free? When was the last time you saw a photo of a woman where her skin looked like skin and she actually had pores? Those before shots advertising perfecting skincare creams don’t count. (Often those look like they’ve been altered too.) It doesn’t matter how old the female celebrity, it is commonplace to see her airbrushed with no laugh lines, age spots, creases around her eyes, pores or even freckles. Everyone looks like they’re wearing some magical foundation.
In comparison, men usually look like they have actual human skin in photo shoots. They haven’t been airbrushed and you can see they are human and have pores. Plus, men are often making some expression that actually shows their faces are capable of movement. The expression actually enhances the lines in their faces. Compare 40-year-old David Beckham‘s June/July British GQ cover to 38-year-old Jessica Chastain‘s InStyle UK July cover or compare any of the photos of Kim Kardashian to Kanye West in their Balmain ads.
Furthermore, how often is it that we see female celebs looking completely unrecognizable in photo shoots or ad campaigns compared to men? There was that strange Chris Pratt cover that didn’t look like Christ Pratt and Justin Bieber‘s extra buff muscles and body hair in his Calvin Klein ads but can you think of five other recent examples? Now, what about female celebrities? It seems like there is at least one magazine with a female celebrity on the cover that sparks Photoshop rumors every month. There is more retouching involved with female celebrities and models which is often why they end up looking like distant cousins of themselves.
The differences in the way men and women are photoshopped go back to beauty ideals. The ideal for women is to be be youthful and flawless which is why in photos women look like they’ve been lit with a soft focus light or given an ethereal filter. On the other hand, the ideal man is rugged and strong which is why they leave in the wrinkles and furrow their brows. A “proper” rugged man wouldn’t have his pores airbrushed out. Pores equal manliness.
Why is it that the idea of a perfect woman’s photo is about digitally erasing the character in her face? Everyone has pores and wrinkles, and beauty marks are all natural. The heavy use of Photoshop in advertising is a problem in general across men’s and women’s photo shoots but the bigger issue is that the “perfect” woman is one who has been photoshopped so she doesn’t look like her real self and everyone starts looking like airbrushed clones of each other. If society’s beauty ideals changed then the unnecessary use of Photoshop would stop too.