A Maybelline ad featuring Christy Turlington, banned for its misleading use of retouching

On Monday, an anonymous retoucher filed a report for Buzzfeed Shift on the ubiquity of Photoshop, confirming what a lot of us already knew: all flaws are erased from skin, body parts are altered, mascara ads are a complete lie. The response was varied but mostly just, “Duh.” Now, Fashionista has spoken with another anonymous retoucher who’d like to say a few words in defense of digital manipulation.

First of all, that retouching really just sets the tone:

Think of high-end retouchers as Instagram on an expert level; they apply a look and vibe that says something, which can be edgy, commercial, high-fashion, etc. Photographers want people to continue to believe that the images that are seen in print came straight from the memory card; on the contrary, they look FAR DIFFERENT.

Right. But, if that’s the case, why do things like this happen all the time?

A big problem is when there are too many cooks in the kitchen. When you have the creative director, three art directors, the copy writer, the account manager, the production manager, the retouchers, the photographer, and the make-up/hair company each voicing their opinion on things that need to be tweaked (not to mention politics in getting a word in), then you have a recipe for The Perfect (Overretouched) Storm where every sign of imperfection is retouched.

What does the poor copy writer have to do with this? Still, it makes sense… but wouldn’t it be better to just stop retouching? The person employed as a retoucher says no:

Retouching is sometimes necessary. Today’s cameras are incredibly sharp and if you look at the raw files for up-close beauty images, you’d be shocked at the detail. Eye gunk, eye veins, peach fuzz, ingrown hairs, it’s basically taking one of those magnification mirrors to someone’s face. You wouldn’t normally see this stuff if you are standing two feet from someone. It’s when it goes too far that it’s a problem.

So there you have it. Photos need vibe and don’t need “eye gunk.” Or, sometimes, limbs.