Thinking about the post from the other day and also thinking lately about some of the articles I’ve read or videos I’ve watched on “too much photoshop”, a couple of things occurred to me.
We see the over worked photoshop images or the images that we absolutely KNOW are over done or done poorly. There are people out there who do a shitty job, skip steps to conceal what they have done or have done something to someone so well-known – we all know it is bullshit. There are other images that have also been “enhanced” that look just fine. They are believable and we accept them. When an image is not of someone we recognize in the media and probably more of a product that is for sale, we tend to buy into it. Why do we do this?
Most of us who have lived beyond our impressionable tween and teen years and have decided to not listen to the too drunk dude in a bar who says you should be a model know that advertisers are playing to our senses of wanting something better than reality, if not simply just something better. No one is advertising a dirty, beat up piece of shit 1997 car in their car commercials.
You see the shiny, sleek, upper class, can-do-awesome-things kind of vehicle that you probably can’t afford but would like anyway. If nothing else, maybe you’ll be inspired to go out and look for a new car – or new to you car and wind up with a brand new to you 1997 dirty, dented piece of shit and you’ll be fairly happy for a while.
Since day ONE we have been taught to do something better or different. You were taught how to hold your silverware. You were taught how to go from printing letters to writing cursive. You were taught how to write in a more creative manner using tricks to draw the reader into your story. You were told that this would make things better, make things work better, make you better at what you are doing because there are other people out there who are doing the same thing – and if they do it better than you for whatever reason – they’ll have an advantage over you and your piss poor technique. You learn that there are better foods for you and that using soap and water can make you not stink. You learn that using a pot holder will prevent your hand from being burned by a hot pot or pan. Sure, you could just grab that pan out of the oven but using a pot holder is BETTER for you.
Looking at the Facebook page the other day – around Valentine’s Day – I noticed something. There was a photograph posted by a photographer. It was a blond woman in white, sort of bridal, lingerie. She was posed in such a way that there was a lot of room in one corner of the image to place the text “Happy Valentine’s Day.” Just below that image… the next post in the feed was a picture of some kind of delicious, cheesy, gooey, steaming food dish. As I looked at both of these images I thought that the Lingerie image would very soon be dated and look like one of those awkward family photos we see once in a while. The kind with the hair style we can’t believe we had and the portrait composition that looks like something of 25 years ago. The food image, on the other hand, will still look that damn good.
Photographers know that there are certain times when taking a picture of something works better – like anything outside at a particular time of the day. Doing this, for example an architecture image, at a certain time of the day makes the image just look better. It is not washed out from noon time sun, the contrast between ground and sky is better to shoot. Early morning or just before sunset is key. Even when taking the picture at the right time in the right light, or, taking a studio image with correct lighting, you still may need to enhance that image. We learned that doing this would make a better image. A better image is something your customer likes and will pay you for. Perhaps it is for them or maybe it is a picture of a product or service they wish to sell. Getting the idea across to a person who has money to part with is the idea. They need to be convinced that what they see is not only what they want but it will also make their lives better, easier, more fun, more exciting, sexier, prettier or whatever. Since we started learning at an early age that doing things to make our lives better is, well, better… it just comes naturally to us now and we expect someone to teach us.
We went to an IHop for breakfast this morning. The pictures in the menu looked great and being kind of hungry always helps. You came there to eat, so they don’t have to do much to convince you to do just that. You’ve already made the decision to eat something. My wife pointed at a laminated ad card stuck in with the jelly and creamers and said “I want THAT!” It was a Mango Mimosa, non alcoholic. The picture looked great and there was an orange sticking out of the rim of the glass… making it extra special. The picture had done its job and sold a drink to my wife.
I also recently watched a video in which they took three women and sent them to have a professional photo shoot with an emphasis on “photoshopping” the images to make them look like magazine models. In this video example, the photoshop portion is extreme. It is also intentional. Most pictures that I do are never done to that extreme – like where you re-work an entire body.
What I also noticed – and know of because I get to see more than the post work that goes into an image – was a lot of other things that for some reason we all don’t bitch and whine about. There was a make up artist for each of the women. One woman is shown having her eyes spackled to remove the bags and lines under her eyes. There was extreme makeup done to all of the women. Not the kind that looks like goth or punk or anything artsy fartsy, but heavy, concealing makeup that in reality masked what their original skin and facial features were. There was hair styling and wardrobe styling as well.
Why don’t we hear about those elements of an image? Why do we use makeup and have our hair styled and want some fancier clothing once in a while. I’m guessing that it is because someone told us that it would look better, we would look better. We all want better so we are sold on the idea.