Photoshop Beauty Tricks

Monday, 27 April 2009 | Tags: ,

There's been great controversy lately over the fact that fashion magazines have been caught manipulating model photos beyond recognition. We take a closer look, and ask a photographer friend to show us the tricks of the trade.

Here’s The Sitch

Fashion models seem to have it all: beautiful, glowing skin, perfect hair, and sparkling, white teeth. But what you see isn’t what you get, since the majority of gorgeous cover girl images are manipulated with computer trickery.

We talked to photographer Jonathan Cruz, who gave us the lowdown on Photoshop beauty tricks of the trade. Jonathan says:

You’re only limited by what you can do with retouching. When it comes to commercial photography, a lot of images get tweaked up and “babed out” so that they look better than real life. Not just people; products, food, you name it.

Idealization Techniques

Everything possible is done during and after a photoshoot to create a “perfect” image.

In Production

Lighting and production techniques in particular can add a lot of visual trickery:

  • Light placement angles accentuate models best features and de-emphasize less flattering features
  • Diffuse or “soft’ lighting helps fill in and smooth out skin imperfections
  • Reflectors (gold, silver, or both) add favourable tones to the model’s skin
  • Lens and camera filters add certain touches and help reduce flaws.

And don’t forget that models go through extensive hair and make-up preparation, done by professionals, both before and during the shoot.

Post Production

Here’s where we get to Photoshop. Production images are enhanced using computers and a variety of image manipulation software. Armed with a vast palette of tools, photographers can adjust many aspects of an image. For example:

Original above, photoshopped below

Photoshopped left, original right

Original left, photoshopped right.

The “Beautiful” Lie

The beautiful Juni Yao – all real.

We invited plus-size model Juni Yao from JK Models to a photo shoot. Her natural body shape and popular clothing size means she is the perfect candidate to model fashion and give consumers a realistic image of clothing and products.


But as we all know, Juni’s normal, real-world shape is definitely not the norm in fashion magazines.

Juni had some great insights to share with us about being a plus-size model:

It’s more important than ever to be confident in yourself, especially in this industry. You really have to have a lot of self-awareness and know who you are before you get thrown into it. It’s about loving your body, whether you’re a size 1 or size 20.

We took some photos of beautiful Juni and asked Jonathan Cruz to show us an extreme version of just how Photoshop tricks can take our lovely model from super-curvy to super-skinny. 

The result: Juni didn’t even think the photo looked like her at all, and neither did we. Juni said:

It’s so different from what I am, and what I’ve ever been. I honestly love my curves. I barely have any now in the tweaked photo. It’s like part of me is gone. It’s sad in a way. It feels like my identity is gone.

We are seeing hope in the fashion industry, however, with some magazines and designers making an effort to include models of all shapes and sizes in their pages and on the catwalk. Hopefully soon it will be the norm rather than newsworthy.

Celebrity Reality

Stars like Kate Winslet and Jamie Lee Curtis have spoken out about so-called “photo deception”. They are determined to shatter Hollywood’s “beautiful” lie.

Recent instances include:

The Moral of the Story

When leafing through magazines, keep in mind that about 99% of photos you see have been retouched more than you can imagine. The reality is always a little (or a lot) less than perfect.



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