Airbrushing Ourselves? A Real Beauty Manifesto

By Katie, 5:10 am

Hold onto your hats, folks, because I have some alarming news. Airbrushing, retouching, and Photoshopping is no longer just for models in magazines; it’s going mainstream.

Sure, you could already Photoshop yourself with some fancy camera software, but now it’s going to be even easier. Last week Julie from Beautiful You posted about the new camera from Panasonic, which features built-in modes for “cosmetic retouch” and “beauty retouch.” Take a picture, click a button, alter what you look like. Just like that. 8-O

I’ve spent some time thinking about why this bothers me so much. What’s the real harm in eliminating a blemish here or a stray hair there?

Here’s what I’ve concluded: I am firmly against these kinds of retouching cameras because they imply that beauty has a concrete, universal definition, one that can be boiled down to a few buttons on a computer or a camera. If you don’t have these particular features, you better Photoshop them in so that you can fit society’s definition of what’s attractive.

But¬†society’s definition isn’t the end-all be-all.¬†The best thing about beauty is that it’s fluid and diverse; it can take on an unlimited number of forms, many of which include real people in their real, raw, unchanged state.

The options on the Panasonic camera’s “beauty retouch” mode – like whitening your teeth, plumping your lips, and smoothing your skin tone – represent only a single understanding of beauty. They ignore the countless other ways beauty can be embodied and expressed, naturally.

And the more and more retouched photos we see – either of models in magazines or of ourselves – the closer we come to losing sight of the real beauty all around us, the beauty we already embody, no button required.

If we’re all taking photos of ourselves and not liking what we see, dare I say that the person in the photo isn’t the problem. Instead of changing the photo or the camera, how about we start changing our perspectives?

Have you heard of this camera? Do you think it’s something you would purchase? Why or why not?

And for the record, I much prefer the unaltered version of the photo above!

35 Responses to “Airbrushing Ourselves? A Real Beauty Manifesto”

  1. Ugh . . . That’s all I have to say.

    I personally think the unretouched photo looks way better!

    It looks REAL, like it should.

  2. I like the unaltered photo as well, she has a wonderful healthy glow that was taken away in the retouched photo.

    I think this camera idea is horrid. Now, young women are going to be comparing themselves to retouched versions of themselves. As if comparing ourselves to others isn’t detrimental enough!

  3. Now that is just madness. I haven’t heard of them and it bothers me as much as you. I understand retouching for things like, say, wedding pictures or special family portraits. But everyday shots with your everyday camera? Puh-lease!

  4. Airbrushing makes me more angry than ANY other thing involving beauty and society! I haven’t heard of this camera, but definitely wouldn’t buy it.

    My little sister, who is 19, got senior pictures taken two years ago in high school and they airbrushed them. I thought that was crazy, my mom didn’t even ask for it, they just did it as a routine thing.

    • Katie says:

      Really? Wow, that’s frustrating.

    • When my son was in school, it was an option you could select (for an additional fee.) We chose to do so, because at the time the senior pics were taken, he had a very bad case of teenage acne, and he didn’t want to memorialize THAT forever. I think in a case like that, or wedding pics, pictures that people will be looking at for a very long time – *minimally* airbrushing a *temporary* condition so that people can focus on the face, the smile, the eyes – and not the zits or a terrible haircut or hair tint, is a nice option.

      But to have a *camera* that does it at the click of a button… not liking it. Welcome to life as we wish it might have happened, starring people we wish had been there.

  5. That’s so disturbing. I think another problem with stuff like this is that people will be ashamed to go out looking like they naturally do, because lets face it there’s no way to actually make yourself look the way you do in an airbrushed photo. I would never buy a camera like that,and I hope my high school students don’t either.

    • Katie says:

      Exactly. I really do think it could make people even more self-conscious in “real life.”

  6. I don’t think it’s a good idea, we are who we are.

  7. I completely agree with you. It only heightens the need to change ourselves in some way.

  8. I hadn’t heard about the camera, and I would never purchase it. I agree with all your points, and think it could be especially detrimental to young girls and boys, who are so very impressionable. What a horrible message is this camera sending…

  9. Katie have you seen Zooey Deschanel’s new ad for Rimmel?!photoshopofhorrors/5783832

    It hardly looks like her which is sad because she is so cute in quirky in real life. I would never buy one of those cameras, but I do see the appeal. Especially with all the social media in use, people want to put their best face forward. (I solved that by making my face book picture, one of my drinking a cup of coffee so you only see my eyes.)

  10. Tracy says:

    Wow – I’m so terrible with technology that I would probably try to use the airbrush feature and make myself look worse. :-)

  11. I’ve never even heard of this camera! It seems really weird though! I mean – other people KNOW you don’t look like that, so why would you want to change it? I also think it puts even MORE pressure on people. For example, let’s say you use the feature and then post all your pictures on Facebook. People who haven’t seen you in a while are going to be thinking – “Wow – she looks perfect” and there starts the crazy madness…

  12. Totally agree that it’s the concrete and universal definition of beauty that bothers me most. Our concepts are converging to a startlingly narrow range, so that most people around the world are excluded.

  13. Toni says:

    I have to agree that the before is so much better..the after almost looks like a mask…I had been contemplating getting risque photos done (a friend of mine did it and they looked awesome) but when thinking about the retouching,and how I am at a stage in my life where I’m working on acceptance of myself as is, (flub and all)I figured it would be wiser not to..

    • Katie says:

      Could you have them done but with minimal retouching? It could be difficult, but it could also be extremely empowering!

      • Toni says:

        I was thinking that..and I’ve seen the photographers pics and it seems her retouching is minimal…the thought is still rolling around in my know what I mean? lol

        • Katie says:

          Absolutely! Let me know if you end up getting them done – I’d love to hear more about your experience (not in a creepy way…you know what I mean!)

  14. Meg says:

    Hm, I haven’t heard of this camera, but it seems a little overboard. One one hand, retouching blemishes is nice… but how far could it go? I think the root has to do with being insecure and that’s where the “touch ups” need to begin. :)

  15. sportsgirl says:

    Gosh, this kinda reminds me of that movie “Surrogates” in a roundabout way because they always chose representations of themselves that were much younger looking than they were and they looked airbrushed to the max!!

    I didn’t even notice such a camera existed and I would not be interested in purchasing it anyway.

  16. I’m totally with you. I’m completely against this and I just think it’s so sad.

    It’s already impossible to meet the unrealistic ‘beauty’ standards of society and now we’re not even supposed to have fun, vacation pictures of us how we are? Even in our daily regular lives we’re supposed to be ‘better’. It’s so heart-breaking.

    • Katie says:

      Agreed. It’s exactly why I often need to go back to the mantra “I am enough.”

  17. Alexis says:

    I was going to do an outrageous post that mimics the lengths we will go for acceptance. Starting a trend by shaving off eyebrows and making fun of those who don’t. I googled the year the Florentines did this and found sites from 2009 wonder if they too should follow the new trend and shave their eyebrows. Gads! Nothing is too far to go to follow the crowd.
    The photo on the left is weird cus it has no features. It looks like a wax doll. So, are we supposed to now have no distinguishing facial features to be beautiful? Our faces smooth and flat with nothing to offend or draw attention? I hope this product falls flat on it’s face and sends a message to other manufacturers the public is not so ashamed of themselves they will buy these asinine products.

    • Katie says:

      I certainly hope so too! I agree that the “retouched” photo doesn’t even look REAL. Sigh.

  18. Alexis says:

    Correction — the photo on the right looks like a wax doll.

  19. Katelyn says:

    I’m with you Katie, it’s disturbing! It says to people that you aren’t okay the way you look, but its easy to fix that. It just continues to perpetuate the unrealistic standard of beauty that society shoves down our throats.

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