The Death of Photoshop: Advertising, Fotography & its Ethical Issues

Every once in a while, I’m confronted with issues brought to my attention in the world of Marketing and Advertising that are worth sharing with my creative community.

As a creative fotographer who uses an arsenal of foto editing tools like Gimp and/or Photoshop for creative pieces, the Ethics of Photography may not affect me much in this genre.

However, in the area of studio fotography in which some of you may have the opportunity to work with models, whether on a professional or amateur level, this information may cause you to “pause” before opening up your beloved Photoshop.

In recent months, the Advertising industry has been faced with issues that fall under the elements of “Truth in Advertising, Transparency and Advertising Ethics.” Regardless of what you call it, it boils down to one basic principle: “Honesty”.

Q: When one uses Photoshop to enhance a model for advertising, are we being truthful to those we sell our product to?

A: No. We are “selling a visual” of what we would like our product to do for you. As to whether that product can yield the desired result in the ad is another issue. As a result, the issue of “Truth in Advertising” becomes a cause of concern.

Q: How does it affect Consumer choices?

A: YES, it affects the choices we make. As visual people, we want the end result of any product we buy to resemble what the “packaging” looks like or offers; whether it is blonder hair, cleaner clothing or better tasting beer. Visual choices, or “impulse buys” take up a big part of our income annually; are they based on lies? For more information and statistics on Impulse buying check out:

Q: Does it affect the way we perceive role-models and affect young children?

(c) 2k16 Copyright Sports Illustrated Ashley Graham - Sports Illustrated Cover 2k16

(c) 2k16 Copyright Sports Illustrated Ashley Graham - Sports Illustrated Cover 2k16

A: One of the biggest concerns in media is the issue of body image. With Sports Illustrated featuring the beautiful Ashley Graham on its cover to bring awareness to this revolution, other issues have risen to the forefront questioning the use of Photoshop.

Some organizations want to ban the use of Photoshop entirely, while others are calling for studies on the use of “Photo Shopping” of Models in advertising and the effect it has on children’s body image issues.  

Some of the items on the table for discussion in the industry are adopting some sort of “Ethical Standards” for the industry.  One of the standards is to discourage the “photo shopping” of images to make models appear “thinner”.

However, there is a problem with that statement alone. When we think of “thinner” the media automatically assumes “thinner” is good for women. But if you want “bigger”, you want your subject to be a man. 

Take the case of Justin Beiber and his Calvin Klein Ad below; clearly, bigger is better in this instance, but it is photoshopped.

(c) 2k15 Copyright Calvin Klien - Justin Bieber

(c) 2k15 Copyright Calvin Klien - Justin Bieber

Now let’s look at a Mark Wahlberg 1992 Calvin Ad that doesn’t use Photoshop-

(c) 1k92 Coyright Calvin Klien - Mark Wahlberg

How much is too much Photoshop and do I really need to use PS for EVERY picture I take?

For me, I’m going to err on the side of “balance”. I’m come from a school of film and woke up in a digital world after a hiatus from my craft. I am essentially anti-Photoshop for anything that is NOT creative. So my portraits of adult models that are taken in the studio are basically 98% - 100% Photoshop free. My floral fotography is 100% Photoshop Free, as I never saw a need to use PS on flora at all.

I take a great deal of pride when I see a foto and can add, “Photoshop NOT included.”

Is the “Death of Photoshop” on the horizon?

I pray not because I’m a creative soul, but for those who are the die-hard studio fotographers who make their income on portraits, weddings and newborn photography, the issue causes a moment of “pause”.  Now is the time to “hone” your skills in ways that you never thought before and learn all that you can about composing “in” the camera.

I don’t think that Photoshop will ever be “dead”, nor should Adobe worry about its position in the Foto editing realm of software. Photoshop is here to stay because of its use in Graphic arts. But should we, as fotographers, be concerned of its over-use in the industry and how we sell our services? I’d say yes. I think this Ethical Issue is going to create a whole “New/OLD” type of Fotography. Let’s use the popular trend term and call it, “Organic”. Fotography.

This is where you “weigh in”.