The Ethics of Image Manipulation

Recently in class, we have been learning how to use photoshop and not only has it been difficult to learn it has brought up some difficult questions. One being, 'is photoshop usage always ethical?'. I would argue that no, it's not. Not only have images of presidents been doctored to make them look either better or worse, but so have images of political events, such as a fake image of Osama Bin Laden's death making it much harder for me to believe what I see on the news. Recently there was a campaign ad for republicans highlighting how diverse the republican party is, only none of the photos used were taken for the ad, they were all stock photos they probably just found on google images. Doctoring images with political influences is a dangerous thing to do, if, for instance, police surveillance videos are altered it could lead to a false conviction. Another way to alter photos using photoshop is much more common, unfortunately. In fact, we see it every day: the altering of a woman's appearance for an ad or magazine. Each time a photo is manipulated to make a woman skinner, taller, etc. it affects those who see the image. Not only does it make girls feel incredibly insecure about their own bodies that could - literally - never look like the women in magazines, but it also creates expectations for what a man looks for in a woman (if he is straight). I describe it as dangerous because it can - and has - lead a girl to form an eating disorder that can end up killing her. As seen when Sarah (video shown below), who works for, goes to a 'photoshop photoshoot' and has her whole body altered to 'perfection'. The photoshop expert himself says that the image he has created is impossible to attain unless, according to him, you were a professional athlete; what he doesn't know about Sarah, however, is that she is. She goes through a vigorous work out each day, and she still cannot reach the expectation set for the 'perfect woman'.

This unattainable image is seen so often, and by so many people every day of our lives, that it makes it much harder for young girls growing up. Though images of males are manipulated as well they are not presented in the same way as the images of women are. Males are presented as being strong and intelligent and they are told that regardless of their looks they can still be successful. Women, however, are presented to the world as being fragile, and dependent on a man to be successful and happy in their lives. This false representation of life and relationships can help lead a girl into an abusive relationship. Though this is an extreme example of the consequences of photo manipulation we do see that these expectations have led girls all across the world to have lowered self esteems. As described in "Killing Us Softly" advertisements have led women to be depicted only as sexual objects in the world to please women. Ads for hamburgers, video games, granola bars, vodka, etc. objectify women and present them as being there only for the entertainment of men. As a girl I would say I have been affected by this 'ideal woman', the unattainable image set up by the media definitely lowered my self-esteem, especially as I grew older and could better understand what the image truly meant and what was really expected of me. Even today I sometimes struggle with it, but I've since learned that I am who I am and the most important thing is for me to be happy. I do, however, believe that the media should stop using photoshop to doctor photos of women, and men, into such extremes that are actually unattainable. It sets people up for lowered self-esteem and general unhappiness which could easily be avoided if they were to just use a person's actual body and face.

Source: Ruby Waddell,
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Last modified: Monday, September 13, 2021, 1:09 PM