I just read a very interesting article over at New Scientist. Hany Farid, a Dartmouth College professor  along with his colleague have come up with a proposed rating system for digitally retouched images. The rating system, which operates on a scale of 1 through 5, will enable viewers to understand how much, if at all, the images that they are viewing have been digitally altered. The scale will reflect minor white balancing or sharpening (considered minor alterations) through completely revamped digital images (major alteration).

I found this interesting because there is concern about the effects that photo retouching taken to the extreme by some advertisers and magazines are having on their audience, particularly young women. While I don’t have girls, I do totally understand and remember the frustration of looking at a magazine and wondering “why can’t I look like that?” while dieting or exercising to an extreme. In fact, I think I still do when I see some “perfect” actress model. The reality of it is that most women and even men in magazines and advertisements don’t, in fact, look like they do in the advertisement or magazine.

Professor Farid shows some pretty stark contrasts on his website between un-retouched and retouched images. Clicking the “toggle” button will allow you to go back and forth between the images. While no one is against photo retouching and enhancement, in fact it is amazing to see what can be altered and enhanced, it is nice to know that what you are looking at not only isn’t necessary reachable through dieting, exercise  and makeup, but is totally fabricated. It is an important thing to show the young people in our lives who can be overly and sometimes dangerously, obsessed with looking “perfect”.

We all enjoy looking at the pretty people in advertisements and magazines, it’s just nice to know that they aren’t necessarily any more or less perfect than you or I.

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