Is Photoshop a Villain? Thoughts from a Photographer

Oct 27, 2015

Missy Mwac

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

Is Photoshop a Villain? Thoughts from a Photographer

Oct 27, 2015

Missy Mwac

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

Join the Discussion

Share on:



 Look how purple and shiny I am SOOL: straight out of laptop.

I am at my cabin sitting at my laptop. I just showered, dried my hair, threw on a sweater and sat down to write this article. You will notice that I worked to get those light flares over my head and behind it. If you didn’t notice that, I invite you to notice it now. Take that, JJ Abrams.

I’m not in the habit of taking photos without makeup on my face. I don’t wear tons of it, but I am fond of concealer, mascara, blush, powder and lipstick. The Big 5. When I wear them, they change my appearance. Not drastically, but it does change. I like the change, and I don’t even really know what I’m doing with the makeup. In the hands of a trained makeup artist, the difference is really astonishing.

Now, do I loathe my appearance without makeup? No.
Do I think it’s the stuff of nightmares? No.
Do I think I look hideous? No.
Do I think that when I go to the grocery store without make up on, people run away in terror, screaming: “WHAT IS THAT THING?” No.
(At least if they do, they do it quietly.)

But…do I feel prettier with makeup on? Heck, yeah.

So, I wear it. I usually don’t wear so much that you can scrape it off with a putty knife, but it’s definitely on my face. It’s still me; it still looks like me, but the version of me I choose when I want to feel my best, because I look my best.

Makeup doesn’t change me…but it enhances what I’ve got. I don’t HAVE to wear it; I don’t always wear it; but when I do, I really like it. How much makeup I use, and if I use any at all, really depends on what I’m doing.

I view Photoshop much the same way I view makeup: sometimes I use a lot, sometimes I use a little…it all depends on what I’m doing. But Photoshop, like makeup, is about embracing and enhancing the beauty in and around us.

And I realize that in our Photoshop happy world, we have become a wee bit heavy handed on that most wonderful digital tool. Sometimes, it’s necessary; sometimes it’s not. It all depends on the situation and the client.

But I want to share with you a fear of mine. It’s not a great fear, like my fear of grasshoppers and walking out of a public restroom with the toilet paper I used to line the seat clinging to the back of my pants, but it’s a fear nonetheless.

It’s the fear of losing perspective.

We jump on a new idea and we embrace it with open arms. And in our zeal, we push the pendulum. We aren’t content to push it just off center. We don’t give it a little nudge. Instead, we push that bad boy all the way to one side or the other. We figure if a little is good, A LOT is better.

We see it all through society, but because I am your guide through the murky waters of photography, we’ll apply it to a topic we all know well, Photoshop.

We photographers boarded the Photoshop train eagerly. “All Aboard for the Adobe Express!” Some of us even climbed on to the track to photograph clients.(Hey-ooooh. That JUST happened.) We marveled over what we could now do on a computer. Retouching that involved negatives and dry dyes and pencils and many hours of labor could now be achieved quickly through this wonderful new tool. So, not content to simply enhance beauty, we changed it. We over manipulated it. Because we could. We pushed the pendulum far to the right.

And then, well meaning folks looked around at the drastic manipulations and the false messages they were sending and said, “NO MORE PHOTOSHOP.”  Women began making headlines with black and white images showing off their rolls and cellulite. We applauded the Photoshop-free face as being brave. Kate Winslet, added the No Photoshop clause to her Loreal spokesperson contract…which is a wee bit ironic that a spokesperson for a makeup line is saying not to change her appearance in print advertiesments, ‘cause, you know, that’s what makeup DOES, but I understand what she’s saying. Sort of.

The ranks have risen up to decry the evils of Photoshop, and with those cries, we pushed the pendulum back, all the way to the left.

In the meantime, the Center, that happy place between the extremes, is ignored. That wonderful area that embraces common sense and logic is disregarded. Cobwebs cling to its walls and there’s a layer of dust 6” deep over everything.

The only time that pendulum has been to the Center is when its on its way to either side.

We need to stop this.

Friends, we have to keep a calm head about us.

Branding Photoshop the villain is as nonsensical as declaring Photoshop the Answer.

Photoshop is no more an enemy to women’s beauty and self-esteem than is makeup, or a curling iron, or pantyhose, or Spanx. In the right hands, it is a tool that, like makeup or a great hair cut,  can make a woman look the way she thinks she looks on her very best day.

So, grab your mouse or stylus and retouch those images. Maybe you’ll use a heavy hand; maybe your client will barely be able to tell anything was done at all.

Or maybe, you’ll do exactly what’s needed to find yourself in the Happy Center.


(Side note: I wore Spanx once. It was horrible. I felt like it was a serial killer and my torso was its victim. If that wasn’t bad enough, when I took them off later, it looked a lot like what happens when you pop open a can of biscuit dough. Stuff went spilling out everywhere. Never. Again.)

About The Author

Missy Mwac is a photographer/eater of bacon/drinker of vodka and a guide through the murky waters of professional photography. You can follow her social media links here: Facebook, Tumblr. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

Filed Under:

Tagged With:

Find this interesting? Share it with your friends!


We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

Join the Discussion

DIYP Comment Policy
Be nice, be on-topic, no personal information or flames.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

3 responses to “Is Photoshop a Villain? Thoughts from a Photographer”

  1. J. Zaring Avatar
    J. Zaring

    Awesome article Missy! I view retouching the same way. All my starting point actions are aptly named “foundation light, medium, heavy” etc. Everything I do Starts at 100% on the mask so I can see what Im doing and ends up in the 25-60% range when I zoom out and compare reality to stretched reality. The problem seems to be with companies that blindly hire retouchers to mass retouch and either dont bother to give them guidelines or the guidelines say “make everyone orange and skinny as hell, and then blur the skin until they look plastic.” Thats what people are noticing. I just remove the obvious blemishes and even out the skin tone, pop the eyes a little, maybe rosey up cheeks, some slight teeth whitening and maybe add some shine to hair. This what I do to male and female images and if the dudes dont have a problem with it, then obviously they feel I did the photo justice. You just cant push that slider all the way up or people dont look like people anymore. I also think that if you continuously check the original image, you tend to back off a bit.

    BTW, I also shared your article here:

    Have an awesome day!

  2. GS_790 Avatar

    There are so many decisions made between picking up a camera and arriving at the finished image, I have a hard time singling out Photoshop as THAT ONE THING that goes to far.

    I can agree all day every day, I do not think Photoshop should be used to manipulate the shape of a person. But I say that knowing that posing, lighting, makeup, framing, and lens choice have just as much influence on the final image.

  3. Courtney Stacey Avatar
    Courtney Stacey

    I think make up as an analogy for Photoshop is brilliant… No make up, some make up, and too much make is a great way to explain touching up a photograph to represent real life… But what about the woman below? Is this too much make up? It is certainly an extreme amount of make up. You absolutely wouldn’t want to wear this out in daily life. But in this case the makeup is treated as an art form and it is beautiful…. I believe the same thing is true of Photoshop. I get tired of the photographic purists that complain about anything that is not realistic. You all have seen those that slam even just a hint of retouching. To me this is small minded and misses the point. Of course, Art is often meant to represent reality, but just as often it is meant to transcend reality. Fortunately, there is no shortage of very talented photographers who do push the sliders too far and get magic.