Photographer asks teens to edit their portraits for social media, and the results are alarming

May 21, 2019

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Photographer asks teens to edit their portraits for social media, and the results are alarming

May 21, 2019

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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When you take a selfie, when is it ready to be posted on social media? How much editing does it need before you share it with your followers? British photographer John Rankin Waddell, aka Rankin, explored this in his project Selfie Harm, and he ended up with alarming results.

Rankin photographed fifteen teenagers with barely any makeup and gave the portraits a simple, natural aesthetic. Then he asked boys and girls to edit their own photos until they felt they were social-media ready. The resulting photos were scary and worrying, showing just how dangerous image altering can be for young people’s mental health and self-image.

In today’s society, excessive selfie-taking is a problem in itself. Selfitis has been proclaimed a mental disorder and it’s classified as addictive behavior. Doctors have found that more and more people have cosmetic surgery to look like their altered Snapchat selfies. As many as 55% of plastic surgery patients want to look better in selfies. These are alarming stats, and a part of the problem is the number and availability of image editing apps. They’re super-fun and easy to use, which makes them even more appealing to a large number of people.

For his project, Rankin photographed teenagers and they were shown how to use some of the most popular photo editing apps. The kids were then briefed to filter their photos so they would receive more social media likes. The photographer explains that the difference made with just five minutes of tweaking is “eye-opening and quite honestly, scary.”

Today, more so than ever, we people are mimicking their idols, making their eyes bigger, their nose smaller and their skin brighter, and all for social media likes. It’s just another reason why we are living in a world of FOMO, sadness, increased anxiety, and Snapchat dysmorphia.

Rankin explains that he has worked with Photoshop and has seen and made manipulated images a lot throughout his career. “At one point, celebrities, brands, and magazines would tirelessly demand the use of Photoshop, so it became a large part of my job.” He fought against it in his older projects, but then at the same time, he was criticized for using it. However, modern apps and filters add a totally new dimension to image manipulation.

These apps are, above all, easily accessible and very simple to use. Plus, they’re super fun and game-like, which makes them addictive. Pair this with teens’ self-consciousness and current social media trends – and you get “selfie harm.” People use them to make “an alternative or ‘better’ social media identity,” and this turns into a mental health problem. After all, it has been proven that Instagram ruins self-confidence and mental health in teenagers.

Rankin notes that the goal of the Selfie Harm project is to open a discussion about how we are approaching, viewing and changing our own images.

Instead of simply telling people to stop, we need to accept that this is a complex issue; the technology is here and it’s here to stay. But we need to challenge the way image manipulation is being used and abused in the wider world. Selfie Harm is my attempt to get people to talk about the issues threatening mental health today.

You can check out more photos from the project below, and make sure to visit Rankin’s website, Instagram and Facebook page for more of his work.

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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38 responses to “Photographer asks teens to edit their portraits for social media, and the results are alarming”

  1. Stefan Kohler Avatar
    Stefan Kohler

    Hahahaha, these are hilarious :D

  2. Michael Boyd Avatar
    Michael Boyd

    Talk about over processed

    1. Brandon Sinner Avatar
      Brandon Sinner

      Michael Boyd the edited photos look artificial and unreal. Like mainstream beauty expectations. I prefer freckles, imperfections, flaws….faces that have life and realism.

    2. Michael Boyd Avatar
      Michael Boyd

      Brandon Sinner ahhhhhh over my head

  3. Michael Leo Schröder Avatar
    Michael Leo Schröder

    outsh …

  4. Franco Kailsan Avatar
    Franco Kailsan

    the blond man looks like a real 100% alien!

    1. Marian Murdoch Avatar
      Marian Murdoch

      Or Malfoy from Harry Potter. :D

  5. Freelance cameraman China/HK Avatar
    Freelance cameraman China/HK

    The white reflection in the eyes is quite disturbing in both pictures.

  6. Danny De Bruyne Avatar
    Danny De Bruyne

    Rich people edit with photochop.

    1. Conny Wallstrom Avatar
      Conny Wallstrom

      Danny De Bruyne Don’t need to be rich to learn how to throw a proper chop.

  7. Klemen Avatar
    Klemen

    Wasn’t this in the news in February already?

  8. seawildearth Avatar
    seawildearth

    I was waiting for Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones to make an appearance…

  9. Basia Kowalska Avatar
    Basia Kowalska

    Just to clarify, “The kids were then briefed to filter their photos so they get more social media likes”
    that’s quite different from “edit this so you like how it looks.”

    1. Joe Russo Avatar
      Joe Russo

      Yeah, that stood out to me as well. I’d like to see the differences between them editing their photos for what they think others will like, and what they would like for themselves.

    2. Stefanie Held Avatar
      Stefanie Held

      That‘s what i was thinking as well?

    3. Basia Kowalska Avatar
      Basia Kowalska

      Context, right? That’s why clickbait headlines are the worst ?

    4. Marian Murdoch Avatar
      Marian Murdoch

      Exactly! Fearbait.

  10. Janice Graham Christman Avatar
    Janice Graham Christman

    It is sad…they are each beautiful in their natural state….

  11. udi tirosh Avatar
    udi tirosh

    I am really curious about how those teens edited their photos. I mean, do they know photoshop? more likely they used one of the beautifying apps. And those apps just “push” you in that exaggerated, overdone, pointy chin look.

    It would be more interesting, though not as controversial, to do this exercise with real qualified retouchers rather than let the teens edit themselves.

  12. Blake Randall Avatar
    Blake Randall

    Lazy photographers that use shitty Portrait Pro software. Smh

  13. Diana Loginova Avatar
    Diana Loginova

    Pointless

  14. Roxer Roxercita Avatar
    Roxer Roxercita

    bubble head. don’t like it

  15. Carter Tune Avatar
    Carter Tune

    I don’t get why these are scary? Did you think they’d be untouched?

  16. Christopher R Field Avatar
    Christopher R Field

    How is that any different than makeup?

    1. Michael Estwik Avatar
      Michael Estwik

      Does makeup change the physical appearance of the chin bones?

    2. Christopher R Field Avatar
      Christopher R Field

      Michael Estwik have you seen what can be done with makeup? correctly done it absolutely can give a strong sense of thinning a chin, increasing cheekbones, etc.

    3. Christopher R Field Avatar
      Christopher R Field
    4. Michael Estwik Avatar
      Michael Estwik

      I wrote physical appearance, not what can be achieved by makeup.

    5. Christopher R Field Avatar
      Christopher R Field

      What exactly do you think makeup is used for? To change physical appearance.
      Do you mean structure?? As in what is done with cosmetic surgery?
      Appearance and structure are two entirely different things. The structure of a face cant be changed by making, but changing physical appearance is the entire purpose of that multi billion dollar industry.

    6. Zachary J. Cleland Avatar
      Zachary J. Cleland

      Christopher altering perception vs altering reality.

    7. Christopher R Field Avatar
      Christopher R Field

      Zachary J. Cleland yeah and altering appearance is altering perception. Not altering reality.
      Regardless the entire thing is blown out of proportion.

    8. Michael Estwik Avatar
      Michael Estwik

      Christopher R Field This can’t be achieved with makeup, this is either surgery or made in a software like Photoshop.
      The lines on each image with the same colour has the same length (might differ one pixel either way).

  17. William Snyder Avatar
    William Snyder

    Please don’t use the word “edit” when you mean “process”. Edit is when you choose a photo. What you are writing about is post-processing. Please don’t confuse the terms – especially in writing.

  18. Michelle Maujean Avatar
    Michelle Maujean

    So what?

  19. Tiffany Felan Avatar
    Tiffany Felan

    They looked a lot better in the before. They are looking at Instagram to much and being influenced

    1. Kiran Qureshi - Creative Graphic Designer & Photographer Avatar
      Kiran Qureshi – Creative Graphic Designer & Photographer

      Tell me about it Tiffany, I thought the same! Unrealistic photoshopped images is ruining the definition of real beauty for this generation! :

  20. Kiran Qureshi - Creative Graphic Designer & Photographer Avatar
    Kiran Qureshi – Creative Graphic Designer & Photographer

    This makes me really sad! I will prefer their natural original faces over the edited ones any time. The photoshopped ones lack any sort of emotions! Someone needs to tell the current generation of youngsters that there is nothing more beautiful than the raw human emotions!

  21. Gigi Avatar
    Gigi

    “Hey kiddos! Here’s how to use photoshop SPECIFICALLY to retouch and airbrush your photos! Now, edit these neutral portraits of yourself to get as many likes as possible!”
    “Oh, okay.” *edits photos exactly how they were told to do so* “Is this what you wanted Mr. Waddell?”
    “Oh my god, how horrifying!”
    Jesus christ was this a badly setup “study”. I’m not even saying the conclusions are incorrect, just that mayyyyybeeee there’s other factors going on here.