retouchers know

by Heather Young

There's a strange thing that happens to you when you start getting serious about photo retouching. You start to see Photoshop everywhere, in every commercial image. The texture-free skin, the hair blowing in the wind but without a single hair going too far astray, the overly soft or overly defined edges, the unnatural intensity of the colors regardless of the light source, the sloppy combination of images from different photos, freakishly bright and white eyes, and so on. Even if you were always a cynical/realistic sort who took it for granted that every commercial image was retouched, it's a bit disorienting to open a magazine and see that truth made suddenly, palpably, painfully obvious.

One day, a friend will notice you staring at a page at a magazine and ask you what's so fascinating, and you'll say something like, "ohmigod, look at the edge here, it's so obvious the retoucher's forgotten how to feather a selection, and how can anyone pose like that without causing any wrinkles, and hello, didn't she used to have freckles, and skin that was the texture of an adult human and not a baby?" And your friend will look at you with a mixture of confusion, bemusement, and just a teeny-tiny dash of pity, and you will realize that you have become a Photoshop nerd.

So when you see the cover of the latest issue of Vogue magazine, and you think it's the fakiest bit of Photoshop fakery that's ever been faked by a professional fakifier with an electrified faking machine, and holy cats, they've gotten rid of Tina Fey's scar, her scar which she's known for and has talked about in interviews... well, you may blog about it, but you make a mental note not to talk about it amongst the actual people you know in real life. Being a photo retoucher is tough!