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Should Photoshopped Pictures Be Labeled?

Photo: The New York Times

Take a look at any fashion magazine, and you’ll see countless images of airbrushed perfection. Even the most gorgeous celebrities and models have their pictures altered by professional retouchers using Photoshop. The software does what no makeup artist can: it erases every blemish, lengthens limbs, and sculpts inches off the waist. All of us know that the flawless pictures we find in glossy mags have been enhanced. Yet it’s still hard to convince ourselves that the pictures we pore over are fantasy, not real. Seeing is believing. 

Now a Dartmouth professor is proposing a way to measure how dramatically photos have been Photoshopped. The New York Times reports that the professor’s new software tool labels photos on a 1-5 scale, with 5 representing the most altered end of the spectrum. The rating system is intended to make ads more transparent and help women distinguish fact from fiction. Studies suggest that looking at idealized photos of models for just three minutes makes women feel worse about their own bodies. While we’re intrigued by the proposed rating system, the question remains: is labeling airbrushed photos enough to remind us that no one looks as good in real life as they do post-Photoshop? 

—Mai

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