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Wednesday wondering: Do I need to be retouched?

I think it’s odd that I have a PO box. When I was a kid, PO boxes were only mentioned at the end of commercials for Topsy Tail or Picture Pages. They didn’t seem like things real people had. Yet, now I have one and I’m pretty sure I’m a real person. It was really easy too. Last year I went to the postal counter, asked for a PO box, and they gave me a key and an address after I handed them my credit card. Credit cards are like magic wands.

It’s kind of fun to check my PO box because I never know what will be in there. Sometimes it’s a bait and tackle catalog addressed to the previous owner. Sometimes it’s a nice letter from a reader. And sometimes its an ad for a retouching service that promises that you’ll “look great in your summer pics,” though by “great” they mean “less like Porky the Pig.”

Look great in your summer pics...because you don't right now

I’ve blurred out the company’s name because I’m not sure what to think about their service. I don’t want to promote them or unfairly bash their name. My first reaction was to be insulted by the implication that I needed to be retouched. Then I read the text on the back of the card which says, “Our new xxxx service is just what Half of Me Blog fans need to look great in their summer pictures!” Oh, so I don’t need to be retouched, it’s you guys, who are evidently too fat to appear in your own summer vacation photos.

But before I get up on my high horse and lead the cavalry to raid this evil domain, I have to knock myself out of the saddle because I myself am guilty of retouching a photo I thought I looked fat in. (Except it was an autumn photo and I didn’t have to pay anybody to do it for me, so it’s totally different situation. Totally.)

I believe everyone has a right to like their body, no matter what size it is. However, I also know what it’s like to see a photo of yourself and dislike what the pixel sensors pick up. I wish people didn’t dislike those images so much that they felt the need to tell a lie with a picture. But of course, I was one of those people, wasn’t I?

In their defense, they also provide typical retouching services such as red-eye reduction and acne removal. The slimming service looks like a new product. What do you guys think? Is this service a force of good or evil or somewhere in between?

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35 Comments

dietgirl • September 10, 2008 at 10:04 am

There’s been a service here in the UK for a few years called See Yourself Slimmer which is described as a “slimming aid” where for 20 quid, they will shrink your photo so you can slap it on the fridge and see a vision of your smaller future. The testimonials are a glowin’ but personally I would have found it rather demoralising! why don’t i look like that yet!? where’s my real life lasso for these bingo wings?!

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Inny • September 10, 2008 at 10:06 am

Personally I think it’s a waste of money. You never mentioned how much it costs but I’m pretty sure that instead of buying a retouching product I could get some flattering clothes or some acne creme (I’ve actually found some acne products that work!) Also I’m one of those people that find it hard to lie to themselves. Everytime I look at the retouched photo I’ll know it’s fake. It will make me feel worse instead of better.

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Danielle • September 10, 2008 at 10:20 am

It would be a whole lot easier (and cheaper too) than going to the gym all the time…. kinda pathetic though.

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Jennifer • September 10, 2008 at 10:23 am

hhmm…interesting blog today. I throw this thought out there to add to the conversation: my initial thought is that people who resort to photoshop’d pictures are just self concious. Any truth you think? I mean, if you are self concious about the way you look, why not change it instead of changing the photo? Better yet, why not work on accepting the way you look and being happy with yourself on the inside? I know, we are all human and there are all things that we’d like to change. A picture is a reflection of who we physically are at a certain point in time. So if you doctor your photo to change yourself, aren’t you in essence lying to yourself and everyone else who see’s the picture? Why not accept reality?

dietgirl, that company you talked about has a GREAT concept! Instead of people doctoring a photo and claiming it is them, use it for good, use it to inspire & motivate yourself!

In the end, I think this is a conversation that is bigger then most of us can answer. There are always two sides to a debate right?

Thanks for posting your thoughts today :)

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dorid • September 10, 2008 at 10:38 am

I think there’s alot of difference between motivational tools (like see yourself slimmer) and this. I don’t have any problem with products designed to let you know what you’re going to look like when you’ve finished body sculpting. I do have a problem with products designed to delude yourself or others.

There’s a vast difference between touching up a pimple and changing your body shape. It has a lot to do with things that are temporary and things that are long term, and seeing ourselves as we are.

The difference is also in whether or not we’re just trying to fool ourselves and/or others… not a good thing in my book.

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asithi • September 10, 2008 at 10:38 am

I am guilty of using photoshop to retouch some of my photos to remove acne.

As for looking thinner, I always practice the 3/4 turn with one foot sticking up front, and sucking in my breath for photos (you know, the movie star pose). That always seem to make me look at least 5 pounds lighter. I figure that is good enough.

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Just_kelly • September 10, 2008 at 10:43 am

Egh… I have kind of divided feelings. For special occasion events and such I would understand wanting to get retouched to look your best. That way you could just look back and remember the good time, not think “man I wish I wasn’t that fat during Gerald’s graduation” or whatever.

But personally I think it’s a waste of money. Especially with digital cameras. People should just watch ANTM, learn to pose, and snap till they are happy with a picture they have of an un-altered them!

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Alexia • September 10, 2008 at 10:59 am

@dietgirl – I recently saw an ad for that company or another one. I did consider doing it because I have no pictures of myself where I’m both thin and happy (hmm). So I was going to have them create one so I’d have something to visualize. But then, they noted on their site that they have a limit — like a max of a 50# diff — and I need more than that! So I didn’t bother.

@PQ – I personally would feel like a fake, so I wouldn’t use a service like this.

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Shanna • September 10, 2008 at 11:13 am

I foresee a lot of shocked online daters as they meet for the first time ;)

As for me, I say whatever floats your boat. There are too many people missing out on capturing memories by shying away from cameras or throwing out their pics because they look “too fat” in them. So hey, if retouching it makes you happier… go for it. If its not your thing… don’t worry about it. We all handle the emotional baggage of being “large” differently. I am not going to judge someone for doing what makes them happier.

Thats not to say, that I won’t look at your picture, then look at you, then look at your picture again, then look at you… and just smile an all-knowing smile =)

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Donna • September 10, 2008 at 11:14 am

I realized a few years ago that life has changed a lot since my grandparents’ day. Before digital cameras, a picture was the proof that something happened (for trials, private eyes, etc.). Now that people can doctor pictures so easily, it’s no longer true.

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Helen • September 10, 2008 at 11:21 am

Wow. I can’t believe they had the audacity to actually mention us. Did that sort of tick you off that they named your blog specifically? Maybe they sent those to all weight loss blog writers hoping you would shill for them. Did you check with your other blog chicks? Did Mizfit get one? Sorry, so many questions are pouring through my brain right now I can’t concentrate on the rest of it.

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maggieapril • September 10, 2008 at 11:34 am

I totally have no patience for the idea that if you don’t look like a model then you aren’t good enough. Why can’t we celebrate our differences? Who wants to live in a world where everyone looks and acts the same? Stepford wife anyone?

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QueenB • September 10, 2008 at 11:36 am

Visually, of course it looks “better”, but in all honesty that girl doesn’t look bad..at ALL.. in the real picture. She’s not porky, she’ not perfect either which is exactly reflective of you, me and every other woman I know.

I can see the motivation in doing this type of thing, but I’m always one to promote total honesty. Mostly because once someone sees the real you and not the girl in the picture they’ll think you’re shallow, vain and a total fraud…how embarrassing. Much more embarrassing than a little arm flab or belly giggle.

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Deanna • September 10, 2008 at 11:49 am

I guess if the person does not misrepresent themselves as that thinner, blonde hair instead of brown, blue eyed instead of hazel eyes girl, than what’s the harm… if you can afford it and want see what it would be like to be thin, than who cares, if you are going to pass that photo around as as “you” than that is where the problem begins…

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Kyle • September 10, 2008 at 11:55 am

I Photoshop all my pictures with color adjustments usually but I don’t ever airbrush myself…unless I’m doing some kind of crazy self portrait that I would consider “art” and I’ll just distort things or make my eyes crazy colors. But I would never airbrush myself thinner and try to pass it off as real.

Although I am definitely guilty of not uploading pictures to facebook or Flickr if I think I look fat, so that in itself is some kind of distorted reality too.

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the gazelle • September 10, 2008 at 12:12 pm

I wouldn’t do it. I’ve fantasize about it, but would never have shelled out. I’d rather just work on making myself look how I visualize than paying someone else to do it.

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Kari • September 10, 2008 at 12:33 pm

Wow, I read back to that previous entry too, and I think you did a great job with the photoshopping there. How long did that take? Back when I was 40 pounds heavier, I tried to do something similar once, and it turned out horrible, but it was around the face, so that could be why. Even now, my face still makes me look fat in photos, and I hate being so self conscious of it. If I stick my neck out to try to lessen it, I just look like I’m sticking my neck out and it looks dumb. I have this hereditary little double chin that will probably never go away and always seems to catch the light in flash photos. It’s irritating.

To answer your question, no, I don’t think you need to be retouched — you look great. Oh, wait, it was us that needed the retouching, right? Maybe I do need that service to get rid of my double chin. Probably the only way it’s gonna go away. :P

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Pubsgal • September 10, 2008 at 1:25 pm

For trying to visualize myself thinner, and at different milestones (e.g., at goal, at halfway, current, start), I used the free “virtual model” tool on Land’s End. (Wish I could claim the idea as my own, but it was one I saw on the OneMoreBite blog.) The results were interesting; I’d say it’s more useful if you’ve got 50+ pounds to lose, because I didn’t see much difference between start and my current at the time (30 pounds). There was a noticeable difference at the halfway point, and of course an “oh wow!” at goal. Comparing goal weight and the top of my target weight range (17 pounds), though, I didn’t notice much difference either.

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Laura N • September 10, 2008 at 1:25 pm

Well, for our Christmas photo last year we had the photographer (a friend of ours, BTW) remove the shine from both our faces, whiten DH’s teeth, and switch my face from one photo where I looked best to the photo where the other three of the family looked their best. So what our friends and clients got was not 100% who we were at that moment. But the result was who we WANTED to be.

If this service helps people feel better about the photos they share, then I say OK go for it. If I had a full body shot and my tummy or saddle bags were poking out and I wanted them reduced, I’d sure have it done.

Heck, celebrities have this done every day, don’t they? The pictures we see of them on magazine covers are never original–there’s always something done to make them look better. If celebs need touch ups to look “perfect”, then shouldn’t we get the same treatment if we want it? Why the heck not, I say.

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Lilbet • September 10, 2008 at 2:57 pm

I wouldn’t use it. I like the real thing. We have to love what and who we are, no matter what the photo. And, really, with all this retouching, what will we laugh at in the future?

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Big Jay • September 10, 2008 at 3:44 pm

I have no problem with people retouching their photos.

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PastaQueen • September 10, 2008 at 3:54 pm

@Kari – I don’t remember how long it took. Maybe an hour or two? The chin is always hard to do.

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Lucrecia • September 10, 2008 at 5:40 pm

I’ve always wondered about things like this – as if I’m going to look back on an enhanced picture one day and think “gee, I was a skinny babe back then”. Or maybe I’ll hand them out to my friends and show them I’m not as fat as they think I am. I could totally fool them! Those nimwitts!

And look, they reduced her hard earned tan too.

On the flip side – I’m pretty handy with the photo software- if anyone wants to pay me to make you skinny…..

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nolafwug • September 10, 2008 at 7:00 pm

I’m handy with Photoshop so I always retouch my photos. Most of my pics are of my kids so I’ll remove stuff like little boo-boos or bits of food that didn’t wash off after dinner. I’ll even add sparkle to their eyes sometimes. And I pump up the colors and contrast. It just enhances the image; I don’t consider it dishonesty. When my Mom is looking at pics of her grandkids I want her to see how cute they are and not be distracted by wanting to reach into the picture and clean their faces!

When I am in the picture I’ll sometimes airbrush myself because the camera is not my friend. Maybe that’s how I look in real life but I have tons of freckles, loads of pimples, and pores the size of dinner plates. I really just want people to see my smile and not focus on my blackheads. I tried to make myself look thinner in the face in a pic once but it was so time-consuming I decided it wasn’t worth it. I took up running instead and now I don’t have to try and make myself look thinner in pictures. :)

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Amy • September 10, 2008 at 7:07 pm

Well it might be good for Facebook if your ex has popped up there ;)

Seriously though, in one sense it might be ok as a motivational tool, if that’s the sort of thing that would motivate someone – a real-life version of a virtual model I suppose! I would find it interesting, as someone who has always been overweight – I simply don’t know what I would look like slim! So I find it difficult to visualise.

That said, it really just sounds like a gimmicky waste of money. I mean what happens when you show people all your summer holiday photos? Your friends and family KNOW what you really look like…

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Tara • September 10, 2008 at 7:19 pm

People can retouch thier pictures as much as they want but that isn’t going to change what they look like. If they really want to look a certain way they need to change themselves in the real world not on some photo. I dont have a problem with touching up zits or red eye but creating a whole different person, what is that going to accomplish?

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Amy • September 10, 2008 at 9:12 pm

I’ve been guilty of asking my dh to photoshop out a chin or two…but it’s much easier to just avoid being in the picture in the first place!

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Ang • September 10, 2008 at 9:57 pm

It’s funny to read about this today, I was just thinking about it. My son’s school sent home a school photo package where for seven dollars more I can get his image retouched! It would make me feel bad to even consider it, I want to remember him exactly the way he is! I would love to have my own photo retouched, but I suppose there may come a time when my family will want pictures to remember me exactly the way I am. I guess it depends on who you are planning to give the photo to!

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jae • September 11, 2008 at 2:35 am

Part of me wants to take a pic in a 2 piece and sent it in just to see how thin they could make me. Let’s see, I’m 244 and I’ll tell them to make me look 125. HA!

Another thing is if I actually used this service who would I send the pictures to? My family? A potential suitor? Once they saw me in real life they’d know something was up. Besides I’d be more humiliated for them to think “Man, what happened to her? Couldn’t she control herself?” then them thinking “Cousin Jae is still big, but she still has a great smile!”

So, no I wouldn’t use the service. :) ~j

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amanda Hartman • September 11, 2008 at 8:24 am

I re-touched a photo I gave to my boyfriend one time. I was totally busted when he saw that the background was warped from all the “shrinking” I did to myself!! lol. We laughed pretty hard.

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Abs • September 11, 2008 at 8:28 am

Funnily enough, I received an email today with a link to Weighview http://www.weightview.com/new/start.asp who do this for free. There’s a 50lb max weight loss, but even if you have more to lose, 50 is a good start. It’s pitched as a motivational boost, but I think it would also be good for people (like me, for instance) who have no concept at all of what they would look like at a healthy weight. Personally, the idea of being slim is quite scary to me, so to actually see more or less what I’d look like might take the sting out of it.

I think I’m going to go for it. The decision now is whether to take a clothed pic or bite the bullet and send them a pic of me in my undies.

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gknee • September 11, 2008 at 10:38 am

I saw some feature about this on the news regarding touching up kids photos.To me, It speaks to the honesty of our lives and our memories– and our reality. Hard to judge really (but of course I do!)

This reminds me of going to Epcot and thinking you have seen the world. You haven’t. You have seen the sanitized, airbrushed version with American style bathrooms. No smells, no currency exchange. But that might be just fine for most people…..

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Katfox • September 11, 2008 at 8:33 pm

Hey! This is just like the Wonderbra!

Yeah…you can appear one way, but what happens when the clothes come off? All is revealed!

Haha. It seems like a waste of money to me. Why not spend that money on a gym membership, a new pair of sneaker or some healthy food (which tends to be pretty expensive)?

As for the Wonderbra, why not spend that money on a therapist who can help boost your self-esteem?

Tackle the problem, don’t just cover it up!!! Rawr.

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susan • September 12, 2008 at 12:28 pm

I want to be judgmental and I don’t think I’d ever have a picture of myself or my kids retrouched. However, is it very much different from me not putting many unflattering pictures of myself in our family scrapbook? When I look through the years, I seem to be quite svelte in most of the pictures. Conveniently, the “upswing of the weight curve” years have me in very few pictures!

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Amy • September 12, 2008 at 4:04 pm

We have a contracted professional photographer at work who takes our pics for the corporate website (we spend a lot of time looking each other up because the place is so big). They automatically retouch the pics for everyone, but I think it’s more about skin shine and not weight loss–it’s all head shots. They do take several digital pics in different directions and we get to choose the one we like best, among three types of smiling (or not), from left/center/right, etc.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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