In Defense Of Image Editing: Who Cares What's Photoshopped?


When it comes to public shaming via the Internet, it seems as though no crime goes unpunished, however petty and minor it may be.

The most recent “perpetrators” include alleged Photoshop-happy fashion bloggers, particularly We Wore What’s Danielle Bernstein.

An Instagram account called We Photoshopped What has been in the limelight on both BuzzFeed and Refinery29. This anonymous user re-posts photos of fashion bloggers in an attempt to call them out on their “blatant” photo editing.

Bernstein is a frequent target of this Instagram page, along with other women, like Emily Schuman of Cupcakes and Cashmere. The accusation is that these fashion bloggers Photoshop pictures to make themselves appear skinnier and smaller than they are in real life.

This is not the first time Bernstein has been accused of Photoshopping her pictures. In August 2014, this article appeared, which linked the popular blogger’s name to allegations that she is falsifying her images.

Obviously this is not a new concept in the world of fashion; it is common knowledge at this point that models are almost always retouched, to some degree. So, why is it so blasphemous that these fashion bloggers do the same?

Bernstein has commented on the hateful Instagram account and continues to respond to the allegations.

This account is so mean and unnecessary...Most people I know including other bloggers...has editing involved in photos. ...People know what I look like, I host events and post videos… I also choose only the best photos and most flattering angles of myself. Another photographer or fans may not. If you have a personal problem with me please email me. This honestly feels like bullying.

Her quote admits to retouching her images on occasion, but her haters have by no means backed off. Instead, they have flocked to her Instagram page to leave cruel comments on her photos.

Now, every single one of her photos is on the chopping block for scrutiny. The girl can’t post a freaking gym pic anymore without getting a comment like “left leg, lolz.”

How in the world is this okay? How in the world is this not bullying? All of this negative energy begs the inquiry, why does it even matter? Why do we care so much what an individual — a complete stranger, at that — does with her Instagram photos?

Why do we feel so compelled to squint our eyes, looking for warped walls around her legs? Why do we feel so vindicated when we think we’ve spotted something?

Truthfully, it says more about us than it does her, and the picture isn't pretty. Furthermore, aren’t we being a little hypocritical here?

Is there really that much difference between Bernstein’s occasional retouching and the X-PRO II filter we use on our party pics to make our skin look a little tanner and our bodies a little leaner?

The bottom line is that we have all embraced photo enhancing on some level; every person with an Instagram account has experimented with the different filters, consciously seeking the one that makes him or her look the hottest.

Any person who has ever posted a selfie has spent a long time picking the perfect angle, in hopes of sharing the best possible image. It all boils down to the simple human desire to present ourselves in an attractive way.

Some feel Bernstein has a different kind of responsibility as a fashion blogger. It is arguable that there are women and girls who admire her as a style and body role model.

These are the girls who leave comments on her Instagram photos, admiring her long legs and tiny cinched waist. Those on this side of the debate believe these young girls are idolizing a “false” woman, which will lead them down a rabbit hole of warped body image.

The flipside to this stance is the essential need for personal accountability. We all know that retouching exists in the fashion industry.

This is not a secret. So, if we all are aware of this fact, we need to adjust our perceptions and knee-jerk reactions to the topic. We can no longer whine about being "duped" when our eyes remain actively open.

What this means is that we need to fully, consciously and wholeheartedly accept the differentiation that exists between fashion photography and real life.

We need to emphasize this with young girls and encourage them to understand the same. Moreover, we need to stop getting so damn angry about this subject entirely.

We also need to stop blaming images in the media for poor body image and eating disorders. When we attempt to link these two things, we undermine the seriousness of these illnesses.

It’s easy to point the fingers at a size-0 stranger, Photoshopped or not, rather than look inward or at our own relationships.

Eating disorders in young people are complex, multi-layered and not simple in any way. To say that young girls develop eating disorders solely from exposure to rail-thin models is not only foolish, but dangerous, too.

Overall, as a society, and as an Internet community, it’s time we re-think the placement of our anger, annoyance and judgmental snark. Bernstein does not deserve the amount of sheer hatred she is receiving, nor do the rest of these fashion bloggers.

Isn’t it time we dedicate our energy toward a more productive cause? Let’s live and let Photoshop, please. Enough is enough.