When I was first accepted to write for xoVain, our executive editor, Marci, sent me a long list of parameters for my photos to follow. Most of them dealt with quality and clarity, but one clause put a lump in my throat:
You may use image-editing software to correct for things like exposure, white balance, tone, saturation and temperature. Your photos should accurately depict the way that products, colors and skin tones look in real life.
You may not use editing software (including apps) to smooth skin, add soft-focus, get rid of blemishes, erase wrinkles, make yourself look skinnier, change your hair color, eye color, etc. BIG EDITS LIKE THIS ARE A HARD NO.
It made sense. The reason why I wanted to write for xoVain in the first place is the honesty that it promotes. But, this "no Photoshop" rule terrified the bejeezus out of me. So much so that I stared at the photos I planned to submit for a whole three hours before doing so.
A year before writing for xoVain, I had created my own YouTube channel, ArtPluck. My channel was a safe place for me to upload my makeup musings, my Disney obsessions, and my time-lapse paintings. I had watched my absurdly talented friends (AVByte and Brizzy Voices) build their channels from the ground up. I knew Photoshop was an integral part of creating thumbnails, so I started to become familiar with the program. I taught myself the magic of the blur and smudge tools, and soon, I was editing out wrinkles, crinkles, and the like.
If you've read my previous articles, you know what my face looks like without Photoshop because I have never Photoshopped my face on xoVain. And now I know that I really don't need it.
But I truly thought I did. I had watched the one line on my forehead, my genetic source of frustration, magically disappear; I sighed in relief as I tapped my blemishes and they vanished into thin air. Photoshop was the Elder Wand I never knew I needed.
So I started editing my Instagram photos. I found the fabulosity that is FaceTune. I adjusted the highlight and contrast to supplement the makeup in my photos. Just like with Photoshop, I removed my "imperfections": the subtle dots and dings that have always bothered me about my face. I tweaked and tuned until my photo was "acceptable" to post, like this one from my blurrier days:
I had a small obsession. I couldn't post a picture of my makeup without plugging it into a program first.
Now, I've never edited myself to any sort of extreme. The things I changed were always minor. I side with the celebrities who have spoken out against the magazine covers on which their bodies were warped and transformed to unrealistic proportions. My heart sympathized with Amy Schumer, who half-joked about how annoying it was to have people call her "brave" for her semi-nude, seemingly unretouched Pirelli Calendar photo.
I would never want to have my body Photoshopped, especially against my will. But, somehow, I'm totally fine with smoothing out my skin and adjusting minor and nonessential details.
So, where should we draw the line? I love Photoshop, but I would never want anyone to fall under the false pretense that I'm seemingly "perfect," or even close to it. I'm OK with showing my stretch marks, my cellulite, and my natural curves, but I'm terrified to post a blemish on my Instagram. Which confuses me. And kinda makes me sad. I don't know how I came to this.
Many celebrities (especially Insta-famous ones) FaceTune their pictures within an inch of their life. Which is totally fine! Obviously, I do it, too! But we all need to acknowledge that those images are art in themselves, separate from how we exist in the real world. No one is that perfect. No one. And to be honest, I think we shouldn't even aim to be.
I've come a long way from my days of reliance on Photoshop. I (happily) post pictures of my makeup-free face on xoVain without a stitch of digital editing. But I still stare a little too long at some of my features before I press the submit button. I continue to edit my Instagram posts with FaceTune, but for me, it's all in service of the makeup look, which is what my Instagram is about.
Photoshop is an awesome creative tool, when used for artistic reasons. Take it from someone who's been a little too obsessesed: everything in moderation.