The impact of photoshop on your mental health

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Sabrina Miller, First Year English Literature

Editing photos in order to get that perfect shot can have serious negative consequences to one's perception of themselves.

Whilst away over Christmas, my friend and I decided we would have a photoshoot and secure a holiday picture for our respective Instagrams’. After spending an hour carefully applying makeup and 30 minutes performing in front of the camera, contorting our bodies in various flattering poses, we eventually both settled on the perfect picture.

Whilst sitting at the dinner table, I leaned over and noticed my friend re-touching the photo using an app that she had downloaded. The app called Peachy, offers a range of features including: ‘reshape’ which essentially is code for ‘make you thinner’, ‘retouch’, which edits your face and ‘tall’ which unsurprisingly makes you taller. After doing some research I found hundreds of similar apps all available at the press of a button. Almost all of them were free, but none cost much more than £5.

After calling my friend out at the dinner table, a discussion ensued. Is Photoshop really that bad? Are features like ‘retouch’ any worse than using makeup? Are features like ‘reshape’ any worse than misrepresenting your body in front of a camera by twisting it in a variety of unnatural shapes and poses? My answer to this question was firm and clear; photoshop is always worse.

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I believe Photoshop is a uniquely dangerous and powerful tool. Photoshop has unbelievably damaging effects on people’s body image and self-esteem. Why is Photoshop so much worse you ask? Photoshop allows people to edit themselves, so they look like something no human body ever can. Photoshop idealises images that no fitness regime, or beauty treatment will ever come close to achieving. Photoshop normalises inhuman standards of beauty. Why is this so dangerous? Because it means that people will damage their bodies and their minds striving for this literally unattainable and impossible goal.

Photoshop has unbelievably damaging effects on people's body image and self-esteem.

That, in my opinion, is where the key difference lies. You may spend hours twisting your body to achieve a ‘perfect picture’, but at least it is still your body. At least if you work at it, this image is somewhat achievable because it is not a digitalised, imagined creation, it is still you.

Similarly, makeup is rooted in truth. Whilst you can conceal and contour your face, apply a plethora of different colours to your eyelids, eyelashes and eyebrows, it’s still your face! People use makeup as a form of creative expression and makeup is something that can be re-produced on a daily basis if that is how you want to present yourself to the public. Contrastingly, apps on Photoshop allow you to digitally flatten your nose or whiten your skin. They can do things to your face that you can never re-create without plastic surgery. They distort reality and force you to disguise yourself behind some socially constructed standard of beauty. There is not an ounce of reality in Photoshop and it yet again sets impossible standards.

I believe that when friends photoshop their pictures this is far more damaging for your mental health then when magazines do it. I think it is pretty common knowledge nowadays that magazines airbrush pretty much all of their images, and therefore when looking at the front of a magazine I tend to be pretty self-aware that it is all fake. When I’m scrolling through Instagram and looking at pictures of friend’s, I don’t have that same guard up. I trust my friends and maybe I’m being naïve, but I tend to assume that they don’t Photoshop their photos. My friends are real and tangible and therefore what they present online is far more attainable than what Gigi or Bella Hadid posts. Therefore if my friends are also posting distorted images of themselves online, my expectations of what normal people look like changes and inevitably makes me question myself.

I believe Photoshop is a horrendous and destructive tool that needs to stop. We should be proud of our beautiful bodies, beautiful faces and our beautiful photographs.

Featured Image: Unsplash / Abi Shek


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