Although the American Medical Association has called the airbrushing of photos (commonly referred to as photoshopping) harmful to women’s health, little has been done to combat the ubiquitous trend. There are no standards about the extent to which an image may be altered, and no formal mechanism to report what has been done to a picture. This leaves anyone exposed to airbrushed pictures comparing themselves to an unrealistic version of what the “perfect” body looks like, without any frame of reference.
Two Dartmouth computer scientists, though, created a program that can test how much a picture has been photoshopped. Their program accurately predicts how much humans think an image has been altered from its original. And for those of us who are still not aware how pervasive airbrushing is — and how drastic the changes can be — they included a nifty and mesmerizing tool that allows you to toggle between the original and final versions of pictures of celebrities and stock photos. It’s pretty shocking how much they all change.
This program has some real potential: imagine if advertisers and magazine photographers had to label every photoshopped image with its score. That would not only curb the excesses of airbrushing, but would show how unrealistic modern advertisements are — people could see just how many changes a typical image undergoes.
Given how terrible photoshopping is for peoples’ self-image, this move would help millions of people worldwide grow to love their bodies more. And it’s hard to argue against this kind of labeling — photoshopping hurts women in very tangible ways, and scientists have figured out an objectively reasonable way to quantify the practice. Everyone wins — except for advertising execs who profit from people’s insecurities.
Photo credit: dreamglowpumpkincat210's Flickr stream.