Is it a Thigh Gap or Photoshop
by g_smith on February 10, 2015 - 4:17pm
To Photoshop or not is a moral dilemma that many professionals in the marketing industry face. It’s expected of them and according to Dan Strasser, handing in an untouched photo to a client would elicit a negative reaction (1). Particularly in fashion and beauty, the majority of images are retouched before consumers see them. Unfortunately, this can negatively impact consumers. A study done by the University of Wisconsin-Madison “found that women who saw images of very thin actresses and models experienced a negative effect on their body image” (1).
This moral dilemma can be summed up in one situation. A marketer is in charge of a huge marketing campaign for a high fashion brand. She knows that if she’s successful and the client is happy with her work then she will get a promotion. The client has told her that in the past they’ve always used Photoshop on the campaign pictures and they expect her to do the same. When she receives the campaign photos back from the photographer, she’s faced with the dilemma of whether to Photoshop or not. On one hand she doesn’t want to promote an unrealistic body image by Photoshopping the model, especially when the ad has a young female target audience, but she also doesn’t want to lose her job or promotion. The teleological ethical theory is being applied because it’s trying to predict the consequences that each option will have. Option A (Photoshop) could lead to an unrealistic body image among young girls that will damage their self-esteem and Option B (No Photoshop) could lead to a lost promotion and maybe even job. According to Teleology, the marketer should choose which option will bring the most good to the person or group they think is most important. The Utilitarinism approach says that your decision should be based on which option will bring the greatest good to the greatest number. So the end goal or summum bonum is ultimate happiness for everyone.
Following Teleology and Utilitarianism, I think the marketer should use Photoshop but only make small adjustments like removing awkward-looking shadows, correcting skin discoloration, making lighting changes…etc but not make any drastic changes to the model’s body. That way, the photo is retouched and looks better but does not create a new and completely unrealistic body for the model. This might seem egoist at first but it’s important to mention that if the marketer refused to Photoshop, it’s most likely that the client would just hire someone else to do it. That might sound like an excuse but retouching is something that has deep roots in the marketing industry and one executive taking a stance against it will not cause any drastic changes in the industry. Therefore, the proposed solution lets the marketer control how much retouching will be done whereas another marketer might have no moral dilemmas about this and make the model go from a size 2 to size 00. The solution brings the most good to the greatest number because the client is happy with their retouched image but it’s not so drastically photoshopped that it creates a negative effect on the body image among the ad’s viewers and the marketer gets a promotion. Unfortunately, a common flaw in Teleology is that it’s impossible to actually know whether the predicted outcome of the solution will come true but you can only hope that the predictions are correct.
Susan Krashinsky. “What’s Behind the Culture of Photoshop in Advertising”. The Globe and Mail. Globe and Mail., 22 Mar. 2013. Web. 10 Feb. 2015.