Friday, 5 August 2011

The Camera Always Lies

Years ago, before Venture and the more contemporary “make over” portrait companies became popular the man and me spent an enjoyable evening doing a photo shoot. We took thousands of photographs, even using fans to make it look more professional, and then spent time picking out the best ones and changing contrast, making them black and white and manipulating them until we looked, well, great (yes we had rather a lot of time on our hands in those days). I got a 9.9 on HotorNot with my best shot. But the truth is, the person in that picture wasn’t me, and I’m not stupid enough to believe that I actually look like that.

Many advertising campaigns have been criticised and even banned recently for using too much airbrushing. But do people really believe the pictures reflect reality?

Make up ads aren’t pretending to be snapshots. The idea is that they are glamorous and flawless and I think the people who pulled the ads are being pretty condescending to a public that has more brains than to compare them to real life.

The camera always lies, whether you use airbrushing or not. You pose, you make sure you’re showing your best side, and everyone looks better in black and white don’t they?

But we all lie to ourselves everyday about how we actually look. Hands up who has a mirror face? Those of you that don’t have your hands up now are lying. Eyes wide, lips pursed, abs tensed, you do whatever you have learned over the years that makes you look good. How many times in the day do you actually look like that? The answer is pretty much never (unless you very self aware and/or vain). One of my friends has a particularly distinct mirror face, and she never ever looks like that in real life (she is far more beautiful). But I am always interested to see peoples mirror face, it’s the look we would all want to freeze if we could. Like when your parents said if the wind changes you’ll stay like that, if the wind would only blow while we’re putting on our mirror faces eh?

I heard somewhere that many parents have started airbrushing their kid’s school photographs. I am torn on this debate. On the one hand as a parent I am outraged that anyone could deface photographs of their perfect angels and rewrite history, all kids are beautiful right? Well, no. I wasn’t. Airbrushing would not have been enough for my school photos, cutting me out entirely and replacing me with a picture of Kelly Kapowski from Saved By The Bell would have been the only modification that would have made me happy with those hideous portraits. Although had I grown up in a time when airbrushing school photographs was even an option I know my mother would have been annoyingly uncooperative.

Unless you are one of those lucky photogenic few, for us to consider a photograph flattering a certain amount of manipulation must be present, digitally through airbrushing or in flattering lighting or a certain angle. Whether these things are intended or simply a lucky shot, a photograph represents how someone looks in a microsecond. Not how they look all the time. Take a look through your Facebook friends profile pictures, some people have used their “modelling shots”, others have theirs in black and white, many have used a lucky shot and many more use pictures of their kids. But do any of these photographs really accurately represent the person you know?

Videos are far less forgiving, no hiding behind mirror faces or lucky angles. Maybe the still camera lies but a video is much harder to fool. For this reason I despise seeing myself on video, unless I’m shrouded in darkness and happen to sitting very, very still.

Surely airbrushing is just another way of making the best of a picture, like doing your hair and makeup, or a load of press ups or bicep curls just before the ‘click’ to make those guns and pecs really pop. I understand that some companies are taking airbrushing to an extreme level but what’s the alternative? Airbrushing is still a fairly new technology and like all new things it will be over used until it eventually finds a balance.

I’m sure one day they will find a way of airbrushing videos, or even real life airbrushing, and I’ll be first in the queue, mirror face at the ready. Now if only I could have a fan constantly following me around to blow my hair out I’d be good to go.

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