Why I’m Giving up Photoshop on my Blog and Instagram (mostly, anyway…)

Self-esteem is the lowest ever in teenage girls. With social media partly to blame, it’s time we stop editing our flaws

Brightness up. Contrast up. Highlights up. Shadows down – just a touch. Smooth out a spot or two and er, ah yeah maybe edit my tummy a little flatter and make my thighs a little slimmer. Cellulite be gone with the smoothing tool! Oooh, and, whilst I’m at it let’s just make my bum a little more rounder too… And with just a few clicks on my computer or strokes on my phone, that picture of me on the beach is suddenly looking very Kim Kardashian-ified. Who is that goddess on the screen!? I barely recognise her! Ah, that’s because she’s the fantasy version of myself. All ultra-perfect with my idealised body. And she doesn’t exist.  

I put on a bit of weight over the summer – a lot now that I’ve shed – but still, I’m sitting here being a computer wanker at the beach bar in a bikini in Thailand still not feeling 100% happy with my body as I did the last time that I went. So taking those perfect #goals-worthy Instagrammy beach pics feels way more of a chore than I’m probably trying to make it out to be in the carefree ‘candid’ shot.

Criticism over ad campaigns and magazines for overly airbrushing their images has come on hard and strong over the years for the unfair, unrealistic, and damaging beauty standards it can set women – yet at least it’s something we have become aware of. But as for bloggers, because they’re “real” people sharing “real” lives, there’s a certain assumed honesty in the pictures they post. Think of it like this: you see an underwear campaign on a billboard of an incredible model and think pfft yeah, great body but it’s probably airbrushed a little. You look at a blogger and think well she hasn’t got a whole team of skilled designers editing all of the photographs like a magazine or brand does, has she? But with the invent of apps like Facetune and programmes like Adobe Lightroom available cheaply, a skinnier, more perfect silhouette is just a quick debit payment and a few skilled swipes away.

People may seem surprised at this, but I’m going to have to be the bitch that lifts this lid on this semi-secret and say yeah, many bloggers most certainly edit their photos – from tiny tweaks to true transformations – not simply just changing the brightness and contrast settings. I’ve heard some admitting to getting rid of double chins, slimming down thighs, cinching stomachs, thinning out arms, just to name a few little bits. You only need to meet a blogger in real life at an event to see that she’s not quite like the images she posts online. And do you want to know what? I did it too.

I look back at the photos of my last holiday in Thailand and feel disgusted at how I look now in comparison (I look waaaay slimmer back then) but actually, I edited a lot of the photos I took last time to smooth out cellulite, make my hips slimmer and give the impression of more toned legs. So now I’ll compare myself endlessly, punish myself for not looking as good and letting go, when actually what I’m comparing myself to isn’t even real. I’m comparing myself to a version that didn’t even exist. It feels wrong for people to be hashtagging #goals when it’s not just their goals: its my goals too. Because this image isn’t how I really look but how I wish I looked. 

But here’s the real issue in why I’m going to stop: self confidence is the lowest in young girls as it’s ever been – largely due to social media. Young girls now think that how they look is far more important than their ability. I have friends who teach from ages 10-16 who have said they have witnessed first-hand how damaging it can be – and I want absolutely no part in making that worse. The biggest issue I had when I was those ages? What shade of black to dye my hair and what cryptic emo lyrics to put in my MSN name.

I have 36k followers on Instagram – not enough to lead to plummeting levels of self esteem with my digitally nipped-and-tucked photos – but knowing how social media can affect girls these days, the least I can do is know that I’m putting an honest photo of myself on the internet. I feel there’s some kind of moral obligation as bloggers to keep it just a bit real.

I’m not criticising the people that do it – trust me, we all have our flaws and insecurities and I’m admitting my guilt in making myself slimmer in photos in the past here too. Everyone wants to put their best version of themselves online after all, it’s natural. What I’m really criticising is the system we’re still all caught up in that idealises slim white women as the beauty standard. We talk about how blogs and bloggers democratise the fashion industry by offering diversity, but realistically we still have a long way to go when the most successful bloggers that get international coverage happen to be the ones who fit the standardised model-esque version the industry dictates as the ideal.

So, what now? Where’s the line between what’s acceptable to edit and what isn’t? Photoshop is an incredible tool that can transform a photo from something bland to something totally arresting. I’ll always edit my images to make the colours pop and look as pretty as they can be. And I have zero qualms in editing out spots because having a once-a-month bad breakout isn’t the true representation of myself. But slimming down my body and smoothing out cellulite? No thanks. I’m done with it. I’m not perfect and I don’t want anyone else to think that I am or that they have to be either.

I think I’m going to just stick to flattering angles and a mantra of don’t edit or just don’t post it at all. 

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  1. totally agree with this! angles and lighting work miracles but I think using photoshop for slimming etc is bloody awful behaviour!!

    p.s. you still and always have looked banging (with or without the photoshop) xx

  2. Great post sophie! I completely agree, it's so easy to morph yourself into this social media bee that we all want through editing our photos, but I think in the end we are just kidding ourselves also. I love how frank your blog is about these things and always love reading your blog posts!

    Jordan x