Why do editors doctor photos in corporate publications?

When we “clean up” photographs for corporate publications, what exactly are we “cleaning up”? Reality and humanity.

I had no idea how strong that point of view was, or how strongly I would express it.

Arguing on behalf of Photoshopfree photojournalism, I fairly shrieked my way through the session. Commenting on examples posted on the screen by the session moderator, I condemned National Geographic for a faked cover they did a few years ago, moving Egyptian pyramids around to fit in their vertical cover. I declared that a Time magazine cover showing the darkened face of O.J. Simpson “makes me sick,” and more or less called Time editors racists.

But it was the least important example that made me the most angry.

A co-panelist—the director of corporate advertising at a big company—showed us the before and after versions of an executive’s profile that she retouched electronically.

Among other changes, she switched the background from a window to a wall. She changed the light on his forehead to remove a couple of wrinkles. She literally turned his frown upside down, massaging his mouth into a Mona Lisa smile. She brought his jacket closer together to cover up his pot belly. And she removed a scar from his nose.

The portrait was a classic exec-at his-desk photo cliché, its use was for an inconsequential ad of some kind and the executive was some Russian guy I’d never heard of.

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