An Industry-Wide Call for Photoshop Ethics

Image retouching has been getting a lot of attention in recent years, as advertisers seek to model absolute perfection in their imagery. It’s not only verging on the ridiculous but the unethical. Celebrities and models alike are speaking out about the bizarre alternations being used to meet a particular standard of what’s beautiful.

One designer is doing something about it, according to Katharine Schwab writing in Fast Code Design.

“Ten years ago, a set of five oaths called the Designers Accord aimed to establish a code of ethics around sustainability in the design industry,” Schwab writes. “More than 1,000 design firms and organizations voluntarily adopted the accord, as well as thousands of individuals from 100 countries and six continents, helping to raise awareness about eco-friendly design while giving designers a concrete way to engage clients in conversations about sustainability—today, a commonplace practice.”

“Now, the designer Sarah Krasley is trying to create a new kind of accord, this time for those in the business of making images. She calls it the Retouchers Accord, a Hippocratic oath for authenticity in images,” she continues.

According to Krasley, the current retouching standards are not just deceptive, but detrimental to the public good.

“The downstream impacts of the design decisions that postproduction artists and retouchers are making are causing public health problems,” Krasley says. “You have young women and men looking at those pictures and thinking their body needs to look like that in order for them to be beautiful, to be loved or accepted.”

Some publishers have done away with photo retouching entirely, aiming to “present realistic portraits of what it is to be a woman.”

“By not Photoshopping women, we are saying women are not in need of alteration in any way shape or form and that they are beautiful the way they are,” said Sarah Dubbeldam, Darling magazine’s co-founder and editor in chief. “That in itself just makes a huge statement.”

What about your organization? Is it time to take a stand and sign the Retouchers Accord? It’s worth considering as more brands realize that celebrating beauty begins by seeing it in all its true forms.