About ten years ago, I attended my best friend's wedding as a bridesmaid. I wore a larger size than the other bridesmaids and had to wear a sleeveless dress. Granted, it was not that flattering, but it looked fine, in my opinion. Once the wedding was over and we all got to peek at the photos, I was surprised to see that a photo of me had been obviously Photoshopped to skinny me up, as well as to blur out a tattoo. This wasn't a particularly frame-worthy shot, just a random candid, but it was shocking. I'm sure this photography team thought I'd be pleased to see this version of myself, but I definitely wasn't.
Just this week I spied this post about a photographer doing a similar ‘shop job to a couple's engagement photos. Here's one example:
The photographer posted a fairly mean response to the controversy, using the phrase “chin tuck” to describe Photoshopping the bride's double chin. Mean spirits aside, this was just a terrible encounter overall. As the Senior Editor of Offbeat Bride, I deal primarily with offbeat-friendly photographers, so I'd never encountered this concept of a digital “chin tuck” or heard of many photographers “skinnying up” their clients (or their clients' wedding guests) without the couple specifically asking for it.
So I decided to think it through to see why it might be done, who was requesting it, and ultimately, who owns the likeness? Who owns your body in a photo?
When couples request it
There's something so invasively intimate about thinking of someone spending time carefully trimming off your excess flesh.
If, as the marrying couple, you ask for some Photoshopping for yourself or your guests, I can understand the motivation. There is a lot of social media pressure to have everyone look a certain way, so I get it. Just think about how your choice may be perceived by the people being Photoshopped, if not yourself. In my experience as an unwittingly Photoshopped bridesmaid, it made me feel like I was too damned fat for that photo, and consequently, for the wedding. In my case, it wasn't my friend creating the alienating feeling, it was her photographer.
There's something so invasively intimate about the idea of someone spending time to digitally trim off your excess flesh — flesh that they independently decided wasn't acceptable. It feels like someone raking their eyes over my body and deciding where to trim. If I'd asked for it, that would be something else entirely. But my experience with getting “chin tucked” left me feeling pretty crummy and embarrassed. (And apparently still mulling it over ten years later!)
I imagine there are people who delight in finding that they look different in their photos — certainly it must be common practice in some circles, given the state of social media glamour these days. But I just wasn't one of them, and the reality is that it's hard to know who is and isn't. If the couple owns the photos (or at least the way they want to perceive the day), is it acceptable to let them own how your body looks in their photos? What about the photographer?
A photographer's choice
Ultimately, I think most photographers definitely don't want to Photoshop anyone skinnier and would have some dread in getting the request — it's tedious, time-consuming work! (Plus, I know a ton of awesome, body-positive photographers out there who would cringe.) I'd also guess that most offbeat photographers don't even offer it as a service. But again, social media marketing pressure is high and the quest for likes is a big driver.
How often are photographers being asked to ‘shop couples, wedding parties, or guests? It's within their power to market their photos on their channels, even going so far as to more significantly edit photos for marketing purposes than they may deliver to the couples. Are they doing it and who might it be hurting?
Guests being Photoshopped
Guests and wedding party members aren't paying anyone to take their photo and don't really have a lot of say in where their likeness gets edited and then posted. If a photographer takes it upon themselves to edit the body of a someone who isn't paying for the service, can they complain? Ultimately, I believe the couple should be pretty specific about body modifying Photoshopping if they choose a photographer who includes it as an option.
Watching reality wedding TV will give you the impression that brides are putting all of their bridesmaids on diets and making them get spray-tanned. To me, this is tantamount to Photoshopping bodies. But at least with a diet, you get to have say in it.
Let's hear from you:
Photographers: have you encountered either couples asking to be Photoshopped or being upset by edits you've made?
Couples: are you in the camp that Photoshopping body sizes is cool with you? Or do you think you'd be insulted?