While we may never know the full extent to which unrealistic media representations encourage a distorted body image in their audience, what is clear is that it’s challenging for children and adults to distinguish what’s real and what is pure fantasy.

In an effort to demonstrate how anyone can be changed into a hyper “perfect” version of themselves, the docu-video “Real Women Get Photoshopped” took four women and made them super-models for a day. Most of us might think this a dream come true (and the pampering would surely be welcome), but the distortion of the final images from the women’s authentic beauty is shocking.

[pullquote]75 percent of young women feel worse about themselves after 3 minutes of reading a typical fashion magazine. It’s essential we break that standard and allow women permission to celebrate their authentic beauty. [/pullquote] All women responded to the retouched photos as though they were looking at a stranger; and after years of yearning for model beauty, were underwhelmed with the results of having the professional treatment models and celebrities get every day. The most valuable insight of the docu-video was the idea that no one can actually look the way a final retouched photo looks, and the picture does little to represent the person being photographed.

True portrait photography demonstrates the beauty of capturing a unique individual, while the extreme Photoshopping which is done for advertisement and media today creates works of fiction.

As an audience, we rarely question photos’ authenticity.

In an effort to promote awareness The American Medical Association announced it was taking a stand against image manipulation in advertising; questioning the unrealistic goals set not only by the distorted images in magazines, but by those promoted through celebrity makeovers and reality shows sensationalizing plastic surgery.

In France, officials are asking for required disclaimers to be posted with photos stating they have been digitally enhanced to alter appearance in order to advise the public whether what they are seeing is real or not.

Distorted body image and difficulties with eating disorders derive from a variety of contributing factors, and speaking with a doctor can give options and direction for support and treatment.

The goal of understanding Photoshop’s influence is to be aware of the degree of digital re-touching that is done to every image in the media, and to understand the way unrealistic imagery may serve as a contributor to health problems such as disordered eating.

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