Photoshopped Images Could Carry Warnings in France

September 28, 2009 by Lin Edwards, weblog

Photoshopped Images Could Carry Warnings in France
Image: by casillar, photobucket.
( -- A law has been proposed in France that would see digitally enhanced images carry a warning to viewers that the image has been retouched to change the physical appearance of a person. The proposed statement may eventually apply to political campaigns, billboards, photos on packaging, art photos, and press photographs as well as advertisements in magazines and newspapers.

The law has been proposed by Valerie Boyer, a member of parliament in France, because of concerns that airbrushed or "photoshopped" images can distort how people, especially young people, see themselves. Boyer is an advocate for awareness of body image problems such as obesity and anorexia, and worries that the preponderance of enhanced images in magazines encourages people to believe in a non-existent reality.

Boyer believes the disclaimers could help young people realize that touched-up images distort reality. She said that many adolescents, especially young girls, have difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is not, and they can develop problems and unrealistic expectations, that can sometimes lead to anorexia and other serious health problems.

Boyer, a member of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party, is backed by fifty other politicians, who are also concerned about protecting consumers, especially young people. Boyer said the group wants to fight the stereotype of women all being young and slim. The move follows a charter agreed to voluntarily by the fashion industry in France to avoid promoting extreme thinness.

If the proposal becomes law French advertisers could be fined up to half the cost of their advertising campaign, or over $54,000 (US), if they do not include the statement. The law is currently being debated in the French parliament.

© 2009

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3 / 5 (6) Sep 28, 2009
If they do enact this, how will they be guaranteed of obedience? Will they have to analyze every single picture for signs of photoshopping?? How is that even feasible?
3.8 / 5 (10) Sep 28, 2009
As a very occasional professional photographer for a website, I can say this this law would effectively cause every image I publish to be tagged. I can't even get images from my Nikon camera into Photoshop without altering them -- because the wide dynamic range of the camera in bits/pixel needs to be compressed before Photoshop can open it. Another unavoidable compression happens when the file is saved in many formats that are required by websites.

For that matter, if I was intent on deception, I could use the camera itself to change coloring; then practically any simple image processing program could make the modification shown in the example photo above.

This controversy has been around a long, long time. It's impossible for professionals to do their work, and not make some value judgments. How dark should I print a photo? Depends on where it will be seen. Photos must be adjusted to look acceptable to viewers.
Sep 28, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
1.8 / 5 (5) Sep 28, 2009
Goodbye print media. I suppose they will still be able to stage photographic scenes with actors like Green Helmet Guy and Bomb Magnet Lady (she had several homes bombed by Israel for several different articles). They can use props like ash-free teddy bears and Korans in burned out cars. And they can forget the photos and just make up sources like Iraqi policemen who either don't exist or have the name but never actually spoke to them. But will that be enough to make up for the productivity loss from giving up shopping images?
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 28, 2009
Back to Toulouse-Lautrec and Vive l'Affiche! If these politicians have their way the great French poster art tradition is in for a revival.

As docknowledge so aptly explained, photography is also an art form.

Better they should look at the education curriculum in France. It would seem that the kids there could improve on their ability to make value judgments about reality and to brush up on their art appreciation.
5 / 5 (7) Sep 28, 2009
Theres a big diffference between changing the color or the size of an image and changing the look of a person.

The amount of photoshopping done on any printed image is staggering.

I, for one, welcome this. When you look at what is done to an image to make a billboard you'll be amazed at how non-human it is. things like making the eyes bigger and further apart. Removing the slightest blemish, reshaping all of the facial lines... this isn't natural and is a long way from changing the color or file format.

Dove did a nice commercial where they take an ordianry girl, show her getting a thousand pictures done, and then show the photoshopping done to make it a billboard. rediculous. The end product didn't look anything like the original. I don't know why they start with a real photo if they are just going to redraw the entire image....
5 / 5 (2) Sep 28, 2009
I sorta agree where they are coming from, just think they should handle it differently. New laws seem to hurt more then they help most of the time.

They could tax advertisers a very small amount and use the income for education videos on how deceptive advertising can be and how to avoid deceptive products.

Also don't focus just on the beauty industry either, the majority of corporations use these types of tactics.
3 / 5 (2) Sep 28, 2009
Lord jag, the problem is...there's no way to avoid making a value judgment.

Cameras do not record "the truth", they attempt to record light that is sent to their film or sensor. That film or sensor does NOT record every frequency equally. Every film, every sensor is different. Very few people have the understanding, ability or interest to compensate in any scientific way. So, as every photographer does, people invest a minimum amount of time to achieve an acceptable result. There isn't any other possible way to do it.

If flash makes a person look bad -- say because they have oily skin -- well that's the flash, not the "truth". They don't really have a bright shiny spot on their nose. And "redeye"? No one in the world has bright red pupils ... if the photo is NOT retouched it's telling a lie. Not the other way around.
5 / 5 (3) Sep 28, 2009
Agreed, but look at this:


I'm not looking at the makeup or hairdo, just the photoshopping. Once again, there is a HUGE differece between fixing read-eye or a bright shiney spot on the forehead and what these people do.

A good photopragher can easily use lighting solutions that combat both of those. That's not the issue. It's the disfiguring of the photograph that is the issue. Please... look at the video and see the differnece.
not rated yet Sep 28, 2009
Yes, Lord jag. Absolutely right. There's a difference between alterations with the intent to deceive and alternations that are just trying to make a faithful representation.

But there's no way to make a law to enforce that. For thousands of years, women, and sometimes men, put on makeup to improve their appearance. Eye liner to make eyes appear larger, powder to hide skin imperfections. If there's going to be a law about this, then make it a law that nobody may post a photo of themselves online, wearing makeup. Right?
not rated yet Sep 28, 2009
I think it is a very good idea as this deception causes serious harm.

The law should only apply to commercials and only those featuring human body though. Modifications which alter the whole of the body depicted the same way should be allowed, but not those which distort just some parts of it.
5 / 5 (3) Sep 28, 2009
The only real reason to complain is that trickery wouldn't be allowed to pass itself off as legitimate. I don't think a small legalese in the corner of an ad or magazine would be any more of an eyesore than the ad itself or the lettering in the magazine (but it would make whoever presented a falsified image look silly for trying to pass it off as normal). If they make the law pertain strictly to the dimensions of the original person then I think any concerns about altered lighting or coloration should be left out as those could be created in the scene while the picture is actually taken (with makeup for instance). It's really all about faking thinness and making people look like exotic aliens instead of the reality that we all live with.
3.7 / 5 (6) Sep 28, 2009
How about people quit whining and realize that they can't look like a top fashion model. If you are trying to hold yourself up to some fantasy standard that is created in Hollywood or Paris, there is something wrong with you. This is all caused by the idolization of celebrities.
Sep 29, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
not rated yet Oct 03, 2009
I don't understand all the people whining against this law.

Obviously, this law doesn't concern landscapes edits or color adjusting, this is about photoshoping people to distort the way they look which causes a false projection of reality onto the viewers .

Are you stupid or do you like to post negative comments just for the sake of it? Damn trolls..
not rated yet Oct 04, 2009
Can't an image editing software output a log of all the transformations an image is subjected to? The law should just set a threshold, a number of operations beyond which an image is considered heavily altered. Some sort of commission would be charged with supervising the whole thing.

Then, when the legislation is settled in place, corruption can take its course and things will slowly return to normal for the bigger companies. But just a news headline about this law should help with raising awareness of the issue.
not rated yet Oct 04, 2009
It's all about those big companies trying to make money with a product that doesn't work. You see, they run ads with a "before and after" photos of a 300lbs girl who lost 200lbs within 30 days, and shows 2 pictures to prove it. But you know what? the picture of the now skinny girl is from the fat one but modified with Photoshop. The problem is those big companies will do anything to make you believe in something.

What the law should be instead, is the images of people should have a warning that the model on the photo has not been altered to make here look more skinny than she is, or something along that line. This way, if a photo does not have this warning, don't trust it. If it does have the warning and it's fake, we can sue or even shutdown the business for falsification.
not rated yet Nov 20, 2009
Today we salute you Mr Centerfold re-toucher.
Your incredible talent takes gorgeous women and somehow makes them gorgeouser!

Thanks to you we can enjoy real beauty the way me like it... completely fake!

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