Retouched Pretties

Since writing Uglies, I’ve been asked a lot whether I think it’s dangerous for kids to be exposed to so many images of beautiful celebrities. Well, yes, comparing your own body and face to “perfect” celebs leads to unrealistic expectations. But what most people don’t realize is how unrealistic these images are, because of this one important fact:

Celebrities aren’t as pretty as we think we are. Their flawless skin, gorgeous bone structure, and radiant faces are mostly the result of technology. No, not futuristic cosmetic surgery: Photoshop.

Here’s a great example from a Swedish site called G!irlpower:

The image on the left is the original photo; the one on the right shows it after typical magazine retouching.

Click here for the entire experience, which allows you to zoom in on all of the parts of the girl before and after the retouching.

But one word of warning: Don’t start thinking that this girl was in any way “ugly” before the retouching. She’s actually quite cute. And frankly, I think the original image is much more attractive and more human, less false and exaggerated. It’s only “ugly” if your eye gets calibrated to accept only flawless skin. (And blue eyes and blond hair . . . hmmm.)

It’s not just magazines that retouch people—films do it too. My sister-in-law does visual effects for Hollywood movies (like King Kong). And believe me, for every hour she spends making sure Naomi Watts and Kong have the same lighting, she’s spent ten getting rid of certain stars’ zits and pores and wrinkles.

For more retouching examples from magazines, check out Model 1 and Model 2. These examples will show you why photographs of you don’t look like photos of models in magazines. Because you don’t spend 20 hours Photoshopping your own image.

And really, why would you want to?

I got the G!rlpower link from E. Lockhart, via Justine, and the last two links from Boing Boing.

65 thoughts on “Retouched Pretties

  1. yeah, i always wondered why they looked so good. iknew that the did airbrush and stuff, but not to that extent! mabey pretties are just air-brushed versions of themselves. scott, on the cover of pretties did the people get air brushed, they most-likely did. just wondering

  2. Gosh, even that blonde’s shirt is a completely different color in the second photo. People that change photos like that really piss me off. Completely un natural, artificial, brain washing, dull, need I say more? Young women go suicidal from crap like that.

  3. Amy: Yeah, I’m pretty sure that all three covers are manipulated. Although UGLIES seems less so—like, she has pores on her skin. And SPECIALS more so, for obvious reaons.

    Bailey: cool stuff! I like the Day One series. (Those spaces result from putting in a web address without a hard return before it. I fixed it, because I am a good man.)

    Onyx: It is very brain-washing, isn’t it? Did you notice how she looks sort of inflated? Her hair, cheeks and breasts have all expanded . . .

    Perhaps true beauty comes from a bicycle pump. Discuss.

  4. The bicycle pump idea might be like THE solution for some people, but I think everyone should just accept the way they are. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with zit creams or anything. It’s just that lots of people spend ridiculous amounts of money, time and pain trying to change the things they were born with. Wouldn’t life be boring if everyone in the world had C-sized boobs or perfectly straight hair or blue eyes and were exactly the same height? Which is kind of what Pretties is all about, I guess… GAH! it’s two months after it’s out in the US, and they STILL haven’t gotten Pretties in.

  5. Bicycle pump: how about deflating? Everyone talks about *ahem* the small problems, but big is also frowned upon.
    Also, to be completely honest, go on about “being yourself” all you like, but it’s not true. If I had any working knowledge of photoshop, I would alter my pictures, no question. I’m sick of looking washed out and blotchy in everything, I would love to be perfect.
    hell, I would LOVE to be pretty!

    I’m also terribly shallow, but at least I’m not lying to myself.
    (well, maybe a little)

  6. oh so true, i like to say that im ok with the way i look. but id be lying(that is a confusing word to spell…liing,ling,lying?? i dont know). im not to shallow, i still love people just the way they are, but i wish i was prettier.

    air pump, well, not quite. more like cylacone pump. but bailey nice pics. very artistic and expressive. i have to say tho, one of those pics looks like the cover of peeps (the cool one not the lame US one)

  7. Thank you Scott. 🙂 …My good man, myaa myaa myaa. Haha….Yes.
    And thank you Amy. You’re right….o.O I didn’t even notice, but yes it does resemble the Peeps cover.

  8. Mindy and Amy: I know what you guys mean. If it were possible, I would like to be less blotchy and pimply (euw) in photos… And I am completely hopeless at photoshop. I’m just curious, what are your ideas of “pretty”? What would you change about yourself? (even though you can’t, you have to admit, it is fun to fantasize like Tally does with the morphos). I’d probably adjust the size and shape of my nose so it doesn’t look like a potato… But I think I’d look weird because I’m Asian, and most Asians have broader noses than our Western friends…

  9. All of you are completely glamorous just the way you are, this moment. Don’t let mans fake image of ‘beautiful’ rule the way you think about youself. Your so called ‘flaws’ ( which they aren’t) make you unique, wonderful, and perfectly you. So stop for a minute and realize you are wasting your energy and time on thinking so hard about what you wish you could change, and why don’t you spend that time accepting yourself in every way? It will completely change the way people see you. * sorry scott this isnt about you.. you can delete this comment if you wish*

  10. Thanks for posting that… I wish everyone influenced by celeberitys’ images, could realize about all of this…

  11. I just went a on te GirlPower website. Frankly, the girl looks fake like a human sized barbie after all of that…

  12. hmm…ya ur rite the girl looks much prettier in the first and less, like kayla said, like a barbie doll. but y would they change the shirt colour? if they can afford to use all those hightech gizmo thingies couldnt they afford a nice shirt?

  13. Why is this world so confusing? The people that are naturally “pretty” don’t really appreciate what they have, and the people that are not that pretty dream of being beautiful… I think what Scott did in the book is smart. I mean, making them all think the same doesn’t permit them to have huge arguments and stuff that will result in war or something. Looking back up at the picture, you see the face is less rounded, her lips more shiny, her eyes with a sparkly, everything highlighted… how did the media come up with THIS being the ideal beauty for everything and everyone? In the future, I’m planning to either be a writer and a magazine editor, and I can come up with a couple of reasons for media to do the following. Maybe by making the celebrities pictures more “beautiful” there will be more sales… I mean, would you like to see a celeb in a magazine with a huge pimple on his/her nose ? and other disgusting blemishes? I mean, sure, they have to be proud of their natural beauty but… some sections add some pictures of celebs without make up, and they find the worst possibly picture they can find of them. Why? To make a great article. And that’s when you notice they great difference between them in a cover page of a magazine , and in a day to day picture of them. Personally, I’d find the photoshop picture more flattering.. With that picture of that blonde, that was uploaded, I don’t really see anything.. ugly or anything. The second picture looks too artificial, and God, they’re going too far. I mean, making her breasts larger? That celeb can find reason to sue. I would personally be appaled… I mean, that wouldn’t be ME. I agree with photoshop pictures.. but now when they’re going too far. I’d say it would be ok to edit off some acne and stuff. Like ‘Mindy’ said above. She would love to be pretty. And I think you are. In your own unique way. But maybe you’re looking at your imperfections rather then the whole picture. Which is probably really flattering. =)

  14. I just got finished reading ‘Uglies,’ it took me all of a day. I couldn’t put it down it’s amazing. i’m going out tonight to get ‘pretties’. I just wanted to let you know that everything i’ve read of yours so far was excellent. good job.

  15. yes, yes, a barbie. but if barbie was real she would be 7 feet tall. but i know what you mean.

    barbies scare me any ways, ever since i saw this movie where the barbies came alive and killed people, gahh. creepy!!

  16. Have you guys noticed this phenomenon? When you tell someone else that a photo of them is really good, they always go, “AAAAHH!” and point to some tiny blemish that you totally missed. It’s like you’re looking at two different pictures.

    I guess it’s fair to say that some Photoshopping merely removes evils that the camera added. Like demonic red-eye, or weird bags under the eyes. The main thing to remember about photos is that they aren’t real, either with or without manipulation. Most people look much better live than in a photo.

    I sure hope I do . . .

  17. My sister does that! I’ll think it’s a really nice picture and she’ll be all “My nose looks funny!” or “My mouth looks funny!” or “My face is too round!…it looks funny!”
    That first set of pictures there, I like the first one better. The second one she looks too…Ashley Simpson, y’know? Bluuuugh.

  18. Maybe my appearance in pictures bother me because I spend so much time taking pictures of other people that look fantastic, and I always look horrible. I could of course change it around, so it’s just the photogropher’s fault, but I’m not one to lie to myself.
    And to be honest, when I do look in the mirror, I’m not normally horrified by what I see, I just feel (and I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way) like I’m the only one who sees the good stuff.
    People are constantly comparing themselves to others, and I know that it’s wrong and you should be happy with how you are, but that doesn’t change the way I or anyone else really feels about themselves.
    And, last one I promise, the fact that the people in magazines aren’t really perfect doesn’t change the fact that I wish I was.
    sorry this is so long…

  19. I admit: I’m guilty of pointing out the phantom bags that the camera adds under my eyes. Why does that happen? lighting? But I make a point of smiling for almost every photograph that is being taken. I don’t do that pout thing that a lot of my friends do (or the pursed up kissy-kissy lips?) because if other people don’t think I look nice, at least they can see that I’m having fun.

  20. I agree that people look better live than in a photo. This is especially true for yearbook photos (who agrees?), well, most yearbook photos. Some people are just photogenic *grumble*. My school photographer uses photoshop, and when you look through the yearbook, you can see people with scary looking eyes (solid black pupils and irises? AAH!). I was victim to scary-eye syndrome in the 7th grade. And for some reason he made my brother’s lips slightly pinker so it looks as if he’s wearing lipstick… Weird…

  21. Just as a matter of interest, how is this photoshopping much different to wearing makeup, push-up bras, colouring one’s hair, etc etc?

    We are constantly trying to make the genuine article into something it’s not. Why? Do we have an overwhelming desire to make the purveyors of these falsifying products rich? Hmmm…I doubt that’s it…

    And Scott, congrats on your success with the Aurealis shortlist!

  22. Okay, that is relaly freaky. they like totally altered her genetics…lol.
    but c’mon guys, would you honestly like to see photos like the original ones in the magazines….like what would you be buying magazines for? might as well just look at photologs online….
    just another POV… 😛

  23. yes i am NOT photogenic either. i think all my pics look bad. but smiling adds these odd shaodws to your face. why cant it be like the… ummm well, a long time ago, when they didnt smile. they dont look to bad(except for the demon possesed look, creepy).

  24. i also agree that people look a lot better in real life than in photos. yearbook photos are definitely the worst and i always look terrible in them. then again, so does everyone else except for the photogenic people. i can be photogenic but i’m usually not, lol.

    that’s really creepy how they photoshopped the model. photoshop takes too long for me to bother with it (although bailey i looked at your stuff on deviant art and i really like it! i love the one w/ ur sister and it’s like red and stuff)

  25. I don’t like magazines. They just give normal human beings undeserved attention because they were in a movie or on a show or something like that. Like….like they’re better than everyone else. When they’re not. Makes me rather angry, actually. I won’t deny enjoying movies, but they don’t make someone better than anyone else. And most actors and actresses aren’t very good anymore anyway…
    Oh yes, thank you L. That’s one of my favorites also.
    Oh look, Petey is online…

  26. heeeeey scott!! i am doing a book report, so im doing it on uglies. so i have to do the whole ‘theme’ crap. so, for uglies “the moral of the story is…” fill in the blank. i think its your’e beautiful just the way you are. but some of my (not vey smart) friend said i was wrong, it was somthing about love. well i was just wonderin’ (i do that alot)…..

  27. but c’mon guys, would you honestly like to see photos like the original ones in the magazines….like what would you be buying magazines for?

    june: People did buy magazines before Photoshop, after all, even before airbrushing. So the retouching isn’t what we buy the magazines for. The question is, would enough of us buy a celebrity magazine now that didn’t retouch anyone, or are too many people’s eyes burned out? Would such a magazine just disappear?

    My yearbook photos are all unpleasant.

    amy: The theme could be both about love and looks, you know.

    Okay, everyone. Amy is being lazy. What’s the “theme” of Uglies?

  28. wow it was so interesting to read all the replies to your blog. And it was so weird to see the real vs. photoshopped pictures. It was disturbing actually.
    I hate the media sometimes, becuase I think it does cause people to not like how they look becuase they compare themselves to others.
    I see so many people (and I too) go through hating themselves and trying different methods of changing their looks and their bodies and everything about themselves.
    It’s sad.
    Once we depended on our bodies for survival. But now, in the first world anyway, it seems that the body, the face are purely aesthetic. And we’ll go to any means (often unhealthy or fake) just to have a pleasing face/body because looks are all that matter.

  29. ok NOT being lazy……just open to the opinions of others. i now have to switch my book to pretties any way, so its that same theme right? i’ll say yeah. my teachers wont read the book anyway, so i could even say somthin about betraying friends, which could also work. see im not lazy i have pleanty of themes, i just want to hear yours.

  30. finding themes is kinda hard so idk but maybe you could do something about how tally changes over the course of the book…? and then of course theres the whole like future theme and maybe choosing between friends and love? idk.

  31. Romance, Survival, Individual thinking, Rebellion, Betrayal, Friendship, Hmmm… i can’t come up with a good enough theme. lol, the book kinda covers a lot.

  32. WOW!!I mean look at the difference!!itis horrible to do something like that to a photo the first one is fine!!! beauty comes from within not from photoshop!!!!!****Mandy****

  33. Ok the retouch pic. is scary it looks like the chicks off of stanford wife’s or something. like a robot.

  34. So I landed on your Blog because I was lamenting about the fact that I’m not photogenic at all and wanted to find some solutions. But seeing the Before and after photos on one of the links i don’t feel so bad. Although I would love to be able to take a Beautiful un Retouched kodak moment – but no such luck. I will say that when I’m ready for the calender shoot the Retoucher will be the first person I call!!!!

  35. Whoa. I knew they photoshopped stuff but… well, at least now I know why almost every freakin’ person in Lord of the Rings has electric blue eyes.

  36. HEY!!! i love LOTR the only person with blue eyes is frodo, and his eyes are natural. i mean………yeah freaky, totally!

  37. Wow! That’s amazing to think about. Seeing before and after pictures like that could really boost one’s selfesteem. They sure don’t do that to yearbook pictures.

  38. i think that you are the best auther there ever was to be!!!!! i loved the uglies but then i read the pretties i am in love with that book!!!! i can’t wait until specials!!!!! please hury i love your books!!! thank you for being such a great auther!!!! byebye

  39. Our Class is reading the uglies, and soon the pretties. I couldnt stand the wait, so my dad bought me both books…. i finished both of them and my class is only half way through the first!! i’m soooooo excited for the specials. When is it coming out??

  40. I love how you showed the digital “fixing”!! I think my friend would love this site. Anyway I think what you show at the top of the page would show people the truth of being “perfect”. I mean people do crappy stuff to themselves so they can be like a celeb. When truth betold no one will ever look like that unless you can predict the future through your writing (which would be creepy but not that unrealistic with todays society). Anyway your a tatally awsome writer and the Uglie,Pretties,and Specials should ba a trilogy times like four (whatever that would make it)! I really want specials to come out SUPER SOON!!!!!!!!!!!!

  41. Wow, i just finished reading ur book today, and i am in awe….To be honest, it was the beautiful picture on the conver that intriqued me, thinking it was going to be another teen book about adults and teenagers having plastic surgery to be pretty- how blase. But as i was always told, don’t judge a book by it’s cover, and the more I read the more i couldn’t put it down-it proved me wrong. I find it sometimes hard to find interesting teen books that have such a message in them, with such a capturing story, and I am thoroughly impressed. This book definetly goes in my list of top 5 books. O, and Scott (or anyone else who might know), is the woman on the cover supposed to represent an ugly or a pretty? Is it Tally or any of the other characters? Thanks!

  42. Hi, it’s me again, i just wanted to add a little comment. Not to focus too much on the cover of Uglies, but i do want to say that i absolutely love how it shows natural beauty. While i don’t know for sure if she is wearing makeup or not, it sure doesn’t look like she is and yet she is still stunningly beautiful. I love how while there is no eye-liner, photoshop to cover her pores, no mascara, and even being among leaves and foliage it is her natural beauty that stands out 🙂

  43. Now that’s FUNNY! The post before this one is robot-spam, for acne treatment. How appropriate.

    Livi: Specials comes out May 9.

    Lilly: Yeah, I think she is an ugly, even though she’s quite cute. That is, her skin has real pores and even some blemishes, so in the City they would be all, “ew.”

  44. hi, me again. is there any info. you can give us on the Specials?? or any hints about the cover?? Will David come back into the Specials? or can you not tell us that. The main question on my mind is, Does Tally stay special?? but you most likely cannot answer that. Well anyway i’m excited for the specials!

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