Research Paper (draft 2)

Laiza Millan

Mass Communications

March 4, 2014

Photoshop and Fashion Magazines

        What makes a beautiful model in a fashion magazine picture? An unblemished skin, a body that is free from any disgusting body fat, and the height to match their striking poses? Beautiful young women such as these can be seen in a variety of fashion magazines. Fashion magazines that are targeted to young girls ages 11 and 18. However, as much as readers love to see how a model looks with a brand name outfit, their beauty is magnified and edited with the use of a picture editing tool known as Photoshop. Thanks to Photoshop, media literacy should be taught to young girls’ ages 11 to 18, to help them understand they are being manipulated by the fake beautified pictures of these models in the fashion magazine.

Body Image

    According to a study in Pediatrics, about two-thirds of girls in the 5th to 12th grades said that magazine images influence their vision of an ideal body (Ross, Carolyn, 2014). Body image develops in the context of sociocultural factors, such as unrealistic media images of female beauty. The more teens thought about the pictures and compared themselves critically to models they saw in fashion magazines, the more likely they were to have problems with their own body image. When young girls see a picture of a beautiful model in a magazine, wearing perfectclothes and wearing beautiful make-up, they would want to be just like that individual in the paper. But what can society do when the media uses fashion magazines project these images? In a Huffingtonpost article written by Vivian Diller, Ph.D, she suggests that people need to relieve America’s youth of the pressure to meet unrealistic body standard established by these distorted images, The American Medical Association (AMA) stated that it was against image manipulation, stating that photo alteration tools such as Photoshop can contribute to unrealistic body image expectations (Diller, 2007). Teenagers would be willing to change their image or the way they because they want to have that perfect look the media claims, not knowing it is all unreal. In fact, these models get their picture taken and the studio gets their real picture Photoshopped. Meaning their waist gets slimmer, their neck becomes longer, the pimples or zits on their faces completely vanish, and would even make their skin lighter too; making the ‘perfect look’. Thanks to the AMA, it is just beginning to raise public awareness of the impact of image manipulation on childhood development. Knowing that photo alteration tools such as Photoshop can contribute to the way young girls see their own body image, it is very important that they are educated with the knowledge that those beautiful models in the fashion magazine pictures is not, in fact, like that in real life.


     “We’re seeing girls at younger ages starting to be dissatisfied with their bodies, proactively trying to change them, and feeling like they need to emulate something different than what their bodies can do,” says Elissa Gittes, MD, a pediatrician in the division of adolescent medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh (Huebeck, Elizabeth, 2011). In an attempt to emulate the countless media images they view, girls would often go to extremes. Many end up with very low self-esteem, and some with dangerous eating disorders. According to the textbook, Mass Media: In a Changing the World, the ideal female model for a fashion magazine must be 5 feet 4 inches tall and weigh less than 120 pounds. Just looking at these images in the fashion magazines, young girls will be pressuring themselves to lose weight just to remain thin. The Photoshopped pictures influences the girls to diet secretly without telling anyone, which can cause harmful damage to their own bodies making them unhealthy. Young girls’ self-esteem will be tested because they cannot help but compare themselves to the models in the magazine. They will be thinking, “If only I had a trainer or a stylist, then I will end up looking like that.” Why are teens focused on staying thin after seeing the pictures on a magazine? In Western society, the media pushes that sort of thought into magazines knowing that young girls are the largest consumers when it comes to fashion. The magazine wants the viewers, in this case young girls that are around in the ages of 11 to 18, want them to have that mindset of needing to look like the models. So, they have that “thin at all costs” movement that rages and defines the Western culture; which can cause a problem. If a young girl who happens to be 5 foot 3 and weigh 140 pounds, she is going to compare herself to that image in the magazine and her self-esteem will more than likely be challenged as well.  According to the article Why Do Women Hate Their Bodies by Carolyn Ross, MD, in Psycentral, a study in Pediatrics, about half of the girls who are in 5th to 12th  grade, said the images made them want to lose weight (Ross, Carolyn, 2014). Young girls’ view the magazine at an early age and that is when they start pressuring themselves about getting the right body image society tells them too. If media literacy is being taught to young girls about the images in these fashion magazines, they will know the real life models in the magazines are not at all as they appear to be, and these girls will have the idea of what a “real” healthy ideal body looks like.


      According to a fashion magazine known as Glamour, by journalist Shaun Dreisbach, “Nearly 60 percent [of women] feel it’s OK for a woman to tweak her personal pictures” (Dreisbach, Shaun, 2013). In an article of Glamour magazine, it explained how a large percentage of young girls would Photoshop their pictures to get rid of any ‘imperfections’. Glamour commissioned an independent nationwide survey of 1,000 women to find out what their intake is with Photoshopping ones picture. Apparently, many women have no problem with digitally erasing small imperfections such as pimples, baby fats, or other imperfections. However, they only agree to a certain extent. To some young girls, having their photo beautified can be flattering for their image. They feel they are compelled to fix any imperfections they see on the image. They compare themselves to the pictures of the fashion magazines, and cannot help but go ahead and retouched their own photos, adding longer legs, whiter skin, whiter teeth, and anti-blemishes; anything to help them look even slightly closer to the pictures in the magazine. In the Post-Dispatch, written by fashion editor, Debra D. Bass, she interviewed a full-time photo editor whose job was to take pictures of celebrities, Meg Hensley. “Slimming and changing arms or a waist is not meant to create something unnatural or exaggerated, it’s not meant to be malicious on purpose,” Hensley said. “The goal is not making a size 2 look as if she’s a size negative 33, but she just might be standing in a way that makes her arm look big in proportion to her body or she slouched, but otherwise it’s a good image.” (Bass, Debra, 2014). It is not necessary a bad thing to use Photoshop to edit ones pictures. As Dreisbach from Glamour found out, a handful of women claim that it can be a good thing, because it helps shed some light on how they physically look. To them, it is okay to make your arms look more slimmer, or your face to be clear from zits. But to some extent, meaning the pictures in the magazines can be extremely edited to the point where the celebrity is nearly unrecognizable. Young girls will be going through puberty, meaning they will have to go through so many physical changes as well, so to them, they find a photo alteration tool such as Photoshop can be a good thing, especially since they see the models in the magazines use them as well. It is true that the use of Photoshop to manipulate the pictures in a magazine is a concern for young girls. But when it comes to publicity and fashion magazines, a photographer can manipulate what the viewer sees. Some young girls are aware that what you see is not necessarily what you see in reality. So, if young girls are aware of the fact that the pictures they see in the fashion magazines is not 100% true and they are okay with having their pictures edited to look like a better version of themselves, as long as they know the risks.

In the End

       According to a 2006 report by Magazine Publishers of America, 78% of young girls read magazines. A 1999 study made by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that teens 15 to 18 years old spend an average of 13 minutes daily reading magazines. Using Photoshop in a fashion magazine to attract young girls can be a mixture of positive and negative. Positive, because as some of the editors say, it can make their models or celebrities clear from any slight imperfections, giving them that classic beauty looks. But perhaps too much of Photoshop can have a negative side-affect as well because based  on the research, many girls between the ages of 11 to 18, compare themselves to the images they see in fashion magazines such as Vogue and even Seventeen magazines. A small comparison can lead to a bigger effect, where girls compare their body image and then their self-esteem becomes tested.  It is not very easy to just hide these young girls from the media. It is impossible to hide the fashion magazines that are littered in every doctor’s offices, even at the store. But it would be a great opportunity for the parents to get involved, as they educate these young girls. At this generation, it is very important that social media is taught to young girls at least at the ages of 11 to 18. They need to understand what is being shown to them because at the end of the day, Photoshop usage in a fashion magazine still exists today. Some girls who are against using photo alteration tools, has finally decided to speak up. A 13 year old girl name Julia Bluhm, submitted a petition though a website called, telling Seventeen Magazine to show “real” women from now on instead of Photoshop. The magazine’d editor-in-chief Ann Shoket replied back saying they created a Body Peace Treaty for the magazine staff – which is a list of vows on how they will run things to make the readers feel “amazing”.


About laizamillan90

Hello I'm Laiza! I'm a certified Phlebotomist but with a hidden talent for writing! I'm back in college again and still working for the big man. I am writing my own fiction YA book and hoping one day to get it published!

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