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See, They Aren't Perfect!
August 24, 2005 10:04 AM   Subscribe

Glenn Feron - The Art of Retouching
(warning, site is potentially NSFW)
The site is slow but his work is impressive, taking fairly dull celebrity shots and shining them up to magazine quality perfection.
Previous retouching post with a link to a site with a much nicer interface but nowhere near as much content.
posted by fenriq (70 comments total)

 
I for one welcome our freaky plastic mannequin glass-eyed celebrity overlords.

This one is ridiculous! Great post.
posted by fire&wings at 10:13 AM on August 24, 2005


Timed out. The other site is pretty crazy, though. I had missed that post.
posted by OmieWise at 10:14 AM on August 24, 2005


Yeesh. More like "The Ham-Fisted Attempts at Turning Women into Vargas Prints."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:14 AM on August 24, 2005


Some of these "retouches" are just plain alterations. Yikes.
posted by theknacker at 10:18 AM on August 24, 2005


The actual site seems to be much faster than the Coral cache that is in the FPP.

A lot of the work seems to be shadow reduction. You'd think they would just light them better if they're pro photographers.
posted by smackfu at 10:21 AM on August 24, 2005


A lot of the work seems to be shadow reduction.

And extreme overuse of COLOR > SATURATION+.

But I applaud his attempts at eliminating pores from the human body.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:24 AM on August 24, 2005


Thanks smackfu, that one works.
posted by OmieWise at 10:25 AM on August 24, 2005


You'd think they would just light them better

...or just use mannequins, since that seems to be the look they're going for anyway.
posted by howling fantods at 10:31 AM on August 24, 2005


These pictures are kind of creepy. They make me feel dirty in some kind of way, and I really wish that there were more of men, since men are also on magazine covers. It's striking to me how many retouches, especially on facial close ups, seem to be make-up enhancements, since I assume that the stars were already made up before the photo shoot.

It also reminds me of the list of stars who are going to look horrible on HDTV.
posted by OmieWise at 10:35 AM on August 24, 2005


Thanks smackfu, not sure how I got into the coral cache version of the site.
posted by fenriq at 10:36 AM on August 24, 2005


Thank God for men like Mr Feron. Without them, we'd be forced to look at imperfect women.
posted by QuietDesperation at 10:38 AM on August 24, 2005


If you move your mouse on and off them really fast, they look like they're dancing. Freaky dancing. Especially this one.
posted by voltairemodern at 10:38 AM on August 24, 2005


These are meant to be "improvements"?

And why on earth is he changing eye color from brown to blue on so many black women?
posted by ceri richard at 10:44 AM on August 24, 2005


If you ask me, this guy hasn't done Halle Berry any favors. I think she's more attractive in all of the 'before' pictures than she is in any of the 'after' ones.
posted by crunchland at 10:54 AM on August 24, 2005


I need to get me on this diet.
posted by mosch at 10:57 AM on August 24, 2005


Hahahha, I laughed at this one because it means someone looked at the pic and decided that Vida Guerra's real-life ass was waaaay too small.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:00 AM on August 24, 2005


Awesome...
posted by Elpoca at 11:02 AM on August 24, 2005


Man, as an avergage-shaped woman, this just pisses me off no end. Instantly tummy tucked, boobs enlarged, celulite eliminated, eyes lifted. Oy! No wonder I hate my back fat.

However, I think the butt-lifts are really funny when you move the cursor back and forth.

And I'm with crunchland, I think Halle Berry looks better in the before.
posted by Specklet at 11:13 AM on August 24, 2005


If the lines made by a bent elbow are so icky, then I imagine this guy would buckle and scream if confronted with an actual vagina. Work like this must make it impossible to sustain an erection over anyone with an actual body, male or female.

Watching all those boobs and butts inflate/deflate is exhausting.
posted by hermitosis at 11:18 AM on August 24, 2005


smackfu: A lot of the work seems to be shadow reduction. You'd think they would just light them better if they're pro photographers.

I bet the photographers are already doing everything that is possible to reduce shadows. The real world simply contains shadows - one can reduce them, but never eliminate them entirely. The goal in this commercial stuff is obviously not realism, but a sort of arrestingly flawless fantasy, eye-catching in part because of it's contrast with familiar, mundane reality. Therefore, "Away with the last tiny vestiges of shadow!" the thinking probably goes.

On the one hand, it's creepy as Hell to see every woman magically transformed into the same Barbie doll. On the other hand it's hardly a new thing to shape people's opinions by focusing on appearance, or to use artifice of all sorts to develop and maintain that appearance.
posted by Western Infidels at 11:18 AM on August 24, 2005


Two things: one, photoshop has ruined reality, and two, the android women make me want to buy things.
posted by mmcg at 11:37 AM on August 24, 2005


this one looks worse as the 'retouch'. Why do people think oversaturating images makes them look better? In this case, the colors are actualy clipped.
posted by delmoi at 11:47 AM on August 24, 2005


this one was actualy a beautiful photograph before it was ruined by this idiot hack.
posted by delmoi at 11:48 AM on August 24, 2005


Why are they all bright orange? Most black women are not bright orange.

Also, please start allowing white models to have the kind of curves these models have. More booty for everyone!
posted by LeeJay at 11:55 AM on August 24, 2005


God this just pisses me off. Someone looked at this photo of a gorgeous woman with an amazing body and said, "Nope. Still too fat! Take an inch or two off of her enormous gut!" This is what we're up against, every goddamned day. It's insidious and exhausting.
posted by LeeJay at 11:59 AM on August 24, 2005


ick. some of these just look like cartoons.
posted by timory at 12:08 PM on August 24, 2005


Those are some noses!
posted by kenko at 12:17 PM on August 24, 2005


It's interesting how much personality much of the retouching removes. (timory's link above is a good example)
posted by papercake at 12:23 PM on August 24, 2005


God this just pisses me off. Someone looked at this photo of a gorgeous woman with an amazing body and said, "Nope. Still too fat! Take an inch or two off of her enormous gut!" This is what we're up against, every goddamned day. It's insidious and exhausting.

I'm with you, sister! I recently lost someone to fake breasts. You start to feel like your real body is inferior, when in reality, it's real, and not full of silicone, and not retouched... although men are getting programmed to want what's in these photos. What are they going to do when they realize there's not enough of that to go around?
posted by WaterSprite at 12:38 PM on August 24, 2005


Nothing new here:

Portrait photography was enormously popular among the middle class, but picture patrons complained that the images showed all their facial peculiarities. Consequently, photographers of the day regularly softened wrinkles and removed facial blemishes with elaborate techniques. One of the earliest portrait photographers was Frenchman, Gaspard Felix Tournachon, or Nadar as he was professionally named. Although Nadar employed "six retouchers of negatives; and three artists for retouching the positive prints," he personally found the custom of retouching photographs to be "detestable and costly"

Artists in all media—stone, paint, film, and electrons—have been flattering their subjects for centuries. If they don't look good, your bank account isn't going to look very good, either. Considering that the star du jour's face and figure (and their endorsed product) is now in competition for millions of eyeballs, they need to be made as attractive as possible.

Start with a decent face/body and skillfully modify them with makeup, hairstyling, clothing (more or less), lighting, film, photography, retouching, reproduction, and layout, and you may get the buyer's attention. Reality has very little to do with it:

Hurrell’s exhaustive retouching of negatives to eliminate unwanted facial and body blemishes and to enhance the subjects finest qualities continues to be a source of controversy among movie and art critics. Each negative was painstakingly scrubbed and worked over with graphite powder smoothing away blemishes and unwanted lines. What resulted was a stunning photographic transformation – a fantasy of beauty and perfection. "The stuff dreams are made of"...
posted by cenoxo at 12:43 PM on August 24, 2005


how humiliating. i'm in the middle of reading e.m. forster's 'howard's end.' i'm quite sure his heroine, Margaret -- and even Helen, for that matter -- would never put up with this sort of treatment.
posted by Hobbacocka at 12:48 PM on August 24, 2005


Creepy and quite interesting.

Which reminds me of two things.

Firstly, a friend visiting recently made a laughingly snide comment about the couple of Maxim's I had hanging around, commenting about my predilection for "plastic women". Plastic? That would be a compliment to a nonexistent surgeon. Those images are so Photoshopped that the only real connection to the image and the model is the name alone.

Secondly, there was this little celluloid gem from way back when. Art imitating life or vice versa? Not too far off I reckon.
posted by elendil71 at 12:54 PM on August 24, 2005


As the fortune cookie says, may you live in interesting BEAUTIFUL times.
posted by eatitlive at 1:12 PM on August 24, 2005


"... although men are getting programmed to want what's in these photos."

It ain't working. These after pics just creep me out.
posted by Evstar at 1:23 PM on August 24, 2005


I agree with evstar, I wouldn't want to get with some of those after people, they would make my imperfections look so much worse and I'd be worried about creasing their skin or something.

I like natural, healthy beauty.

But I admit that I wouldn't mind seeing what one of these folks could do for some of my pictures to make me prettier than I already am.
posted by fenriq at 1:47 PM on August 24, 2005


Hmm, I guess prettier wouldn't be right term, maybe I should have said "perfectier" than I already am.
posted by fenriq at 1:47 PM on August 24, 2005


Baudrillard comes to mind.
posted by TwelveTwo at 3:17 PM on August 24, 2005


But would anyone actually think that those pictures aren't touched up? Take the reverse-clone of Halley Berry's foot.
posted by Citizen Premier at 3:27 PM on August 24, 2005


Thanks to that site, I'm now mousing over every photo I find on the web, expecting it to turn hideous right before my eyes...

It's very disappointing when it doesn't.
posted by CMichaelCook at 3:29 PM on August 24, 2005


What astonishes me more than anything else is that I have no idea who most of these women are! Celebrities, celschmebrities. Either they're not famous enough, or I spend too much time under a rock.

(Interesting to see the changes in the photographs. I am most puzzled by the change from bikini to g-string in a lot of the retouches. Why not just photograph the model in a g-string? Sheesh.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:31 PM on August 24, 2005


Of course, it's not the first time the female form has been distorted...

posted by Citizen Premier at 3:40 PM on August 24, 2005


Now this one really gets my dander up. For him: no alterations apart from the brightness and contrast adjustments. For her: enough virtual eyeshadow and butt enhancement to make the photo a hi-larious booty dance when you mouse over it quickly. Bah!
posted by Vervain at 3:46 PM on August 24, 2005


I am most puzzled by the change from bikini to g-string in a lot of the retouches. Why not just photograph the model in a g-string?

PG-13 vs. R: we're talking ancillary markets here. As baby-boomers get older, I'll be surprised if deliberate ageing isn't used in images (i.e., political advertising) for greater credibility.
posted by cenoxo at 3:47 PM on August 24, 2005


although men are getting programmed to want what's in these photos

Don't do that. We were all with you until you said this stupid comment.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:24 PM on August 24, 2005


Without exception I find the women in the before images to be more attractive. Am I weird?
posted by cbrody at 4:34 PM on August 24, 2005


Civil_Disobedient, you might want to rethink that. No one likes to *hear* *think* *believe* that they're susceptible to the media, but facts is facts.

Women always battle that nagging suspicion that our imperfect bodies disappoint the men in our lives.

Imagine back to a pre-media time, when a man's mother and sisters were the only unclothed women he might spy; the first naked glimpse of his wife would be an wondrous and amazing thing, not an instantaneous point-by-point comparison to years of plasticized erotic images.

I've heard it said that most "sexual dysfunction" or lack of desire in women comes from this nagging doubt; hard to feel sexy when you're up against such an arsenal of perfection.

Just my opinion. I'm not a sex therapist, but I play one on TV...
posted by DawnSimulator at 5:00 PM on August 24, 2005


although men are getting programmed to want what's in these photos

Don't do that. We were all with you until you said this stupid comment.


If she had said young men (teenagers), she wouldn't have been far from the truth.

Real physical perfection is so rare that many people throughout human history probably never got to experience it. Now, we are deluged by it, and many youngsters are not able to distinguish fact from fiction, causing them to set unrealistic standards nobody can meet. (sharp knees)
posted by Enron Hubbard at 5:08 PM on August 24, 2005


I agree that most of the before shots depict perfectly attractive, beautiful women, and going as far as this guy does is silly and grotesque.

I really don't think he's a very good retoucher, because all these women look totally faked after he's done with them. Good retouchers can make the same amount of "improvement" and retain a far more "natural" look in terms of skin tone, shading, etc. This is just overkill, and I think it defeats the purpose.

Who are the people who look at these photos and think, "wow, she's hot"? I much prefer real women, thanks.

(And I'm not turned off by real, unairbrushed vulvas, either. Rather the opposite!)
posted by zoogleplex at 6:02 PM on August 24, 2005


Don't do that. We were all with you until you said this stupid comment.

If she had said young men (teenagers), she wouldn't have been far from the truth.


Several years ago when I was a residence hall director at a summer program for high school students, I had the pleasure of overhearing one young gentleman explain to another that he'd thought his female companion was pretty hot until he got her clothes off and saw that she had, and I quote, "saggy tits." Saggy tits. On a sixteen-year-old girl. Right.
posted by purplemonkie at 6:06 PM on August 24, 2005


purplemonkie: The droopiest breasts I have ever seen on a woman belonged to an 18 year old. The kid may have been right.
posted by Potsy at 6:28 PM on August 24, 2005


Women always battle that nagging suspicion that our imperfect bodies disappoint the men in our lives.

Yes, because, for the most part, women are the ones hardest on themselves for their looks. See also: projection.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:30 PM on August 24, 2005


Though I must agree with the comments regarding the beauty of these women "before", but I disagree on the disparaging comments on the artist who did the retouches. I doubt this is how he wants them to look, but what a marketing/PR department has commissioned.
just my 2c.
posted by defcom1 at 7:12 PM on August 24, 2005


you may doubt it's how he wants them to look but they do, in fact, look that way. This is not high-end photoshop going on here. Yes, some of his masking and blending techniques are nice but the oversaturation skin treatments are amateurish.

Yes, he is being directed by someone else, this is how it works. But, within that directive, he is still an artist and the end results here are simply not that impressive. Eliminating pores from the body (lauded earlier in the thread) is perhaps, his greatest mistake. At 72 dpi, these appear to be simply overdone retouches. At 330dpi+ and at a decent size, these must look like CG charicatures.

How pissed off must the photographers be?
posted by j.p. Hung at 8:31 PM on August 24, 2005


from his site: "I will e-mail a low resolution image to client for approval before sending a final digital image on CD, DVD or upload to the client."

...I don't know, if you ask me, he deserves all the shit we can heap upon him. Low resolution indeed...
posted by j.p. Hung at 8:35 PM on August 24, 2005


Yes, because, for the most part, women are the ones hardest on themselves for their looks. See also: projection.

See also: some men don't really like their wives' bodies after all.
posted by Hildegarde at 8:53 PM on August 24, 2005


Well, duh.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:12 PM on August 24, 2005


Yes, some of his masking and blending techniques are nice but the oversaturation skin treatments are amateurish. (+ other comments about oversaturation)

Most of these pictures are of hip-hop or R&B artists. Oversaturation seems de rigueur for any visual media connected to hip-hop or R&B; for example, watch pretty much any hip-hop or R&B video on MTV, or pick up a copy of The Source, and you'll see everything oversaturated. That's just the popular style now. I would think the photographers expected post-processing to involve pumping up the saturation.
posted by odin53 at 9:43 PM on August 24, 2005


Wow. Not to make it sound like an echo chamber, but there were only one or two examples where I thought there was an actual improvement. For the most part, though, it seemed like he was cranking the Plastic Cartoon knob all the way to 11 and calling it a day.

(I did like the little errors that you only notice when you're presented with the before picture; like the way in one, a wave is cut and moved slightly... or the pattern on a bikini that's been digitally edited to reveal more fake-added ass. Or the weird Halle Barry Feet Doubling that makes her look like one of those mermaid-type deformities.)
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 10:03 PM on August 24, 2005


I'm thinking the more one is attracted to the plastic look the more likely it's because that has been one's main sexual experience, with plastic objects.

The more the before pictures look good, the more likely one's main experiences have been with actual living women.

I heard once that men who've been with a larger number of women tend to find more kinds of women physically attractive in later life whereas those with more limited experience tend to be attracted to a narrower range of types. This plastic look is a single 'type'. I'd guess this artists client is probably selling to a young and inexperienced demographic?
posted by scheptech at 10:56 PM on August 24, 2005


The first thing I thought when I saw these was: "Wow. I'll bet you can only be really good at this retouching job if you're really shallow." Then, however, I started thinking about the effects an occupation like this one would have on a person.

I imagine Mr. Feron sitting there all day in his little corner of the design office, clicking away: "hrm. She needs less butt there. Her breasts are too small. Take off those cheekbones... hmm. And the foot's a little wack..." Then, he gets up to go to the water cooler. There's his secretary: "Her hair isn't quite right. Her left knee isn't symmetrical..." His coworkers: "His shirt should certainly be pastel rather than gray. And she needs whiter teeth." He goes home to his wife: "Well, this is no good. The neckline on that shirt needs to come down, and the jeans aren't blue enough. The breasts are a little lopsided... and the thigh should probably be filled out a bit."

It's not a task I envy, frankly. Living like that would drive me insane.
posted by koeselitz at 11:45 PM on August 24, 2005


hermitosis : "If the lines made by a bent elbow are so icky, then I imagine this guy would buckle and scream if confronted with an actual vagina. Work like this must make it impossible to sustain an erection over anyone with an actual body, male or female."

I haven't seen any indication that this work is due to the artist personally finding bent elbows icky, or the resulting vaginal fear or erectile dysfunction. It very well may just be his job, or hobby. I know that many guys who draw comic book porn for a living or hobby also achieve erections easily with real women, and in fact you'd be hard pressed to find porn-comic drawers who don't like real human porn as well. Creating something unreal ≠ disliking reality.

WaterSprite : "fake breasts...men are getting programmed to want what's in these photos. What are they going to do when they realize there's not enough of that to go around?"

There's plenty of saltwater in the sea (but I get your point).

purplemonkie : "Saggy tits. On a sixteen-year-old girl. Right."

Dunno about 16 year olds, but the saggiest tits I've seen that weren't suptuagenerian were in pron of someone probably 19 or so. Saggy tits are not exclusively the domain of aging.
posted by Bugbread at 12:44 AM on August 25, 2005


Civil_Disobedient writes "Don't do that. We were all with you until you said this stupid comment."

I wasn't. I She lost me when she said:

WaterSprite : "I'm with you, sister! I recently lost someone to fake breasts."

If the guy (I'm assuming) really left because the alternative had fake breasts then he was doing WaterSprite a favour and getting his shallow ass out of her life so she could find someone who'd appreciate her. But I'm more inclined to believe that things are always much more complicated than that, and WS's fixing on the "fake breasts" is merely ignoring whatever other more pertinent issues that were involved.

The fact is, men have brains. We know the pictures we see in magazines and on TV and movie screens aren't a reflection of reality - we live with reality every day: morning, noon and night. And you know something? We love it unconditionally - much more - it seems - than the real-women of our affections seem to...
posted by benzo8 at 12:59 AM on August 25, 2005


Yeah, these all pretty much suck. However...

It's an industry. Business. Everyone...the models (yes, even Halle Berry) the photographer, the art director, the client, etc. all understand and accept (or expect) the retouching to happen. It's part of the process of our commercial culture. No image goes before the buying public before being manipulated to some degree.

These are just the more heinous examples of the process.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:22 AM on August 25, 2005


bugbread: Saggy tits are not exclusively the domain of aging.

Oh, don't I know it. On reflection I should have just left the last few words off of that post, because my main point was this: I think it's sad that many young, inexperienced men are turned off or even disgusted by relatively common natural variations in breast shape, and I wouldn't be surprised if constant bombardment by images of plastic chicks were partially to blame. I realize that (for the most part) older men are more in touch with reality, but I still worry about the way girls' feelings about their bodies can be affected when they overhear comments such as the one I mentioned above, or sense disappointment on the part of their early sexual partners.
posted by purplemonkie at 5:25 AM on August 25, 2005


koeselitz, why would you think the retoucher would be the one deciding how to retouch it? That's what the editors are for.
posted by smackfu at 6:11 AM on August 25, 2005


The other site mentioned is actually the more interesting. It appears the 'before' shots have also been heavily 'shopped, to make 'em look much worse than they really are thereby enhancing the contrast between before and after.
posted by scheptech at 7:58 AM on August 25, 2005


You don't have to expose a lot of skin to be sexy, either. Take Norma (Shearer, not Jean), for example:

Photographing Shearer taught Hurrell that sexiness depends less on nudity, forbidden by the studios, than on the right facial expression, which in turn requires making the subject feel comfortable. The photograph's glamour comes not just from the sultry look but from its believability. We see not a proper lady pulling a stunt but a natural seductress enjoying herself. Shearer got the part, eventually winning an Oscar for the role, and MGM hired Hurrell to shoot its publicity portraits.

OTOH, sometimes the magic doesn't work. Overexposed epidermis is not necessarily a good thing...
posted by cenoxo at 8:09 AM on August 25, 2005


"I know that many guys who draw comic book porn for a living or hobby also achieve erections easily with real women, and in fact you'd be hard pressed to find porn-comic drawers who don't like real human porn as well."

I resemble that remark... :)
posted by zoogleplex at 11:33 AM on August 25, 2005


Women always battle that nagging suspicion that our imperfect bodies disappoint the men in our lives. - DawnSimulator

Yes, because, for the most part, women are the ones hardest on themselves for their looks. - Civil_Disobedient

I agree with you completely, C_D.; I've been thinking about this since the last post about retouching. Certainly these images have some effect on men but my greater concern is on the effect they have on women's body image (myself included).

When I* looked at these before & after pictures, I got angry. Removing any traces of pores, of cellulite, of folds in skin, of softness in the tummy, making breasts perfectly symmetrical. *shudder* Even these women have these supposed 'imperfections'. But the images I see of these women have all that removed. So when I mentally compare myself to their "ideal" example, I'm comparing myself to an impossible woman - one that doesn't even exist!

I'm a woman with pretty good self-esteem, but the (faked) images of perfection stay in my head and do affect how I see myself. When I look at my naked body in the mirror, I only see that bit of cellulite, or those fine silvery strechmarks and I have trouble overlooking those things to see the goddess parts of me. I'm well-balanced enough that I don't obsess over it, but when I think about it I'm dissatisfied. The images of totally smooth thighs and flat tummies flash through my head. I know I'll never be as smooth, as thin, as symmetrical as the women depicted in those images, and that can make me feel inadequate. What a wake up call to realize that those women aren't perfect either.

* a healthy happy woman in my early twenties
posted by raedyn at 1:58 PM on August 25, 2005


See also: some men don't really like their wives' bodies after all.

You've got to be kidding.
posted by techgnollogic at 3:11 PM on August 25, 2005


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