Those Dove ads were retouched after all…

// 9 May 2008

Do you remember the Dove campaign for ‘Real Beauty’? It divided feminist opinion and caused all manner of controversy.

But we now learn the photos were substanatially retouched. (Oh the irony.) In an interview in The New Yorker, Photoshop guru to the stars, slips in this admission:

To avoid such complaints, retouchers tend to practice semi-clandestinely. “It is known that everybody does it, but they protest,” Dangin said recently. “The people who complain about retouching are the first to say, ‘Get this thing off my arm.’ ” I mentioned the Dove ad campaign that proudly featured lumpier-than-usual “real women” in their undergarments. It turned out that it was a Dangin job. “Do you know how much retouching was on that?” he asked. “But it was great to do, a challenge, to keep everyone’s skin and faces showing the mileage but not looking unattractive.”

(Via About-Face)

Comments From You

Jennifer-Ruth // Posted 9 May 2008 at 11:09 am

Is this really surprising? I thought it was common knowledge the photos were retouched just from looking at them – okay, the girls in the ads might have been a little less “perfect” than those we normally see, but have you ever seen anyone with such smooth and evenly-toned skin? With lumps and bumps that occur in all “the right places”?

To be fair, I may be a little more atuned to it. I do part-time photo retouching (mostly repairing old/torn/damaged photographs) and you literally can change anything you want with photoshop.There isn’t anything out there now that hasn’t been tweaked and “fixed” – image control. My full-time work is in an advertising & design agency where we do marketing for property. Even industrial and commercial buildings get the photoshop treatment!!!!

It sucks, it really does. But I don’t see it stopping (even in “real” beauty ads). I think what is really important is to do what Jezebel does, and destroy the myth of the “perfect” image by ripping it apart and showing where photoshop is used. A lot of people aren’t *aware* that every little thing we look at has been worked over like this – and how impossible it is to obtain that image in the real world. We need to make people aware just how unreal advertising images are and just how much work is done on them – because it isn’t just a tweak or 2 here or there – it is hours of work, even on the “top models”. You can’t look like that – you will always have pores, uneven skin tone, teeth that aren’t scary white, etc. And we need to let people know that that is okay, because it is you and the rest of the population of Earth. The people in the ads? They are real too, but only under 20 photoshop cloning, healing and painting layers.

(sorry if that was a bit of a rant!)

Nina // Posted 9 May 2008 at 11:52 am

Haha! I knew no one had skin that smooth!

shatterboxx // Posted 9 May 2008 at 12:22 pm

I’m really not surprised but I am annoyed. Dove was the only cosmetics company that claimed to be doing something real and authentic and the fact that they were lying is pretty disgusting.

Anne Onne // Posted 9 May 2008 at 12:59 pm

Shame on Dove. I’m not surprised, but shame all the same.

I once had someone tell me that photoshopping photos within an inch of their life was perfectly natural, and no different to painting an idealised but obvious artwork of someone, but I think they are entirely separate things. the photo claims to be real, claims to be a representative of reality in a way that a painting (even a digital one) never does. When people see something pretending to be a photo, something actually taken to be an image taken directly of someone, I would think they are affected more strongly than a painting, which is more obviously meant to represent a fantasy.

I don’t mind photoshopping because photos are edited, in that a good camera gives you many ways to subtly change an image through exposure, etc. But when changes fundamentally change what is being shown, rather than just enhance the lighting or mood, it breaks the golden rule of photography to me, by setting out to deceive the viewer. People use photoshopping in the undustry to decieve women that their skin will look impossibly smooth, their legs impossibly long (or in the terrible snakey-stretched underwear picture I saw the other day, that their midriffs can stretch for miles!), if only they buy the product. They change societal expectations of what real people can and do look like, and put pressure on people to look like the pictures. Even though we know photoshopping goes on, we all forget how much of it, and it still insidiously works into our lives because it’s EVERYWHERE, to the point where I can imagine there are very few pictures online, on TV or in billboards that are not photoshopped quite extensively. I’d personally like to see a huge whopping sign on any photoshopped picture, kind of like the ‘smoking kills’ ones on cigarettes, that makes it loud and clear the picture’s been edited a lot. Anything that just uses a bit of leveling or colour balancing can get away without a tag (because you can do that with a camera, anyway), but anything that changes the outline of body parts, or their length or size, and airbrushing out details should be labelled as not being a photograph. Naturally, I’d like it if it just didn’t happen, full stop, but small steps and all that. I’m not holding my breath for this kind of action, though.

I have only just discovered photoshop disasters, and I love how it points out really bad photoshopping:

Seph // Posted 9 May 2008 at 1:51 pm

I’m not really surprised, if Dove shows supposed ‘real women’ with smooth skin or perfect tans or whatever, it makes the women watching at home feel even worse “they’re not models and I look worse then them! i must go out and give all my money to Dove!” etc.

and the cycle of ‘beauty’ companies making a fortune off women feeling like shit is continued.

Lindsey // Posted 9 May 2008 at 1:53 pm

So in the ads where ‘normal’ women get great skin from using Dove products the great skin is fake? Stupid Dove…

My favourite brand of gunks and goo is Lush, because unlike every other brand where no matter what it is, does or is apparently made of the product is a white cream, Lush products come in all kinds of weird colours, smells and textures. As far as I can tell they are quite woman friendly, taking the self-love approach to promotion (as apposed to the ‘you’re ugly’ approach, or Dove’s ‘you’re ugly but we still like you’ approach) and their environmentalism and kind to body products (I think) make them compatible with feminist ideals.

NorthernJess // Posted 9 May 2008 at 2:15 pm

I personally love Lush’s products, as they do not rip my skin to shreads, are nice smelling, do not have ridicuous excess packaging (apart from the annoying cartoon ‘this product was made by…’stickers, I KNOW you’re a lovely place, stop ramming it down my throat) the only problems I have is that they cost so much. Dove, however, are owned by the same company that makes Lynx, Pot Noodles (both display misogynism in their advertising campaigns, and lynx’s most recent campaign could be accused of sexualising school girls) and Fair & Lovely, a skin-lightening treatment targetted at Asian women. Both these reasons are as good as any to mock the ‘real beauty’ campaign, and the fact the ‘normal’ women were touched up does not suprise me one little bit.

Jess McCabe // Posted 9 May 2008 at 2:16 pm

Lindsey, I can’t say enough good things about Lush.

Shea // Posted 9 May 2008 at 4:45 pm

I second the Lush vote, their products are fantastic and female friendly. (At the moment if you take back five face mask containers you get another face mask free– spread the word). Also Dove are terrible because they use palm oil which is contributing to massive deforestation in Borneo and other places.

Cara // Posted 9 May 2008 at 7:50 pm

Another vote for Lush! Yay!

Yeah – palm oil. Evil. Boycott Dove!

Anne Onne // Posted 13 May 2008 at 5:04 pm

Ugh I read a supplement from The Observer by Julie Burchill, which had an article claiming that photoshop is feminist. Or rather, that nobody really takes photoshopped photos seriously, and how can you deny Liz Hurley’s right to have pictures of herself photoshopped (really!). How can we begrudge her that?

Apparently, complaining at the prevalence of very unattainable images being touted as beauty everywhere in the media is just us feminists making out that women are neurotic ‘looks-obsessed cretins who are likely to collapse into a weeping heap of jelly’, and everybody knows it’s not real, so shut up and let the celebrities keep going into denial about ageing, because you’ll make them miserable if you don’t go along. It seems she never stopped to consider WHY they are so obsessed with ageing (could it be, perhaps, the pressure to look like all the photoshopped pictures? Surely not!).

Not to mention that she misrepresented criticism of photoshopping (as if we’re talking about removing a couple of blemishes, here!) as if it’s presented at the women themselves, blaming them for looking so perfect, and how we shouldn’t take it away from them. Hello, this has nothing to do with being jealous of photo modifications that anybody with some patience and skill could do. This is about how the bombardment of thousands of manufacured images affects people, when all you see is fiction. Dodging the point because you can’t find anything to say about it doesn’t make it true.

And her pointless ending about us all being ‘sisters under the skin’ missed the point. I’m not ‘sisters’ with a CG creation which only exists fantasy. I’m ‘sisters’ with every physically real woman or every variety, whatever their body shape, and I want them to be accepted as being beautiful for what they are. Not compared to a fantasy that never existed.

The title? ‘Why Photoshop is a feminist’s best friend.’ *sigh*. You know, I really, really wish that every time the media mentioned feminism, it wasn’t through someone completely ignorant of the theory. Or patently anti-feminist. It’s getting tiresome now.

Here’s the article online, if you feel like reading it:,,2278316,00.html

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