Is It Okay To Photoshop Pictures?

With social media comes a lot of hidden rules. One of the most debated ones is around photoshopping pictures. Over the years social media platforms like Instagram have become more and more serious. Who looks the best? Who has the most aesthetic feed? Who gets the most likes?

With the competitiveness of social media rising, people will do anything to get an advantage over all the other users. Photo editing has become a common way to level up your pictures and have them stand out. This has been a part of photography for a very long time, but as of recent, it has become a more mainstream thing to do for social media posts.


 Using software like photoshop gets very mixed reactions. Some people are strongly against it, and some advocate that it’s perfectly fine to use. 

The side of people against editing pictures often bring up being “fake”, increased depression or natural beauty. They believe that editing your picture isn’t being authentic and that you’re faking the way things look for social media. From all the exposure to seeing everyone post perfect pictures, and from using apps that point out all the ways you can improve the way you look, there is a link to increased depression rates. To combat that, they think instead of editing photos, we should embrace natural beauty instead of going for perfection. 

On the other side of the debate, a lot of people are totally in support of editing pictures. The common belief is that everyone should be able to have the freedom to do whatever they want. At the end of the day, social media is just entertainment, not a place to see realism. If people enjoy editing their pictures, or it makes them feel better, they should be able to do that without being judged. Photography is an art form, everyone needs to let their creativity loose and do as they please with their photos. Paintings don’t need to be realistic, neither should photos.

I personally am among the group of people who are in support of photo editing. As a photographer, it is a staple of the art. Often  times I can express my emotions and vision just as much via post processing as I can with the original photo itself. Slightly adjusting the lighting and colours can completely change the mood and emotions from a photograph. – MATTnSEB

 Although the term “photoshopped” is used loosely and there are different degrees of it. Something as basic as a colour-grade is very minor. It is simply just adjusting the colours and lighting in a photo. The next step further would be fixing simple blemishes or removing distracting objects from the background like a piece of trash on the ground. I still think this is pretty normal and non-offensive. However, some people take it to a whole different level and completely change their appearance. Changing their eyes from brown to blue, taking 20 pounds off their waist, adding a more muscular stomach, removing cellulite, etc. The list goes on and on. I think this is getting close to crossing the line, but it’s still very common for celebrities and professional models.

With all that being said, I still believe there is nothing wrong with editing pictures. If we just keep in mind what we see on social media is often edited and not always realistic, there isn’t any reason why people shouldn’t continue to edit their pictures if they want to.

What’s your stance? Is it okay or is it wrong to do?

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8 thoughts on “Is It Okay To Photoshop Pictures?

  1. I am a videographer and I totally agree with you on the colour grade stuff!! It just makes photos better! As for actually photoshopping a photo, I think it depends on both the photo and the person. Personally, I totally understand if someone edits out a trash can because it ruins the mood of the photo, but I would never photoshop someone’s body. I feel like there’s a lot of makeup and stuff now a days that could be used if you really felt uncomfortable.. That being said, I would never judge someone who were to photoshop anything. I totally understand where both sides come from. This is an awesome topic you chose and you did a great job explaining both sides!

  2. This is an incredibly important discussion. You outline appropriate uses of photo-editing. It’s interesting that this is such a hot topic now, since this activity which has existed long before social media and photoshop, but I think the prevalence of images and how they’re unleashed and shared throughout social media makes image-making more of an issue. As a graphic designer, I agree that a certain level of editing is necessary. Cameras are limited by the constraints of technology and have difficulty capturing light and colours as seen in by the eye. Also, if you are working for a brand and setting up a product photoshoot, you want to remove extraneous, distracting objects that take away from the focal point.

    I agree with you that photo edits made with the intent to misrepresent are entering the unethical zone, especially if it can harm self-image. Images are everywhere and as images are so carefully curated on social media, it can be easy to assume that the perfect shot is the reality and expectation. Some teens on instagram have started blocking out their face on their posts: they want to show the activities they’re enjoying, but hold insecurities that prompt them to cover up what they look like (check out this article: Insecurity in teenagers is almost a rite of passage, but seeing this on such a large scale can be troubling.

    I believe that photographers, designers and their content creators for media should be held to ethical standards to avoid contributing to self-image issues, but of course, that’s perhaps an unrealistic ideal. I think we have to encourage social media users, especially teens, to look at images critically, and question what is real and what has been touched up.

  3. I’m not much of a photographer by any means and I don’t know much about editing photos. The most I do is add black and white filters to most things for my Instagram feed theme. I think it is okay to a degree maybe fix our crazy hair or hide a pimple to make ourselves feel better but I think the way influencers use photoshop on photos is very hurtful to our societal views.

  4. As an avid photographer and social media user I’m a bit mixed on this topic. I don’t typically edit my pictures much but it’s slightly to do with the fact that I don’t know how to properly heavy edit a picture and make it completely different. I think some editing is okay, such as adjusting the lighting if it was too dark, or to edit out a distracting element in the background like if a stranger walked by and you didn’t notice while you were taking the picture. In my opinion the example you have in your post is too much editing. At the same time, it’s also VERY obviously edited and I wouldn’t think that’s the original picture. At the end of the day it comes down to personal preference and what you want to post to your page, but I think if the editing you’re doing is going to take more than about 10 minutes then it’s too much.

  5. I was really excited to read this!
    The whole photoshop world is crazy! Although I think editing the photos for better lighting is perfectly fine & normal, I have definitely noticed a change in social media posts (by celebrities) when the app ‘FaceTune’ came out. Everyone now has smaller waists and bigger lips, because of the app.
    It can be very misleading and almost sad when young girls see these posts, because the beauty standard is not only challenging already, but it is literally IMPOSSIBLE because the photoshop is in play.
    I think everyone should read about Alicia Keys! She’s awesome! She is famous, yet doesn’t use any makeup or photo editing. She’s so real!
    Great post!

  6. I am not a photographer at all…I have a hard time using my camera on my phone! I think photoshop can be used for positive changes like, lighting, background changes, but most definitely not for body type. I am constantly pointing this kind of editing to my teenage daughter. There was a time when she had a totally unrealistic body image in her mind all because of photo shopped images in magazines and online.

  7. People often associate Photoshop with huge edits such as comping objects from one image into another, which can lead to issues with validity. This often isn’t the case as you mentioned, whereas Photoshop is fantastic for small edits which enhance rather than change. I believe more people aught to know the difference.

    Great read!

  8. Your title makes me laugh because if you are a professional photographer, everything is manipulated and or enhanced using photoshop. A better title would be “Is it okay to manipulate photos beyond normal processing”.

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