Making People Skinnier in Photoshop Part 2: Lens Distortion and Perspective

(Missed Part 1? You can find it here.)

In our previous article we discussed making people skinnier in Photoshop and how you really shouldn’t do it…

…Except when you should.

So when IS it okay to make people “skinnier” in Photoshop? The primary instance where it’s acceptable is when you have distortion or perspective problems in your photo. These are not uncommon and can be very unflattering but have very little to do with the physical dimensions of the person who is actually in front of the camera. Because it doesn’t have anything to do with the person’s actual size in real life, I do not consider this actually making someone skinnier. It is merely correcting aberrations introduced by the camera. However, in before and after photographs, people can construe this as making someone skinnier (or sometimes larger!) because body parts will appear to become smaller (or larger.) Let’s look at some examples.

Making People Skinnier in Photoshop Part 2: Perspective

This photo was shot from slightly below plus the model is leaning her head away from the camera. This makes her body appear larger in relationship to her head. This isn’t true to her real-life dimensions. Additionally, this was for a hair ad campaign so the head needed to be the focal point. So, I made her body subtly smaller. I also altered her chin for perspective. Click for before/after animation.

 

Making People Skinnier in Photoshop Part 2: Lens Distortion and Perspective

This image had some lens distortion plus I was a bit shorter than the model. She is also leaning slightly away from the camera. Again, this amounted to an original photo where her head was not proportional to her body. The correction is so subtle you can’t see it in side by side comparison, but it does make her body proportionally smaller. Click for before/after animation.

In both of these final images, the models’ bodies look smaller than they originally did in the photographs I started with. However, the photos may not have been accurate depictions of the models in the first place. So, how do you know how to correct for things like this? First of all, a good retoucher has at least some knowledge of photography, anatomy, and perspective. You can usually make some educated guesses if you have some background knowledge. When in doubt, a retoucher should draw attention to the face. You can do this by making sure the face is proportional to the body or slightly larger. (Assume a camera position that is slightly above the subject when the photographic composition allows for it and make your changes based on that, following the rules of anatomy. Shooting a photo from a higher angle causes the head to be very slightly larger in proportion to the body. Any changes along these lines should be subtle.) It also helps to compose the limbs and torso into leading lines toward the face when possible. The face is where we most strongly identify personality.

I want to stress the “when possible” part. Never force a change if it isn’t anatomically correct or if it doesn’t stay loyal to the subject’s appearance.

Let’s delve a little deeper into these technical concepts that can lead you to make decisions about altering physical proportions in a photograph.

Leading Lines

I’m only going to touch on this since composition isn’t our main focus here, but “leading lines” are lines that direct your gaze toward something in an image. Our eyes like to follow lines and in images we typically follow lines away from the edges. Leading lines can be things like arms and legs or even fence lines, telephone wires, walls, portions of hair, or any other kind of line that leads toward the face or main image feature that the viewer is supposed to focus on. I will sometimes smooth out a bump in a line or alter a neck contour to make it into a stronger lead toward a face or other focal point. Not because these things make a person look fat, but because it focuses attention where I want it to go. I make a point not to do this because it makes someone look more attractive, but only because I want the viewer to look at, say, a person’s eyes, or their hair, or their face, or their clothes. Whatever is being highlighted.

Making People Skinnier in Photoshop Part 2: Leading Lines

You can see in this image’s composition that most lines point attention up toward the face. Red lines direct attention to the face. Secondary blue lines lead the eye to the stronger direct leading lines.

Lens Distortion

Now let’s venture into the territory where we really might want to start making people “skinnier”: distortion. When a camera distorts a body, we are no longer looking at a photo that is an accurate depiction, so we start to consider changing the dimensions we see in an original photo. Lenses play a big role in how large or small individual body parts appear in a photo. They can introduce all sorts of strange problems, whether the glass is cheap or top of the line. Especially when working with wide angle lenses, distortion is just a fact of being a photographer. Cameras do not see the way the human eye does. Consider the following examples all taken of the same model (my friend, Karen) with different lens focal lengths:

Lens Distortion

I chose to shoot a portrait here because it is a very clear demonstration of lens distortion even though it isn’t as descriptive of instances where you may be changing body dimensions to make someone appear to be “skinnier”.

Karen’s facial proportions look entirely different as we change focal length and the first images are clearly distorted. If I’d done a full body shot, it could easily be her waistline, hips, or legs that showed distortion depending on my angle and her pose. (That’s where we get into controversial retouching when dealing with audiences uneducated about the issues we’re covering today.)

When trying to correct for distortion, it really comes down to training your eye and learning about what focal lengths are most likely to introduce what problems. Wide lenses (smaller numbers) tend to make things at the center of the photo bend toward the edges of the frame and exaggerate the size of anything closer to the camera. Long lenses (larger numbers) tend to make things appear more normal or even compressed. As a retoucher, you’ll usually have less lens correction to do if your photographer shot with a longer lens.

Luckily for us, software is getting a lot more sophisticated. Sometimes, it can auto-detect the lens used and automatically correct for the distortion most typical of that lens at that focal length, though personally, I find that imperfect. It’s a good start and once in a while it will get you all the way there, but I encourage retouchers to also learn manual lens corrections, whether in ACR, Photoshop’s lens correction filter, or using completely manual transform and liquify adjustments.

A word of caution: You will never make a photo taken with a 24mm lens look like one taken with a 105mm lens. Some things have to be done in camera. You can make improvements, but you can’t totally fake extreme changes. A clear illustration: notice that you can see Karen’s ears in the photo taken with the 105mm but not the 24mm. I cannot make the first image realistically look like the last.

Human Anatomy

So, this composition and distortion info is all well and good, but when it comes down to it, how do you know how someone is “supposed to look”? Sorry, I have no easy answer. You hit the books and study anatomy. The best place to learn anatomy is drawing manuals and I’m sure there are some good online resources as well.

A crash course in anatomy for artists: We usually measure the body in “head’s lengths”. In other words, we take the height of the head, and use it to describe the proportions of the rest of the body. The average proportional height of a human being is 7.5 heads tall. (So, if a head were 1 foot in height, the person would be 7.5 feet tall. The average head is not 1 foot tall. This just describes the proportion.) This varies obviously. Women are often depicted as 6 heads in a drawing and men as 8 heads. In fashion illustration, women are sometimes depicted proportionally taller because this exaggerates long limbs, which we use to create leading lines. (I have included a fashion illustration here because I typically shoot fashion and so do a lot of my readers…also because the fractions are easy.)

The halfway point down the body is typically about groin level. ¼ is mid-chest. The knee is ¾. The arms extend below the groin 1/2 to 1 head depending on height. When we draw the average figure (not a heavier figure) we typically draw a shoulder line that is about 1.5 heads long horizontally. The hips mirror the shoulders. From here, we take the average figure and begin to vary it for body type, widening or narrowing hips, shoulders, waist, etc.

Basic Straight-On Human Anatomy

Basic Straight-On Human Anatomy

So, what doesn’t vary based on weight? What can we use as baseline references for distortion and perspective? First, a person’s height and vertical proportions don’t really change when they gain weight. The distance between chin and groin should always be approximately 3 head lengths, placing the groin about halfway down the body. See above for other vertical proportions. However, what about when you’re working with headshots or other photos that focus only on the upper body? Well, not a ton of padding gets added on the shoulder line when a person gains weight. A few inches off the bone at most. (This, of course, doesn’t account for broad shouldered people—your average linebacker is going to be a lot more than 1.5 heads wide—but you can usually recognize those types of frames visually if a person doesn’t have an average bone structure.) Additionally, the distance between the shoulder and armpit doesn’t vary all that much. This is approximately 1/2 of a head length.

Keep in mind that bodies are definitely not all exactly alike. There are many exceptions to the rules. Statistics apply here and we are talking about the average.

Perspective

An important thing to be conscious of when dealing with anatomical corrections is that camera angle will shift proportion. Looking down at a sharp angle will make body parts that are farther away appear smaller and closer together. Sometimes it is beneficial to an image to alter body proportions based on perspective, as I did in my initial retouched examples. These changes can be subtle or extreme and may vary based on the individual photographer. I know when I’m photographing people, I usually have to account for slight perspective problems caused by looking up at someone because most of my subjects are taller than me. Looking up at your subject can cause their head to appear proportionally smaller than their body, whereas we typically want the head to be the focal point and therefore either proportional to the body or ever so slightly larger…This is where taller photographers have an advantage over photographers my height.

Understanding perspective is crucial to making believable image adjustments. I highly recommend that along with anatomy, you study foreshortening and perspective. Anatomy books usually at least touch on these and I’ll include some resources below.

Perspective

Basic Perspective. Note that things that appear closer are larger and as things get smaller, they appear farther away. The pillars are also closer together as they get farther away.

That said, the basic tenets of body proportion can generally be used as reference points especially on relatively straight-on shots or photos where the perspective is only off by a little. Just remember not to force anything into EXACT proportions because they may be influenced both by body type and by perspective. You don’t need to pull out a ruler, but rather train your eye to average anatomical relationships. Know the average baseline and then keep your changes relatively minor to ensure you aren’t veering too far away from a person’s natural appearance or from believable perspective. Always work with the intention of finessing rather than strong-arming proportion when retouching to ensure better realism.

Another note about extreme changes: if you take a photo looking up at someone at a sharp angle, you will never be able to perspective correct it to look like a straight-on shot. If you try, even your best effort will look weird because you’ll be able to see the bottom of their chin. Always use discretion. That said, you can do some pretty extreme perspective corrections on non-human shots. Just don’t try it with people.

Architecture Perspective Correction

Don’t try this on a person.

In Closing

Keep in mind that the goal here is not to actually to make someone look skinnier than they really are. The goal is to make the body proportions look natural and to correct for camera and perspective issues so that your subject looks more like themselves as viewed by the human eye. (Remember that the human eye and brain fill in a lot of information that isn’t really there and can interpret visual information such that things look the way we expect them to rather than as they are. In life, our brains automatically correct for a lot of things that cameras don’t.) Changes made in the name of composition, perspective, and lens distortion may end up looking like someone has been made skinnier because you may have to shrink some body parts to make your corrections. Other times you may have to enlarge body parts, though people are less likely to balk at that.

The final effect may technically be making someone skinnier than they are in the original PHOTOGRAPH, but our intent is not to make them appear skinnier than they are in REAL LIFE. That’s the distinction. True to life, not to the photograph. Remember that photographs lie and sometimes we, as retouchers, are not trying to make them into bigger lies, but rather bring them back closer to reality.

Coming up: Parts three and four in “Making People Skinnier in Photoshop”

Recommended Resources


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All photos and illustrations by Stephanie Maulding

…please forgive my drawing skills…

Making People Skinnier in Photoshop Part 1: Don’t

Michelle Dione - Making Models Skinnier in Photoshop Part 1When it comes to retouching people to be skinnier, my advice really boils down to this: Don’t. It’s that simple. There is nothing wrong with people who aren’t stick thin. Larger bodies are just as beautiful as smaller ones. (There’s also nothing wrong with people who are stick thin. They’re beautiful too.) Extra inches are not a problem to be fixed and there’s never a need to “fix” a problem that isn’t there. Remember my rules of retouching: It is not your job to “make someone beautiful.” They already are.

Everyone knows where I stand on body acceptance. I believe that every body is a beautiful body and I’m a Health at Every Size advocate.

That said, if I start with that, you doubters aren’t going to read past my ideological rant on beauty and ethics. I know that. So, here’s the bottom line for those of you retouchers and photographers still resisting the body positivity movement: even if you don’t believe what I believe, the paradigm of “skinny = beautiful” is shifting and the market is speaking. This equates to dollars in your bank account. You may personally only find skinny to be attractive, but you will be left behind in the dust if you don’t get on board with the new trend of universal body acceptance. That is a simple fact.

Michelle Dione - Making Models Skinnier in Photoshop Part 1Look at the current backlash against retouching. Look at how well no-retouching campaigns are doing (regardless of how I feel about them.) Look at how many women are speaking out about the way skinny-retouching makes them feel about themselves. Look at the rise of superstar plus size models. Look at the celebrities balking at having their own photos retouched…particularly their waistlines. Look at actual laws being passed because of this type of retouching in particular. The market is speaking and you’re ignoring it. You will be on the wrong side of history on this one. If you stubbornly refuse to expand your definition of beauty, your business will ultimately fail over time as clients seek out ethical retouchers who are in line with market trend and market demand.

The first thing media consumers think of when they think of retouching is some dastardly “Photoshopper” making women skinnier, conspiring to deliberately make them feel bad about themselves. When we get down to it, retouching people to be skinnier does nothing but hurt the reputation of the entire retouching industry. Not only that, but the ability of the retouching industry to exist at all as companies start to do away with retouching to bow to consumer pressure and countries start to pass laws against us.

Once we factor in ethics on top of objective market factors, there’s really nothing else to consider.

The ethics behind this are straight forward. When retouchers insist on making people skinnier for purely cosmetic reasons, it sends a clear message to image consumers that being slimmer is the only way to be beautiful. That is a hugely damaging falsehood. Big is beautiful too. If you can’t make a larger person look just as good as a smaller person without resorting to making them skinnier, you may want to re-examine your photographic and retouching skills, because there is a lot of beauty there in front of you to work with. I talk a lot on this blog about the interplay between retouching and self image, and this is one of the few issues I will really come down on and outright state that there is a direct link between what retouchers are doing and a serious societal problem.

Michelle Dione - Making Models Skinnier in Photoshop Part 1It’s bad enough that publications won’t diversify and use a wider range of body types, but even if only small bodies are being booked for photoshoots, at least if we don’t retouch those bodies to be skinnier, those bodies are still technically representative of real dimensions that exist somewhere out there in the world. They may all be skinny to begin with, but they’re body types that haven’t been manipulated to be anatomical falsehoods that reside only in someone’s imagination. (The representation issue is real, but it’s not one that we, as retouchers, can remedy. We can only take responsibility for our own actions…but we should be doing at least that. Personally, I hope to see greater size representation in fashion in the coming years as well. Photographers and designers, I’m looking at you.)

Michelle Dione - Making Models Skinnier in Photoshop Part 1I talk about retouching being intended to make someone look like themselves on their best day. I’ve also talked about making them look the way they might appear in memory: a little more polished, but still themselves. A model’s skin can look clearer and smoother under different lighting or on a different day. Her hair can look neater and sleeker with a different stylist and with different products. She can shave her legs more carefully or use inexpensive soothing balms to avoid razor burn and bumps. She can apply her makeup differently. Etc. These are all minor things and also things that it’s easy for the brain to gloss over in a quick glance.

Body shape is different. When we go out of our way to make a body skinnier in post production, we’re not just neatening or removing distractions. We’re not cleaning up temporary or accidental issues. We are changing something that is not a variable, circumstantial thing. We are explicitly stating that smaller is better and more attractive than a body’s actual dimensions and changing something that is not changeable except over a large amount of time with a large amount of (often dangerous, often medical) intervention and effort. Body shape has substance. The brain registers it both in person and in memory. It’s not a trivial change when we make someone skinnier and there’s nothing ambiguous about the message it sends.

Michelle Dione - Making Models Skinnier in Photoshop Part 1When we do this to well known models and celebrities, it’s even worse. We’re taking someone whose appearance is already well known, who is already looked up to as a role model; someone people aspire to be and we are telling people that even they are not good enough. They need to be skinnier even when their appearances are already often unrealistic standards to begin with with their designer products and many-thousand dollar styling teams and personal trainers. We are creating a completely impossible and often dangerous ideal.

Yes, eating disorders DO come out of this ideal. Granted, there are many other variables that lead to eating disorders and erradicating skinny-retouching will not eliminate eating disorders by any stretch of the imagination, but we shouldn’t be contributing. Our responsibility is to do what we can do and remain blameless where we can. We can be advocates in other areas as well, but we have concrete and direct control over this particular thing. And so is it really a question whether we should act ethically? Of course we should.

So, there’s the long and short of it: It’s really never okay to make people skinnier in retouching just for the sake of making them “more attractive”. Bigger bodies are beautiful the way they are. Let’s just start phasing this practice out right now.

…That said that there are times when making people skinnier isn’t actually making people skinnier and we’re going to discuss these exceptions, how to recognize them, and when they are and aren’t okay.

Stay tuned for parts two, three, and four of “Making People Skinnier in Photoshop”!

 


 

A closing note: I encourage retouchers and non-retouchers alike to read this series. Retouchers because we all need to be having this conversation on ethics and technique within our industry. Non-retouchers because I urge you to learn to recognize when “making someone skinnier” (or rather making a body part smaller or larger) isn’t actually making a judgment call on weight for your own peace of mind and your own self esteem. As I’ve stated many times, I believe in retouching education and public awareness as the answer to a lot of self image problems that arise from people encountering contemporary media in general and retouching in particular.

 


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Photography by Stephanie Maulding // Model: Michelle Dione

Michelle is wearing ELOQUII, Torrid, and Aldo Shoes

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France’s Folly: Banning Skinny Models and Mandating Retouching Warnings

On December 18th, a twofold French law was passed requiring a minimum weight for all French models and also requiring that all retouching that affects body size be labeled. Those who employ models who are underweight could face six months in jail and fines of €75,000 (~$82,000). Those breaking the retouching law face fines of up to €37,500 (~$41,000) or up to 30% of expenses relating to the advertisement. Those are some harsh penalties. This law is ostensibly to address the epidemic of eating disorders in France.

Fashion Show

I have mixed feelings on this. Very mixed feelings. I support the intentions behind this law, but I am incredibly opposed to its implementation.

I am an advocate of education and of industry reform in the name of creating a healthier media environment that doesn’t contribute to social ills like eating disorders and poor body image. However, I don’t support brute force, criminalizing, discriminatory legislation. That’s my short and to the point version of this article.

On Model Size and Health

While the standards for weight and health have not yet been outlined to the best of my knowledge (from what I’ve read models will need a clean bill of health from a doctor, but the requirements have not yet been specified), most countries who have already legislated have based their laws on BMI, which is not a reliable scale. Furthermore, my own personal view is that we should be advocating for greater diversity in size representation. That means all sizes, not just larger sizes.

Keep in mind that in various times during history, skinny women have been the ones mocked for their size. Size ideals have fluctuated. I do not believe in simply reversing our current size paradigm so that large is good and skinny is bad. We’ve held that standard in the past and going back is only exchanging one social ill for another. Better to move into a new era of true universal body acceptance rather than continuing a cycle that has been going for centuries if not millenia.

I believe in pushing for true diversity and the path to that is rewarding designers and agencies who are inclusive of larger models alongside the smaller models, not instead of them. Instead, the French government wants to directly penalize and discriminate against models who happen to have smaller body types who are just trying to make a living.

That said, yes, agencies reported for encouraging eating disorders should be penalized and I have mixed feelings on continuing to employ models known to have eating disorders. I know of agencies who will make severely malnourished models stop working until they get help and I think that’s a reasonable course of action. On the other hand, I don’t believe in blacklisting models permanently if they’re sick because eating disorders are an illness and I don’t believe in stigmatizing and punishing mental health issues. That’s discrimination.

Indeed, there are serious health concerns here and they shouldn’t be ignored. However, as I believe with overweight people, I believe with underweight people. Health is between a person and their doctor and it is not a straightforward thing to determine. It’s certainly not a number on a scale or chart. There is more to it than that.

Larger people get up in arms when people pull out the “but your size is bad for your health” argument. Well then don’t pull it out against smaller people. Health is not determined by size. When it comes down to it, health is a highly individualized private matter that is between each person and their health care provider. It’s not between an individual and the government, it’s not between an individual and their employer, and it’s certainly not between an individual and the public. End of story. Law makers have no business here. If it were the U.S. this law would be an outright HIPAA violation and it’s not okay.

On Labeling Retouching

On the surface, I’m okay with discouraging size retouching. In fact, my next 4 articles are about size retouching. However, the law requires that the text on retouched photos read “photograph edited” or “photograph retouched” equating size retouching to all retouching, which is simply misrepresentative of the field, generalizing all retouching to mean acts that distort body types. We do more than make people skinnier. If, and only if, we are going to label size retouching, label it correctly and precisely. “This model has been retouched to be skinnier.”

That said, this is a case where I don’t believe legislation is the answer at all. We’re talking about art here and we’re talking about treating an art form like a drug akin to alcohol or cigarettes complete with something that is basically a surgeon general’s warning. If we weren’t lazy about teaching children about art, we wouldn’t have this systemic problem of misunderstanding imagery. On the flipside, if we as a community were actually having a conversation about ethics and establishing codes of conduct within the photo and retouching industries, we wouldn’t have as many abuses of our craft. Education and reform are what I believe in. Not criminalization of an art form. Not fines and legal disclaimers.

Never in the history of art has imagery been a direct mirror on reality. Even in photojournalism, cameras do not see the way the human eye sees. Photojournalists try their best to reflect what was actually visible on the scene, but it still isn’t reality. And when we venture away from the documentary arts, we’re completely into the realm of fabrication and fantasy, no matter what art form we’re talking about. If we look back in history, painters have never put fine print on their canvases saying “I conveniently forgot to paint in that pimple Queen Elizabeth had on Tuesday.” or “King Henry had me shave off a few pounds.” Yet we simply don’t have the expectation that what we see is exactly what we get when looking at non-photographic art forms. We’re never going to ask painters or sculptors or designers for the same fidelity to reality that we ask of photographic illustrators.

Portrait_of_Catherine,_Duchess_of_CambridgeIn fact, there was a huge uproar when a painter was TOO true to reality in a very recent high profile situation. The first official portrait of Kate Middleton, painted by Paul Elmsley, was met with outrage when it was unveiled. People criticized it for making her look bad. They said it made her look old and dour, washed out, even “vampiric” and “malevolent”. Elmsley is a realistic painter and painted the Duchess from photographic reference. It is likely that it is a true-to-life depiction. In fact, one criticism, verbatim, was that Elmsley was operating like a “photocopier”. (American theologian/aesthetic specialist Joseph McKenzie.) In truth, when compared side by side to photographs of Kate Middleton in similar light, and specifically when compared to the exact photographic reference that Elmsley was working from, the painting is a fairly accurate likeness. The fact is, people were outraged that Elmsley didn’t go out of his way to flatter Kate Middleton according to socially agreed upon beauty norms, but rather painted her as she was. He painted exactly what he saw in front of him and faced terrible backlash for what was essentially a painter’s version of an un-retouched photograph.

This case of Kate Middleton’s portrait unambiguously speaks to a double standard between painted portraits and photographic ones. We are not only accepting of painted portraits embellishing beauty and downplaying flaws, but we are outraged when they fail to do so. On the other hand, we not only grow angry when artists working in the photographic field operate with the same aesthetics in mind, we are beginning to penalize them through the legal system.

Kate Middleton Portrait Comparison

The problem here isn’t the retouching. The problem here is second rate art education. The problem is a bias against a particular art form due to misunderstanding of the new, refusal to learn or to teach or to attempt to understand a new craft or set of tools. It’s a fear of change and it’s frankly a witch hunt. People see a social ill—and I won’t argue that there is a social problem here—and they want a scapegoat. But the aesthetics haven’t changed with the rise of retouching. The problematic beauty standards stand apart. They are entirely divorced from retouching. You can easily observe that painters and sculptors adhere to the same set of problematic beauty standards that tell us there’s only one way to be beautiful and if you read a book, you will see the same kind of beauty described time and again. Beauty standards are a societal problem, not a retouching problem.

Retouching isn’t like alcohol and cigarettes. Consuming retouched media is not going to give you anorexia the way that ingested adult substances give you lung cancer or liver disease. There’s no inherent bodily effect. What retouching does to a person is what any art does to a person: it causes you to think. The same way that encountering any experience in life causes you to think. It is no different than any sensory experience. We have just failed, as a society, to provide any context for how to intellectually process visual arts. This is a breakdown in education; a failure to fund the arts in schools or to fund museums and cultural educational programs. To be fair, it’s also a failure in the existing art establishment’s willingness or ability to keep up with a changing art landscape and teach new art forms. So, even where art education IS available, little to no information is available about digital art forms or commercial/mass media.

In Closing

Now, I will admit that I have a bias here as one of my entire goals in life is to educate and reform when it comes to retouching, photography, and fashion media. I believe wholeheartedly that this is the path to a healthier media landscape. I believe in photography and digital imaging taking their places in the greater narrative of art history. However, I concede that photography and digital imaging are still in their infancy and practitioners need to continue engaging in a dialog about issues surrounding our craft. That’s an internal affair. Simultaneously, we should be doing outreach about what it is we’re creating and doing our part to help with that art education I’m advocating.

What I don’t believe is that legislation changes any minds. Government force doesn’t change things on an emotional or intellectual level, so it isn’t useful. All it does is penalize, cause resentment, shift media centers away from legislated areas, damage the art economy, and set back creative expression and free speech. Consider the very simplistic example of dog training: almost every dog trainer knows that negative, disciplinary training simply doesn’t work. What does work is positive reinforcement. Teach and reward good behavior. Don’t punish bad behavior. Elevate what you see as positive role models. Promote and fund inspiring and inclusive art that affirms diverse beauty. Send positive messages and support the people whose work promotes ideas you like. It will get you further. Personal agenda aside, this law is going to be counter-productive. It may be well intentioned, having high hopes of reducing the incidence of eating disorders, but it simply misses its target.

Yes, eating disorders and body image problems are at epidemic levels. Something needs to be done. However, legislating body types and retouching will not address any of our deeply held social prejudices. These laws do nothing but discriminate against a group of people and an art form without thought to what actually causes beauty norms or how we can change those paradigms. These laws are an empty gesture at best: a desperate and broad-brush effort to affect change by attacking mere symptoms of the real problem. Maybe if we looked deeper and really studied these problems, looked at history, psychology, media, art–took a truly interdisciplinary approach–we could figure out the real root of all of this rather than making arbitrary laws that penalize and discriminate against blameless entities.

Legislation and criminalization solve nothing.

 

Sources: CNN, Fstoppers, Women’s Wear DailyNew York Times, PetaPixel
If you can read French, here you go: AMENDEMENT N°2310


The photo at the top of this article is a stock image for illustrative purposes only

Images of Kate Middleton are believed to be Fair Use under editorial commentary