Photoshop images - how far will this go?

Photoshop Day Cream

So, France has introduced new laws to require advertisers to say if an image has been retouched or enhanced. The objective it seems is to control the artificial slimming of models and other bodily or facial changes. It's argued that this can potentially affect the health and well-being of consumers who may be presented with unrealistic body images.

The requirement it seems is that an image which has been Photoshopped (other image manipulation programs are available), will have to carry a text based statement to that effect - "Photographie retouchée".

This is obviously a laudable intention, and at least one UK ex-actress is looking for the UK to consider similar legislation.

Whenever governments get involved in similar regulation, however well intentioned, the law of unintended consequences quickly kicks in.

Consider the following:

  • Is it clear what is an 'advertiser' or 'advertisement' - already people are making noises about Instagram and other social media being included.
  • Will only professional models be included? Again, social media is tremendously influential with peer comparison potentionaly as powerful as commercial pressure.
  • What about 'stock' images - who is responsible for the statement; the photographer, library or advertiser who may have bought an image in good faith?
  • Will the statement cover any retouching on an image, even when a person's features are not affected - such as taking out backgrounds, or placing models in created environments?
  • How far is the law likely to stretch? Perhaps product shots which make food look more appetising. Estate agents' wide-angle interiors making rooms appear large and spacious?

The future - Catch-all?

With potential penalties of 37,500 euros (£33,000) or 30% of the ad creation costs, it's right for advertisers to be concerned. If this extends to social media images, (with InfoTrends predicting the number of digital photos taken growing to 1.2 trillion photos in 2017) it could be a headache for everyone and a nightmare for enforcement.

One scenario is that advertisers simply put a statement on every image used in an advertisement, just to be safe. Like health-warning on cigarette packs and alcohol bottles, or disclaimers on financial loan ads, these soon become wallpaper. Familiarity simply leads to warning-blindness.