Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Is it OK to alter photos? Or is natural best?

Following the Advertising Standards Authority's (ASA) decision to ban an advert from L'Oreal featuring Julia Roberts Scotland on Sunday ran an interesting article by Claire Prentice.

'Claire Prentice: Face facts on altered images
Published Date: 31 July 2011
By Claire Prentice
BE HONEST. Which of these pictures is more attractive? The real, wrinkled, natural me on the left? Or the "perfect" me on the right, as tweaked, enhanced and digitally polished by this newspaper's finest technical wizards?

'Part of the ruling from the ASA

The ASA acknowledged that Julia Roberts was an actress well known for her beauty, and that professional styling and make-up were used to create the image. We understood that high quality studio photography, and the inherent covering and smoothing nature of the product also contributed to the image of flawless skin.

We noted that in addition to the factors above, the image was produced with the assistance of post production techniques. While Lancôme provided detail on the techniques they used, we noted that we had not been provided with information that allowed us to see what effect those enhancements had on the final image. We acknowledged the pictures supplied from laboratory testing were evidence that the product was capable of improving skin’s appearance, but on the basis of the evidence we had received we could not conclude that the ad image accurately illustrated what effect the product could achieve, and that the image had not been exaggerated by digital post production techniques. We therefore concluded the ad was misleading.

The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.11 (Exaggeration).

The ad must not appear in its current form again.'

Details of the ruling here.


The ASA's ruling will doubtless set the rat amongst the pigeons in the beauty trade. In addition it raises issues of how far should photos be manipulated. Should one ignore the temptation of using Photoshop to improve a photo even to the extent of not changing the contrast or light/dark? Should a photo be like natural wine with all use of artfice banned or adjured?

And if Photoshop shouldn't be used what of the various aids available at the point of taking a photo – various coloured filters and polarisers; changing the light balance etc. If a photo comes out over-exposed and doesn't correspond to what I saw with my eye, is it right to tweak it so that it is a faithful representation of what I saw?

Where does the legitimate skill of using available technology end and unacceptable manipulation begin?


Susan said...

As you've intimated, photographers have always manipulated images, right from the beginning of the technology existing, and it seems churlish not to allow people to play around with images if they can enhance them. Cases like this need to be assessed on an individual basis, and much depends on the purpose the image exists. L'Oreal got done because they over egged the pudding.

Susan said...

Sorry - Lancome.

Jim's Loire said...

I'm sure you are right Susan, although I do try to manipulate my photos as little as possible. Certainly L'Oreal's manipulation is of a different order.

Andrew said...

I can see why advertising, specifically beauty advertising, should have some regulation on photo manipulation but as Susan has said since the very beginning of the technology photos have been changed and altered. Digital processing just makes is easy for everyone to do it. I actually find the effects available in Photoshop and the effects one can make on a picture often more interesting than taking photos themselves.

While I like and utilise 'natural light' in my food snaps, I see nothign wrong in removing a mark or a dropped crumb. I also love HDR effects in my landscapes. I see nothing wrong in 'playing'.