Target is not the devil for using Photoshop

Mar 13, 2014 | Advertising, Blog, Photography

I have waited a while to comment on the Target photo retouching debacle. I was waiting not because I wanted to see how Target spun the story, but to see if they were going to admit what actually happened.

From my eyes, it looks like the person doing the retouching clicked a layer mask “on” or shifted it by a few pixels causing all kinds of weird jagged edges in the armpits and a squared-off edge in a most unfortunate spot. The reality, I doubt Target really thought that looked amazing. They were probably not in their well-designed offices in Minnesota thinking, “ha, we will show the youth that needle sharp armpits are the next thing.” It was an epic fail in the production department—from the file prep to proofing.

That said, is retouching evil? The short answer is no. I understand making people seem so unrealistically “perfect” causing a debate. Believe me, I don’t want to get into that debate. But, is using Photoshop to clean up a missed wrinkle on a shirt evil? A zit that showed up the day before a shoot? Uneven skin tone? Hair that won’t behave? Again, no. We are in a business where a client is paying money to make things perfect. That is why a photo shoot takes hours of prep, planning and actual work. If they wanted to show things exactly as is, they would shoot their ads on their phones and print them. Would you as the consumer then admire them? Or would you mock them and post their blunders online?

I think the outrage and soapbox rants have their place, but they should be left for certain things, meaningful things. Like when a McDonald’s burger looks delicious in print, but when you get it, it appears to have been in your gym bag since last Thursday. (side note: still delicious, but you get my point.)


  1. Val Priester

    Is using Photoshop evil to remove the wrinkle in a shirt, or an unfortunate zit? No. But let’s look at this photo. Let’s look at her left arm, which goes from impossibly thin to freakishly narrow wrist. Let’s look at her hands, which seem to extend to her knees. The chunk of fabric missing from the side of her left breast, which goes with the chunk of her midsection that’s missing that would run to the jagged area by her hip. No, this is someone on a Photoshop spree, trying to trim down the model to waif-like proportion. Even her stomach looks blurred, as though to hide any imperfection she may have for not doing planks 40 times a day. Is Target the Devil? No. But whoever created this for them is a real hack, and it was so obviously Photoshopped that there was hue and cry, and it’s because whoever did the work wasn’t just covering up a zit or fixing the wrinkle in a shirt, they were out to create thigh gap, slender and long limbs, a Barbie waist, and other unrealistic goals. And they did it on swimwear being marketed to teenagers, who have probably the worst body self-image of any age group.

  2. Mike Telesco

    Thanks for the response. Don’t get me wrong. It is still way to thin and promotes unrealistic and unhealthy body images to teens. I agree with that. My point is from a technical aspect…I think it was a mistake based on the fact that the white negative shape digging into her side is an exact match of the negative space next to it. In other words, if you were to grab this image, bring it into Photoshop, use the wand tool and click that white area in her armpit, copy it to a new layer, then shift it right about 10 pixels and then down about 11 pixels, it is like it got moved as a layer mask and it was a mistake. Same goes for the “thigh gap” that is in the news. It looks as though it also got shifted about 20 pixels too high.

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