Airbrushing the baby

When digital enhancement goes way, way too far.

Published July 31, 2007 8:00PM (EDT)

If I asked you at what age the average person should consider having his or her photos airbrushed, you'd probably say people should wait until they're at least 10 years old. (Or, this being Broadsheet, you'd probably say that people never need their photos airbrushed; we all should rejoice in our natural beauty and let our crows' feet, yellowed teeth and laugh lines shine. A request to those people: Please humor me.)

Unfortunately, it turns out that retouching is not just for the post-adolescent anymore. Thanks to Pageant Photo Retouching, you can find ways to touch up anyone, even your baby.

I cannot imagine that there are too many parents out here who would do this to their children's photographs (please, God, tell me there aren't too many parents out there who would do this to their children's photographs), but just for the shock factor, I encourage you to check out this example of the outfit's work. On the left, a photo of a little girl, her smile looking a little forced (one gets the sense that she is often forced to smile for the camera), but natural nonetheless. On the right? A photo of what appears to be a doll.

At first, I thought that I was misunderstanding the purpose of the retouching -- it looks like it's a way to take a picture of your kid and turn it into a custom-made version of an American Girls doll that can be presented to grandparents as a holiday gift. But no. It's just for a photo. In the above example, the "enhancements" include "mouth replaced, hair replaced, tears removed, lashes added, stray hairs removed, eye liner added, eye shadow, lipstick and blush added, facial powder added, brows shaped, skin blended, dark circles removed," and "'doll eyes' added." (The list fails to mention the floral headband that has miraculously appeared on top of the child's new fake hair.) Horrifying. As the reader who sent us the tip described it, "This is the one that promises to haunt my nightmares."

I agree. But if you find yourself sickly fascinated by what one can do with a photograph of a perfectly adorable, normal child, you should click through to this baby shot. Ack! Since when do infants wear mascara? My favorite part of this one (where "favorite part" is defined as "horrifying use of Photoshop") is the "enhancement" that says "Drool removed from mouth." I mean, come on. You already blended the baby's skin, added lashes, boosted her flesh tones to "peachy hues," and gently faded her dark circles "while natural eye creases are preserved for a natural finish." In other words, you've taken away her dignity. Can't you at least let her keep her drool?

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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