This summer, a few swimwear brands are making their marketing campaigns louder by refusing to retouch their images.
The 21-year-old founder of Rheya Swim, Chloe Madison told Seventeen that she wasn’t happy with the images of her body “enhanced to someone else’s idealistic version of it.” She claims she sent them back and asked for all of the retouching to be stripped off.
At the same time Target’s new swimwear campaign embraces body-positive marketing as well.
One of the campaign’s models, body activist Denise Bidot, is photographed in a high-waist bottom, and her stretch marks were not retouched out because.. there’s nothing to be ashamed of.
ModCloth, an online apparel store, chimes in, and their founder and employees slip into their bathing suits for their swimsuit campaign. Their message is: “We are beautiful and happy at every size”.
I personally have mixed feelings about all of this.
On the one hand, I think it’s wonderful.
And on the other hand, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth for a couple of reasons.
GIVE ME MY EYE CANDY
While I appreciate the positive body message, as a woman I’ve always loved to look at stunning images of flawless women in magazines and on advertising billboards. I always knew – even before I became a photographer and retoucher – that no matter how much I exercised I’d never be as perfect as the models in those pictures. But those images always motivate me to go to the gym when I am feeling lazy, or say ‘no’ to that second piece of cheesecake, that I can totally do without.
Do I as a female consumer and target audience of these swimwear campaigns want so see stretch marks, cellulite and plus-size models in advertising images? No, not really.
Are there other women who do? Sure, of course!
To each his own, and these marketing campaigns lose me, and probably some other women, with their choice of going “all real” with their campaign images.
I do understand that some (or all) young girls and women need this body-positive advertising.
But let’s be honest here, these decisions are made by the companies’ top management, the individuals and teams who probably don’t really care how retouched images may affect young girls’ self body image. What they do care about is a successful advertising campaign that will affect the company’s bottom line. And the more this campaign separates the company from the massive crowd of its competitors – the better.
So, pardon my skepticism, but all I see here is just a marketing choice, no higher purpose.
WHAT SHOULD WE AS RETOUCHERS LEARN FROM THIS?
Despite my personal views of these unretouched swimwear campaigns, as a professional photographer and retoucher, I am on the same page with them when it comes to natural looking images.
We’ve been witnessing a growing trend of “less is more” in commercial fashion and beauty retouching. It’s not new and not too wide-spread yet, but it is getting stronger and “louder” in the past few years.
As a retoucher, you should have always been striving to leave no trace of your presence in the images you retouched, but this is yet another reminder that only those who can offer “invisible” retouching will be getting the best gigs from the forward-thinking companies.
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Of course, we all know and understand that we do what our clients request, but never underestimate your own power as a hired expert. We can all continue to gently educate our clients, and simply suggest to not push our retouching further when things start looking less natural.
My own motto has become “better under-retouched than over-retouched”, and I try to stick with it whenever a client is on the same page with me.