fashion photography and manipulation

Discussion in 'Portraits and Fashion' started by nina_ginger, Sep 18, 2010.

  1. Hello all fashion photographers,

    I am not a fashion photographer but love fashion photography and I am writing my thesis about it.

    I wanted to ask you all what are your thoughts about manipulation/retouching in fashion photography:
    do you think manipulating pictures is a marketing tool used by fashion designers/magazines to rise sales and should it be disclosed when performed?
    do you think fake pictures for commercial purposes (as showing garments is the main function) are what customers want to see?
    what does manipulation mean to you, photographers? is it a form of artistic expression that allows photography to create something new and original? why are we seeing so many fashion images that are so far from reality?

    I can't wait to read what your thoughts are! as I'm not an expert you would be really helpful!

  2. The customers really don't care how a photograph was taken. If they like the item on the model they would buy it. Having worked in the selling end of the fashion industry for 15 years, that is my conclusion.
  3. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator Staff Member

    Your thesis should be about advertising and marketing. As long as you understand the nature of advertising and marketing, photography in the fashion industry will make sense to you. It's nothing new, it probably goes back to the first merchants of fashion. And I agree that nobody cares about how the photograph was done, it's about how it looks.
  4. My mom worked as a commercial artist in the fashion advertising department of a major department store in the early 1950's. I still have some of her renderings. When I was a kid in the 1960's she explained how the drawings of the women in these ads were nowhere near the dimensions of a real woman. She even had an "fashion art book" that instructed artists in how to lengthen necks, elongate faces, narrow waists, make the women much taller and thinner, etc. It's been going on long before photography was used in fashion world.
  5. The point of most fashion advertising is the same: to present an unattainable beau ideal so the typical female consumer will feel inadequate and buy product. The fashion model is supposed to be something called a superstimulus--a specimen with exaggerated characteristics that causes the target audience to drop one wing and run in circles. Reality has nothing to do with it.
    To this end she may undergo a peculiar exercise regimen to enhance certain features and minimize others, a Spartan and in some cases anorexic diet, an armamentarium of skin creams, hair styling agents, and beauty aids, dental appliances, cosmetic surgery, and so on and on. Even at this point, there is a considerable discrepancy between the enhanced-but-still-ordinary human being and the final image, which must be overcome by the two-hour makeup session before the shoot, the deceptively designed attire, the artificial poses and gestures, the very sophisticated lighting, the carefully managed tonality, contrast enhancement, and retouching.
    Whether all this needs to be disclosed to the target audience depends on one question, which I trust you will explore in your thesis: exactly how stupid is the average woman? As for whether she does or doesn't want this fantasy material in her fashion advertisements, the only thing driving all this folderol is her buying power.
  6. I think all fashion photography is based on selling a "lifestyle" or "style of life". Whether it is just a focus on the quality of product by only showing the product/models, or a manipulation of a photograph highlighting the "perfectness" of its surrounding, it is all an effort to create an emotion to buyer that will think for a split second,, "is this for me?" or "could this be me?".
  7. Fashion photography is about more than just selling a product. Fashion and editorial work are about selling an idea or mood which is accomplished by a product. Photography, by its nature, captures reality. The very heart of conveying a fashion idea is to move reality in a new direction. To that end, altering a photograph is not only unremarkable, it is almost expected.
    For example, in a regular portrait or glamour photo, skin smoothing to the point that the subject looks like a cartoon is unacceptable in most circumstances. In a fashion photo, depending on the concept, it could be perfectly acceptable. Also, the ideal in portraiture and glamour is to crop in the camera, whereas post-process cropping is the norm for fashion and editorial work.
    As for revealing alterations to the viewer, what would be the point? Most people who look at fashion work aren't there to admire the skills of the photographer or the model or the makeup artist. They are there to view a product or a concept. If you asked the average viewer about altered photographs, I suspect the most likely response would be, "Who knows? Who cares?" In fact, most experienced viewers would probably just assume the picture had been altered in some way, especially if the concept is manifestly avant garde.

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