Photoshop Disasters on Marie Claire photo


One of my favorite blogs, Photoshop Disasters, found this photo from the Sept. 2008 issue of Marie Claire, and compared the faces of the people in the photo with their reflections in the glass table.

Marie Claire: On reflection, perhaps not


  1. I get that it’s a pretty silly mistake to touch up people’s faces but not their reflections, but other than that I really don’t see what’s so bad about this.

    Isn’t scrutinizing these pictures and pointing out the flaws in the people’s untouched images just tacitly admitting that we find things like extra stubble, crow’s feet, and laugh lines ugly?

    “Haha, those stupid photoshopper’s forgot that woman’s ugly-ass wrinkles in the reflection! How stupid can they be?”

  2. A couple of things spotted:

    Stuart had a “5-oclock-shadow” in the reflection, got cleaned up for the photo.

    Complexion/wrinkle clean up on Kath and Venessa.

    Bridget’s head has been re-angled on her neck and her jawline redesigned.

    Anything else?

  3. Well one thing people forget is that the table reflection angle is going to give an entirely different perspective – it will be more of a below perspective which is fairly unflattering. Placed next to the touched up direct perspective faces the distorted, low angle, unretouched images will look ugly. No surprise there.

    The retouching alternatives aren’t really much better and wouldn’t fix the issue enough to matter.

  4. Yeah, I don’t know. It doesn’t take much distortion to make a face really freaky looking (thanks chimp brain!).

    Tempered glass like what that tabletop is made out of is NOT optical quality glass.

    There is some shoopin’ going on in that image, but the “bag face ugly” I think is mostly distortion related.

  5. Isn’t scrutinizing these pictures and pointing out the flaws in the people’s untouched images just tacitly admitting that we find things like extra stubble, crow’s feet, and laugh lines ugly?

    Not really. It just gives another evidence that 90% of what we see in the media is pure fantasy. A disturbingly large amount of people still believe that it is possible to have absolutely no wrinkles, pores or eye-veins.

    It just serves to show, once more, that it’s all a sham and they should move on and stop buying $100 jars of cream made with green tea, flowers and dolphin whispers (and stop buying Marie Claire or Cosmo, for that matter).

  6. @ Arnodick: “Isn’t scrutinizing these pictures and pointing out the flaws in the people’s untouched images just tacitly admitting that we find things like extra stubble, crow’s feet, and laugh lines ugly?”

    Say rather that photoshopping those “flaws” in the first place is what indoctrinate us to classify such minor and natural marks of age or tiredness as “ugly”.

  7. Plus, these aren’t even fashion models. They’re the staff of a fashion magazine. Wait–maybe it’s a subtle comment on how useless they all are.

  8. I´ve seen this just few hours ago at PD blog, nice to see this here at boing boing again…

    The picture was “photoshopped” very hardly but only they really forgot to do the same in the reflection… It´s obvious that the glass do have a distortion, but it doesn´t means that´s anything wrong with the faces…


  9. Want to see truly criminal retouching? Go to any K-mart. Go to the girls/tweens clothing sections — any season. Look at the images on the walls of girls wearing the clothing for sale in that area.

    You will see that they took normal girls and changed them to look as absurdly thin as holocaust victims, in order to sell their products and show girls what they should look like.

  10. seems kinda dumb – more like optical ignorance. so they retouched them, so what.

    reminds me of the “orbs” in photographs to which people attribute so much mystery, when they’re just optical artifacts.

  11. The people in the fashion media are the most vain, self-centred creeps around in the whole industry. And that’s saying something when it comes to the media! So this is kinda cool to point out the fact that they are not the perfect paragons of style they pretend to be.

  12. @ 12 and 13

    A good point. But I guess that’s my main problem with posting this in the first place. It’s not really a disaster particular to bad photoshopping; every face that is retouched will look like that.

    We can make a moral stand against such editing practices, which I absolutely agree with; setting beauty standards to unattainable levels by touching up photos does change the way we think and feel about ourselves in a negative way. But that’s not really the point of this post, is it? I feel like it’s a bit misleading to call this a “photoshop disaster” if the only real problem anyone has with it is that the people’s faces had their wrinkles and blemishes edited out to make them look better.

    I guess there’s two ways to look at it: If the photoshop disaster is that the ugly unedited faces are still visible, we’re being pretty vain in calling it a “disaster;” I doubt the people in the picture would be happy to find out that their unedited, natural faces are a disaster. But if the photoshop disaster is just that the people’s faces were edited to look better, it seems kind of lame to single out this one photo and get angry about it. Almost every magazine photo is edited in such a way; why aren’t those disasters? Why not call the post “People’s faces shouldn’t be edited to look better” if that’s what is annoying about this photoshop?

    Haha, I am thinking about this way too much. Thanks BOING BOING! :P

  13. Yeah, how stupid of them not to spend hours doing ever so slight retouchings to distorted reflections that only people desperate to find errors would ever notice.

  14. call me weird, but all the retouched faces to me look homogenized and characterless. The reflected images (less the distortion) look more appealing and less uncanny valley-like.

  15. Arnodick @ 21, you’ve missed the third, accurate possibility. The disaster is not that we can see “ugly” faces, nor is it that the photo has been retouched. The disaster is that we can see both the false image and the reality. Since the entire point of this sort of photoshopping is to create an illusion of perfection (as defined by certain people–the folks in the photo among them), being able to see the ‘before’ image destroys the intended illusion.

  16. #19 “The people in the fashion media are the most vain, self-centred creeps around in the whole industry.”

    Do you know this from personal experience or did you just figure it out from Project Runway, The Devil Wears Prada and Zoolander?

    Cuz the people I know are pretty much the opposite of your observation.

  17. @ ARNODICK

    I see your point, and it’s true that there are a lot scarier Photoshop jobs out there.

    I still think it belongs under ‘Photoshop Disaster’ because this is a renowned publication dedicated to image. It’s just pretty ironic that so many trust these people to tell them how to make themselves more ‘marketable’ and attractive (in their humble opinion), yet they’ll allow sloppy design work.

    And, true: The hypocrisy of the staff making themselves look 10-20 years younger digitally while publishing a magazine filled with feel-good articles on self-esteem has nothing to do with crappy Photoshop jobs. But it is still pretty amusing, in some way.

  18. Oh! I was going to say
    “The Conference Table of Dorian Gray”
    but Icky Bob beat me to it.

  19. This isn’t just a retouch: they combined two shoots taken not just at different times but in different *places*. Look at Bridget’s reflection in the table. There’s a huge rooftop behind her. Can you see the building that rooftop belongs to in the window above? (Angles of reflection don’t explain this one: they make it worse.)

  20. wow I thought the disaster had something to do with the # of ‘creative’ people needed to turn out a fashion mag

  21. Not a «photoshop-disaster» at at all, maybe a poor photo-editorial or photographic decision but no «photoshop-disaster»

    A Mirror effect in the real word is not the same as «flip vertical» in photoshop. The reflected image is best described, as when you imagine a second camera sitting below the table’s glass surface pointing upwards. This can be called a worms-eye view, which is normally used in photography and cinematography for dramatic effects, but here it collides in side-by-side comparison with the rest of the image, which makes this sudden change in perspective irritating. The effect is most drastic in Bridget’s face, as she is closest to the camera and so the difference in the viewing angle between the imagined camera below the table and the real camera at eye height is the biggest. The different viewing angle also explains the absence of any buildings in the mirrored background, since the viewing direction is more towards the sky than in the direct view.

    This effect collides with the second optical phenomenon in this picture:
    Distortions; caused be the wavy, warped, segmented and tinted surface of the table.

    If you flip the picture as a whole, as done here earlier
    these effects can be reversed quite well by our visual intelligence, cause all these alternations are applied in a consistent way throughout the image. Especially the bulge which goes through the faces of Stuart, Vanessa and Bridget seems way less distorting, if it’s applied to everything in view in an equal and linear way.

    Surely some retouching was done here too but it’s quite subtle and except of the slightly overdone facial hair removal job, which could also be just a side effect of general contrast adaption, nothing noteworthy.

    My point is, this picture only becomes awkward by the addition of the boxes next to the faces, which I consider highly suggestive. Real «photoshop disasters» should be able to speak for themselves without any additions to the shopped image.

    This is PSYOPS not photoshop.

  22. The only disaster here is the poster’s lack of understanding that not all glass table-tops are perfectly flat. Everything else done to it is pretty standard, even if you do find it questionable.

  23. Apparently a lot of people are missing the point. Long ago, I did a bunch of magazine work, and this slip-up is indeed the kind of thing that would make magazine production people flip out.

    If one is going to retouch photos (and I’m not so sure it’s a great idea), the job should be consistent, appealing, and plausible. The Photoshop Disasters blog has some things that are obvious fuckups once they’re pointed out, like missing or extra appendages. But a lot of them are more subtle, like impossible anatomy, wonky shadows, or overzealous polishing that makes people look doll-like.

    To a trained eye, the subtle goofs and the obvious ones are equally bad, but if you haven’t spent time in the industry, only the dramatic ones are funny.

  24. Wow. I’m the person who submitted this to the photoshop disasters site and I’ve been following the comments both here and there with interest.

    There seem to be two distinct camps – those who understand why I submitted it & why it got posted both here and on Photoshop disasters and then the people who just don’t get it at all and somehow think they’ve had their time wasted.

    The submission was because the main photo had been quite altered in lots of ways to make the people look better but the retoucher had left the evidence of what the people actually look like in the reflection. I think we’re all aware that the table’s reflective surface is not an exact mirror, I was trying to highlight the fact that Marie Claire is a magazine that repeatedly bangs on about ‘real beauty’ and yet they seem scared to show their own staff as being normal people with the same flaws as everyone else.

    P.S. my favourite comment so far from the disasters site has to be;
    “There should be some sort of annual contest on this site where we get to vote on the most atrocious example of photoshop incompetence about which someone still manages to say it isn’t a disaster.”

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