back to article UK, France mull Photoshop fakery laws

The Photoshop wars are heating up again, with politicians in the UK and France calling for legislation to regulate digital nipping, tucking, and smoothing of images in ads and elsewhere. The reasoning behind the moves to police fantasy Photoshopping is - as is all too usual in such cases - to protect those delicate flowers: …


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  1. Bryce Prewitt

    There's no law against bad taste, is there?

    "Vocalists' song stylings are pitch-corrected"

    Poorly, I might add.

  2. Aron


    While they are at it they could ban clothes and make up too. They can start by making themselves appear naked and without TV make up every time they debate in Parliament and on TV.

  3. peyton?

    I laud their efforts

    but it's not enough! There are tons of good looking people out on the street. My self esteem will not be safe until they are all eradicated. I say mandatory uglification surgery for all attractive people everywhere!

    <- How the Brad Pitts et al will look under the new regime >D

  4. Jimmy Floyd

    How dare you

    I'm outraged. Absolutely outraged at The Register. How dare you link to stories on the website of The Daily Mail without warning. Now my firewall administrators are going to think I'm some kind of Disgusted of Middle-classville who blames his many shortcomings on other Europeans. Damn you, sir!

  5. James O'Brien

    @An aging Twiggy facially scrubbed in an Olay ad

    JESUS CHRIST what the hell did they use to airbrush that visage? A damn trowel? Holy hell seriously I think airbrushing *IN MODERATION* is fine but FFS not to THAT extent.

    On a side I like Kiera's jubs just the way they are.

    To quote Leary, "Little plum sized boobs? LOVE EM"

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Utter bollocks

    I never read such utter crap in my life. Do you seriously believe that when the kiddies buy a Girls Aloud single they go Oh they sound so digital enhanced or do they go Oh they are great, I wish I could sing as well as them, likewise if the magazines and the media have no infulence, why are 13 year old girls desperate to get boob jobs and nip and tucks?

    Why are ads for anti ageing creams using teen models.

    Simple, the Celebs want to look the best, the magazines want to get the celebs to pose so make the celebs look their best ,in turn, the teenagers want to be like the celebs and the only way to get this way is to puke their guts up down a bog to be a "size 0" or to have costemetic surgery for their 16th birthday.

    However to try and legislate is the wrong way, mags need the sales and so do the celebs, so if people buycott these trash mags, sales would plummet and they would have to change their ways.

    ANd this isn't just a UK / European issue, see how many US kids want unaturally white and perfect teeth or want fake tans by the time they are 5 and FFS this is the nation that gives the world the vile child pagents where they kids are dressed like 5 year old hookers.

  7. Apocalypse Later

    Pet peeve

    I hate the adverts where a fluffy chick or duckling hatches out of an egg. In reality, hatchlings are slimy when they emerge, and only become fluffy after drying out. City people are thereby taught to believe a falsehood which may become a problem if they ever incubate birds eggs in earnest. OK, not a situation that will often arise, but multiply by the beautification of every aspect of life that occurs onscreen, and gradually the population drifts away from any grasp of reality. It is the opposite of education.

    Studies have shown that students retain false lessons from historically inaccurate films much better than the (more) accurate course material in their history lessons. It's different from watching something which you understand to be fictional from the off. I doubt that a health warning at the bottom of the screen or in the credits would help at all.

  8. Colin Wilson

    "Vocalists' song stylings are pitch-corrected"

    Sounds like a good excuse to create a law requiring any such recording to be reduced in price by 50%

  9. Apocalypse Later

    another example

    We frequently hear of some elderly person being severely beaten about the head by some yob intent on robbing them. It isn't just viciousness. These young thugs have been brought up on TV and movie dramas where someone is conveniently "knocked out" for a period by a blow to the head, with no permanent ill effect. It's a lazy plot device quite at odds with reality, but you can see how the idea is attractive to someone who just wants the old dear out of the picture for a bit while they search the bungalow for valuables. Pity it doesn't work, even on the third, fifth, tenth or twentieth application.

  10. Annihilator
    Thumb Down


    Actually I think it's more a sign of lazy photographers these days. Most of the airbrushing stuff could be achieved through appropriate angles and lighting, but nowadays it seems that they just say "f*ck it", snap a quick one and give it the once over in Photoshop.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Politicians, please, get real

    We have 3000 people die in road accidents every year in the UK, and tens of thousands seriously injured.

    We are in the middle of the biggest economic crisis since the 1930's.

    We have a looming energy crisis.

    So the government ponders 'banning' Photoshop-ing of magazine photos.

    Is this even remotely viable to enforce? No.

    How on earth do you proscribe what is allowed and what is not allowed?

    Retouching for "technical" glitches? Exposure, red-eye, unwanted highlight on the brow - maybe not? How about in-camera "noise reduction" which also happens to "de-blemish"? (not that pro fashion photographers would want to use such a blunt tool). When does technical tweaking of colour-balance become cosmetic darkening of skin-tone?

    What would the politicians propose we do about imported books and magazines?

    What about re-touching for satire, making piercing eyes, pointy ears, or swapping heads?

    The practice of retouching is as old as publishing itself, from repainting prints and transparencies to manually re-engraving locallised areas of photographs on printing plates.

    If the law were ever enforced (which I find hard to believe) wouldn't it have the unintended consequence of putting an even higher premium on the real, naturally perfect body, putting even more pressure on the few with a serious intention of becoming models or celebrities?

    In any event, retouched or not, any professional studio portrait taken by the sort of photographers employed by the glossy magazines will create a look utterly unobtainable to your average Bianca, Chardonnay or Candice at home.

  12. Mike Flugennock

    D'oh, for cripesakes...

    ...the environment is going down the toilet, the economy is dropping like a rock on Jupiter, and these knuckleheads can't think of anything better to do than piss and moan about airbrushed celebrities in magazine advertising. As a poster a bit up the scroll mentioned, it's not like this hasn't been going on for years and years _before_ Photoshop was invented. Call me naive, but I've always had this hope that politicians in Europe and the UK were a bit more competent than the ones here in the "Colonies". D'ahh ha ha ha ha hah.

    Please, oh, please... somebody, please... Make. It. STOPPPP!

  13. Richard Scratcher

    Fakery Laws? A bit late in the day

    We've had fakery long before Photoshop came on the scene. Photos in magazines used to be airbrushed and before that makeup, soft focus, clever lighting, tinting, dodging, burning and other techniques were used to make subjects look better than they would in real life.

    Nothing new here. The media have been faking their output for decades.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    How about

    Applying photo fakery laws to the mainstream news media.

    Several examples recently of badly doctored images have been published recently by the times for what one imagines can only be propaganda purposes.

    Examples I've spotted include adding a swastika, faked missile launch pictures and another favourite is bin laden pictures.

    Browsing on an iPhone there is a tendancy to zoom in closely on images revealing pixel details that are not apparent at normal viewing resolution. The most obvious give away is inconsistant anti aliasing - a clue that part of the image has been added in post. Variance in compression artifact noise is another sign of doctoring.

    If they insist on publishing such shoddy quality propaganda pap pretty soon no-one is going to take them seriously.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    More pet peeves

    Never mind photoshopped chicks, what about anthropopmo.. fuggit the cutification of polar bears? I blame WWF and Knut, and every warmist should go hug a hungry polar bear.

    (IT angle, they get photoshopped and their fur is organic optical wave guide. Weave your own organic fibre optics, but personally I think genetically modified silk worms would be safer to handle)

    But if photoshopping were banned, we'd not have this-

    showing the invasion of the bendy plastic mantis people. Those aren't looks that are acheivable without photoshop, or extreme surgery.

    (Paris, natch,

  16. James Thomas 1

    All time favourite "photoshop" fail

    This is from the bbc news website it contains my absolute favourite photoshop manipulation of an image - see if you can spot it:

    more like mspaint and a bored work experience me thinks. How its still on the site I'll never know.


  17. Seventh of 7th

    Goodbye creative/artistic endeavour.

    Okay then, let's kick off with all those photo's that make Sarkozy look taller than he actually is. In fact let's ban milk crates and all the other things he likes to stand on (including his high horse). Why stop at Photoshop? What about InDesign, Quark, or even just MS Word? Then we wouldn't have to hear about "sexed up dossiers" and the like. Let's go a step further: spell checkers. Publish as is, warts and all.

    What they have failed to grasp (assuming they have usable, opposable thumbs) is that most of the applications they may use in their (hopefully short) careers, have a drop down menu called EDIT. I,m sure they have used it many times though perhaps not in this instance.

    So, just to recap. Let's burn down Le Louvre, the Ufizzi, the Tate. Let's burn all books (fuck knows what reading them might lead you to think). Oh yeah, and let's not vote for them, whoever the fuck they are (or think they are).

    Reality? Mmm, don't think they've heard of it.

  18. Seventh of 7th

    Forgot this bit...

    "When teenagers and women look at these pictures in magazine...."

    Yeah, like they are one and the same, but men are different. How very Illiberal.

  19. Graham Marsden

    Dear Politicians...

    ... have you ever heard of "education"?

    PS That's the *proper* sort of education where people learn to *ASK QUESTIONS* instead of just being expected to believe whatever they're told...

  20. Anton Ivanov

    For f... sake

    Can the idiot proposing this law open his grandma's album? Or have a look at her wedding pictures? I bet all of them are retouched.

    Retouching was the norm until the gruff days of the late beatles and the flower power. Did it irreversibly damage the youth of those age? I doubt it...

  21. peter tomlinson

    how could it be fake?

    @James O'Brien *IN MODERATION*

    You best leave the Moderatrix out of this so your stones don't get hurt.

    @AC Utter bollocks - 5 year old hookers.

    mmmmmm.... erm, oh wait....think of the chillunz

  22. Adrian Esdaile
    Thumb Up

    Easy fix!

    Easy! Ban Photoshop!

    Oh, better ban Paint Shop Pro too.

    And the GIMP (should be banned for stupid name, anyway)

    Ah, Quantel Paintbox too (remember them? instant gfx cred there!)

    While we're at it, ban graphics tablets. oh, and mice.

    Hmm, better ban the keyboard too.

    Oh, and punch cards, you can input data with them, too

    Righto, next! Ban airbrushes. And sable-hair. Actually, ban cameras too.

    Whats, pencils! you can make incorrect art with them too, BANNED.

    Chisels - no stone carvings either.

    Actually, we could save money by just blinding the entire population, Equus-style.

    SORTED! That's $34.9million consultancy fees, thanks, next problem please!

  23. frank ly
    Thumb Up

    Love it

    " believe in realities that very often, do not exist.."

    Oh yes, my reality exists but yours does not, you poor deluded fool.

    Does anyone want to start a philosophical discussion about personal realities and how those of politicians often differ markedly from those of the ordinary people who they serve? (Did I get that last bit the right way round?)

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Little Shoops.

    Adding some volume to the hair, cleaning up that mono-brow and your pock marks, smoothing your skin, etc, etc. These are acceptable shoops. You're improving on what's already there, but not changing it. As soon as you start augmenting things then you've stepped into questionable territory.

    A great example of this shoppery at work was done by Dove for an advert.

    She looked alright after hair and make up, but they took it a step further and altered her into something that's unachievable for anyone.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Little shoops. <- Magnitudes more impressive...Maybe NSFW. ;)

  26. Anonymous Coward

    RE: Lazy

    " Actually I think it's more a sign of lazy photographers these days. Most of the airbrushing stuff could be achieved through appropriate angles and lighting, but nowadays it seems that they just say "f*ck it", snap a quick one and give it the once over in Photoshop."

    Yeah its lazy in the same way that you use E-mail instead of snail mail. A printer instead of a pen. A car instead of the bus and so forth. Photo editing saves production time. Its as simple as that. Think about your own typical work day or day in general. Look at all the tools you use to make different tasks faster or easier. You really are a lazy bastard aren´t you? You certainly diden´t go overactive in the brain department.

  27. JohnG
    Paris Hilton

    Government warnings?

    "The model shown may be fatter^H^H^H^H^H^H bigger boned than she appears"

    "The celebrity in this advert may be much older than she looks"

    "The artist on this CD cannot actually sing, play an instrument or write lyrics and was only given a contract because of her sex appeal and willingness to get her kit off for videos"

    "Bears may shit in the woods"

    "The Pope might be Catholic"

  28. jeffrey 1

    How about

    Having to a have a small picture of the un airbrushed celb shown in the bottom right hand corner of any advert..... I think that would be highly entertaining

  29. Anonymous Coward

    Well, maybe.

    This wouldn't really be a problem, I'll be happy as long as it doesn't apply to the "Kittin" or "Marge Attacks" series of images.

    Google what's in inverted commas to find out how far you can take the retouching of celeb pics.

    AC for completely obvious reasons.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    More rubbish from rubbish politicos

    As has been pointed out, with all that is currently wrong with the economy (small "e" as it's definitely not worth a capital letter) and major social problems in most countries, this is the most earth shatteringly important piece of legislation they can come up with?

    And as has also been pointed out, dark-room "photo-shopping" and air-brushing was the norn long before Photoshop was available. If they are that worried about our impressionable youth, make the magazines 18+....ok, dumb idea, but about as sensible as their proposal.

  31. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    To be consistent

    They must ban all children's adventure books, fairy tales, science fiction, fantasy, fiction, adult fiction, political biographies - all of these deal with "realities that do not exist" (isn't it an axymoron?).

    Finally, the politicians themselves must inevitably be banned - one look at the Labour conference proceedings shows they all live in a la-la-land.

  32. Dave Bell


    Don't add another law until you've let the Advertising Standards Authority have a go.

    You might be surprised how much technical know-how and hardware goes into a catalogue photograph of a washing machine, so maybe they think they can get away with these manipulations as well. But, whether it's the negative or the digital sensor, it's the difference between collecting the best possible data, and altering it. And it's the shift to altering the data which is so pernicious.

    For an example of what can be done with the camera, go look at a magazine called "Miniature Wargames". You can't do that with a digital camera and Photoshop. It's all about getting everything in focus and undistorted.

  33. Chris P

    Go Fascism!

    Is it just me, or does having common sense seem to be illegal in this country?

  34. Paul 4

    I don't beleave

    That the problem is magazines that have these adds. I thing it is down to the celeb trash with "oh look, isent she fat" and "oh look how bad she looks in that dress" crap. Its that bullying that is the problem.

  35. Wize

    But its not just photoshopping that changes photos

    The right lighting, a tight corset and a couple of implants can alter reality too.

    And what about the pavement artist bloke...

  36. Anonymous Coward

    How far do you go to sell 'beauty'?

    Re: A.N Other

    And as has also been pointed out, dark-room "photo-shopping" and air-brushing was the norn long before Photoshop was available.


    But PS allows you to go soo much further, by bending, stretching, distorting and melding people into caricatures. A lot of the time, in the interests of beauty or fashion. Karolina Kurkova's a fine example, good looking woman. In real life, she doesn't have a common looking belly button so magazine editors graft one on, because that's what people think is normal, or beautiful. Which is not that unusual & how many models do you see with 'outie' belly buttons, which are more common.

    What's wrong with shooting real people & showing them in all their glory?

  37. Anonymous Coward

    Go Airbrushing!

    I'd like to see a journo/photoshopper airbrush me into a svelte masculine figure. At 5'10", 22 stone (being kind to myself) and a 50" gut, I'm more Homer Simpson than OJ Simpson!

  38. Anonymous Coward

    Only because it didn't happen to her

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The alternative is much worse

    So you have a celeb and the magazines want them skinnier. So they shop the photos. She now looks skinnier and some impressionable kids want to be that thin and may harm themselves doing so.

    Or the magazines are not allowed to shop the image so they just tell celeb to come back when they've lost 10lbs and had their tits surgically enhanced. So the photos look the same and kids still harm themselves and that would be OK?

    At least now if you want to be a model you don't need to be perfect, things can be retouched in post-production, but if that was banned girls would know they would absolutely have to starve themselves half dead before they would have any chance at all.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Like the idea

    Of a anti-Kite mark to show when an image has been enhanced.

    Whats wrong with that ? Sounds perfectly plausible.

  41. TeeCee Gold badge

    France. Ulterior motive?

    Of course, if retouching is banned the modelling pic types'll just have to get old skool and take more care with makeup. Probably buying more of it, better stuff, pumping money into the business to get better results, etc.

    Remind me again which European country has more cosmetics companies than you can shake a stick at?

    I can't quite see why the Lib Dems are so keen on French Pork though.....

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Come on

    It's just a good excuse for the Daily Wail to publish photos of semi-nekkid ladies. You know they like to do it, then complain about the UK drowning in a sea of sleaze...

    Paris, because she would, given the chance.

  43. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    Eeepc girl

    Surely this is an excuse to re-print the girl-on-beach-with-an-eeePC, as the hands were clearly Photoshopped.

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