debenhams model colorful print bikini photoshop marked up photo

A swimsuit photo marked up for retouching. Photo courtesy of Debenhams

Photoshop can be a girl's best friend: Who wants to post their pics on Facebook without a little enhancement here, some slimming there, and maybe a bit of shading and smoothing you-know-where?

But, when it comes to the fashion and entertainment industries, to airbrush or not to airbrush is most certainly the question.

Jessica Simpson
and Kim Kardashian both recently went makeup-free in magazines, while Britney Spears released unretouched photos from her Candie's ad campaign.

Meanwhile, Madonna reportedly went sans Photoshop for a Louis Vuitton campaign. (We'd sure like her lighting crew to follow us around.)

But altering photos remains common practice in the magazine, advertising, and entertainment worlds, even if retailers such as Ann Taylor catch flack for it.

British department store Debenhams, however, is having none of it.



In a window display, the store is showing a photo of a model in a swimsuit that has not been airbrushed or digitally enhanced -- along with an example of how the picture could have been altered.

So, what's different? Oh, just the removal of a little belly flab, slimmed-down arms, thighs and waist, smoothed-out hair, underarms -- ahem -- tidied, and flawless skin. No more under-eye darkness or creased bikini. And the bust? Bigger, of course.

A sign in the window will read: 'We've not messed with natural beauty; this image is unairbrushed. What do you think?"

"As a responsible retailer we want to help customers make the most of their beauty without bombarding them with unattainable body images," says Mark Woods, Debenhams director of creative and visual.

"Our campaign is all about making women feel good about themselves -- not eroding their self belief and esteem by using false comparisons. Not only does it make sense from a moral point of view, it ticks the economic boxes, as well. Millions of pounds a year are spent by organisations [sic] retouching perfectly good images."

debenhams model colorful print bikini photoshop before and after

Spot the differences. The bikini image before (left), and after (right), retouching.
Photos courtesy of Debenhams

Woods says that, as a rule, the store only airbrushes minor things such as pigmentation or stray hairs.

"We are proud to bring the issue of re-touching into the main stream when the likes of Britney Spears and Madonna are using un-airbrushed but over-lit images as a shock tactic," he says.

Jo Swinson, co-founder of the Campaign for Body Confidence, says more and more people are realizing that airbrushing and other trickery are not necessary in order for women to look beautiful.

"I am sure that what this will demonstrate is that swimwear modeled by real women who have not been retouched can sell just as well as products advertised with extensive airbrushing, which has become the norm," Swinson says. "Women can feel good about themselves knowing that beauty is not about achieving the unachievable."

This isn't the first time Debenhams has tried to appeal to "regular" women. In January, the Daily Mail reports, the store featured size 16 mannequins in windows, and in February, it launched a new line featuring images of disabled model Shannon Murray.

What do you think? Is it OK to Photoshop? Or has retouching gone too far? Leave a comment.

On the flip side, here's a magazine that admits to using airbrushing to create curves.