Norway’s new Photoshop law
Hi all! Dave Williams here for another #TravelTuesday post. I hope you’re all well and that you all had a great day on Sunday for the 4th!
Straight off the bay, I couldn’t come up with a better feature image for this post than what I’m going to call ‘real life Photoshop’ with my bestie Peter Treadway.
Today I want to touch on something that’s come off the back of a bit of news from Norway. Legislators there have made it a legal requirement for influencers and advertisers to label images that have been retouched or have filters applied in a bid to address “body pressure in society.”
The law is an amendment to the marketing Act 2009 and was passed with an overwhelming majority support of 75 to 15 in Norwegian Parliament.
The law, due to be introduced shortly, will require that any sponsored or advertising posts need to declare where a “body’s shape, size or skin has been changed by retouching or other manipulation” be clearly marked to declare the presence of edits. Failure to mark such images will result in a fine being issued.
The changes are outlined with a list of examples that includes enlarged lips, narrowed waists, pronounced muscles, and other such edits. But what’s behind all this?
We all know that it’s extremely rare for one of our images to be Straight Out Of Camera (SOOC) and not edited or retouched in some way. If we take this news at first glance, that is to say that we haven’t made ourselves familiar with the finer details about the extent of the retouching done, it can appear that almost every image on social media in Norway is to display this label of having been retouched. Society has normalised retouching but it is in a different way to that we expect as photographers. When we retouch images we tend to approach it from the perspective that we are looking to make the image more appealing, to gain more traction, or to attract more clients for ourselves because of the quality and calibre of our work both in camera and in post. We’ve ended up in a situation where we are stuck in a bit of a touch position because the world uses the word ‘Photoshop’ as a verb, so an image that looks good is seen as something that must have been ‘Photoshopped’. An unfortunate circumstance that has come out of this is that the youth of our society are influenced, hence the term ‘influencer’ I suppose, but with that come negative implications in that body dysmorphia comes to the forefront, sometimes to quite extreme ends.
Young people, particularly young girls, grow up receiving the influence of the world around them and with that comes an impression cast upon them of what they are meant to be like, and look like. There are those breaking the trend, of course, but this is still commonplace and carries a certain mental health stigma in that people will go to extreme lengths in order to appear a particular way because of something or someone they’ve seen on social media, such as a Kardashian with a warped door frame behind their retouched body parts, or extra hands for example. There was a campaign some years ago by Snickers that highlighted this quite well. I took a moment to retouch Snickers advertising image and ‘fix it’. Here’s the image highlighting the errors: –
It isn’t these errors that are causing a problem, of course. It’s the photos that are passing as genuine and in turn having a negative impact on the youth worldwide who pick up on the retouched images and perceive them as being real, altering their habits and aspiring to be something that isn’t real because society is leaving that impression. I for one hope none of us are the cause of this and that it actually is the influencers and advertisers, but it’s important that we, as photographers, consider our actions when retouching and the impact it could have. Perhaps Norway have taken a step in the right direction.
PS – here’s my ‘fixed’ version
PPS – if you’re interested in finding out what’s behind my van situation, here’s a little bit of reading