The Photoshop Experiment

I'm a mere three weeks away from being ejected from the desirable 18-34 marketing group.

Yes, I'm approaching the age where any magazine will suggest that I slather myself with $60 face creams, have some laser resurfacing done and consider using some "preventative" botox. Or I could just use my very amateur Photoshop skills and tweak a few things here and there.

According to our beauty standards, what needs tweaking?

To be quite frank, unlike Jennifer Love Hewitt, I am not a size two. Or a four. Or a six...unless I'm shopping at Old Navy. But you can't see that in this picture.

So, what can you see?

Well, I have lines under my eyes. Sure, you have some lines as well. But when's the last time you saw lines like yours and mine on a magazine cover? How about the dark circles? And while I'm on the eye area, my eyebrows are in dire need of waxing.

I have freckles under my eyes. Or are those really age spots? The results of sun damage?

Okay, let's move on to the forehead. See those two grooves on my forehead maybe an inch down from my hairline? Those are two scars from a severe childhood bout of chicken pox. For some reason, they seem deeper than ever these days.

Come to think of it, the skin on my forehead is overall pretty rough. It must be the effect of the LA sun. Plus, I can see the little scar left from when my then three year-old threw a Batman at me in a fit of rage earlier this fall.

Hmm. Those laugh lines are starting to look a little deeper than they did before.

My hair is graying, dulling. Losing it's lustre. And someone should have told me to touch up the lipstick.

Have you looked at yourself lately and done this similar self-analysis? It's dangerous, because really, where does it stop?

I've only used Photoshop once before and with my very limited skill level, I can barely erase the wrinkles, color my hair, and get rid of my chicken pox scars and freckles. And I "softened" one of the laugh lines on the right side of my face. I should have done the left as well just to balance it out, but by then I was feeling a little nauseous from all the self-inflicted tweaking.

Imagine what a professional, someone who regularly tweaks the likes of a Julia Roberts or a Halle Berry could do with me?

Just to twist the knife a bit deeper though, I asked my oblivious son and husband what they thought about these two pictures.

"Which one do you like better?"

Guess which one they all chose? My eldest even pointed to the second one and said, "You look ALOT prettier in this one, Mommy."

I don't know why I got irritated when all three of them chose the second picture. Really, isn't that what we all do? Sure, Pam Anderson sans makeup and photo editing is a scary thing. But if I didn't know otherwise, would I feel so horrified when I see it? How must it feel for celebrities to see professionally Photoshopped pictures of themselves plastered all over magazines and know that they really don't look like that?

They are not that thin. Their skin and hair is not that perfect. And they're getting Photoshopped after having had laser skin resurfacing, botox, and professionally applied makeup. No wonder they become drug addicts and alcoholics. They wake up every morning having to change who they really are, knowing what they are presenting is a lie.

They wake up knowing that if we don't see them in all their "perfection", they will get ripped apart for looking...human.

At the end of it all, I'll take the version of me with the two chicken pox craters in my forehead. That's who I've known all my life. I think I like her better.


I like the first photo better because there is more "movement". I don't know a better word to descibe it.

I think our eyes are so used to all the photoshopping and plastic surgery out here, we are shocked when we see women without it. I will never forget seeing UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN with a couple of friends. One, a movie studio exec, asked why didn't Diane Lane take care of the bags under her eyes? Please, how many 38 year olds look like Diane Lane? I thought she looked/looks beautiful. People are crazy.
Dena said…
i like her better the first picture that is. :) i know it's hard not doing the poking and tweaking as we get older. i mean....come on....we live in one of the most self-centered, self-conscious countries in the world!
i like the fact that i have laugh lines on my face....a scar here and me it truly represents that i am living and enjoying life. i wouldn't trade that for anything.
thailandchani said…
I like the first one best. :)

You are perfectly beautiful, just the way you are. Sc**w all those advertisements, constantly telling us we are not okay, just as we are.

It's nuts!
nick said…
What a cheek your own family preferring the touched-up version. I should throw them all on the street immediately. What's wrong with the real you with all the signs of experience and maturity? As you say, it must be a nightmare for the celebs who have to live up to the totally manufactured versions of what they look like. And of course it makes every other woman feel physically inadequate, even if they know perfectly well the pictures are fakes.
Jameil said…
that's so what i say. no wonder they're all crazy!! that's why when folk talk junk about brit i'm like Y'ALL MADE HER LIKE THAT AND YOU WON'T LET UP!! sigh. we're all human. my flaws make me who i am. flaws and all baby flaws and all.
Tami said…
I've got four years on you and I get what you mean.

I say I'm a strong feminist and that I don't care about that stuff...that I know all about airbrushing...that I won't get caught chasing youth and perfection...that those women who are stretched and airbrushed within an inch of their lives are fake and have poor self-esteem, But you know, when I look in the mirror these days, I notice that my skin isn't as smooth and elastic. When I pull back my afro puff, I see that one annoying short gray hair that sticks up from my hairline. When I smile, my cheeks make this weird little pouch under my eyes. I see it in photos from my childhood, but boy do I ever see it now.

You look awesome in the first photo, and usually I know that I look okay, too. But you can't be part of this youth-obsessed, superficial society and not sometimes wonder what a little tweaking can do.
Liz Dwyer said…
I know what you mean. I don't know how to describe it either in the first picture...and it's really not that great of a picture of me. That's why I chose that one, so I could see the effects of photoshop on a picture I didn't particularly like.

That's crazy about Diane Lane. I can only imagine though. I think she's really beautiful.

Well, I could do without the little scar from the thrown Batman! ;0 But at least when I'm older I'll be able to tell him about how he used to have such huge temper tantrums that I actually got a scar from one.

Thanks for saying that. I don't think I'm half bad, but I do need to get those eyebrows taken care of! LOL! Our culture's obsession with looking a certain way all the time is absolutely nuts. One of the headlines on MSNBC this morning was "10 Tips to Looking Younger" or something like that. And it was one of their most read stories. That really says something about our culture!

Yes, I'll put the entire fam outside! LOL! I think they just don't know any better. And I did make them choose! ;0 Really, it shows how insidious the beauty standards we are exposed to really are. There's so much of our world that is a complete fantasy. It's like Edmund from "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe", forever obsessed with eating endless amounts of Turkish Delight, only to find out it's hollow and non-existent.

Oh yes, we all definitely made Britney. The first time she put on that schoolgirl outfit, if no one had bought the record and made the video #1 on TRL, well that would have really changed things for her. Maybe for the better, but who really knows.

Someone once asked me if I had the scars on my forehead from being beaten as a child and I laughed SO hard. I was totally like, "No, dummy, chickenpox!" I think they add character. I wonder if I lasered them off if I'd miss them.

Thanks for saying I look awesome in that first photo. I think I look okay. My eldest son wanted to practice taking pictures so he took that one of me. I feel like aging takes some getting used to. I feel like it sneaks up on me, like all of the sudden I notice crinkles under my eyes that weren't there before. Or I notice that my forehead has worry lines etched into it that weren't there before. I do wonder what it would be like to just be able to chase those things away with a little injection or laser smoothing, but it would never be enough, I'm sure, once I started down that path. I do need to step up my skin cream game though. My skin has actually gotten sort of dry over the past couple of months. It's weird because I've never had that problem. I guess that's just another sign of aging! ;)
Mes Deux Cents said…

I hate photoshopped pictures. They never look right to me. Like that pic on the Glamour cover of America.

Your real face says who you are. I think we women are feed a bill of goods because people want to sell us things.

Make-up, plastic surgery, hair products. Yikes!

The truth is that we have all that we need when we wake-up every morning.

You are a beautiful woman and photoshopping hides that.

I prefer the real Liz.
You are very beautiful photoshopped or not. I think this whole photoshop business is making our world, our culture too artificial. I told my daughter that by the time she is in her 20's, the natural beauties (no botox, no nothing) will be considered unique.
dreamyj said…
good for you, maybe i'll try the photoshop analysis. a lot of the things you pointed out in the first i had to go back to see because i hadn't noticed them. =) we tend to be hypercritical of ourselves anyway.
Liz Dwyer said…
No, they never do look quite right. They're a little Stepfordish, a little like something out of the Twilight Zone. Oh yes, folks sure do want to sell us a bill of goods. No doubt about that. I can't believe how much $$ I've saved not getting the life ironed out of my hair at the salon. You are very kind to say I'm beautiful. And I totally am not expecting everyone to say, "Oh you're more beautiful than the photoshop picture," or anything like that because I'm sure there are those that disagree.

I do thank the stars for concealer and red lipstick (in moderation!) ;0

Thank you so much for saying so. And I agree. While at the grocery earlier today I saw a headline on the cover of Details magazine talking about enough with the breast implants. There has to be a tipping point where a natural beauty will come back into style.

Yes, if you don't tell someone else all your flaws, half the time they don't notice. It was interesting to step back and analyze myself in this way. I'm sure there are people who analyze themselves like that every day and how depressing it must be because we can, none of us, live up to the myth, the fantasy of "beauty" in our culture.
Brianna said…
Hey there!

I did this ad that will be in SI february issue I believe. Anyway...I got the comps a little while back and I was blown was so not my body! Obviously my body is very athletic but I guess someone decided it needed to be a little more feminine so my waist was taken in, they gave me boobs, they made my legs thinner, and before you know it I'm a brand new person! Oh..and of course my skin looked like plastic. I'm not complaining about the boob part, but it's just funny that I'm looking at this hot girl that is supposed to be me, and it's totally not.

btw...Old Navy KILLS me with their sizing. I'm almost a -1.
SheWhoLives said…

You are obviously a beautiful woman and photoshop or not, it jumps off the page. Personally I prefer the first pic because it is real, textured, and yes, flawed.
Neil said…
I like the first one best because that's who you are. The reason the tabloids go so crazy over seeing a celebrity with cellulite is that we are all so used to seeing them Photoshopped all the time that when we see the "real" them, we are shocked that they look imperfect like everyone else.
I think you are beautiful in both pictures, and that is not me being Politically Correct. You have great birthday, just encase I miss it.
BlackLiterature said…

Just found your blog. As a temporary Angelina many years ago and a Cali native, I find myself missing all things Cali.
Liz Dwyer said…
Congrats on the SI ad - regardless of the franken-shopping they did on you. They don't even have to ask permission? Yeah, I'm guessing no. It just seems that since it's a sports magazine, they'd want to show real, athletic bodies. Apparently not. LOL about not complaining about the boob part.

That's very kind of you to say. My family probably sometimes likes the photoshop me because they have to live with the real me. ;0

Yeah, I would prefer to see real images of celebrities more often. Like Christina Aguilera on the cover of Marie way her pregnant belly looks that smooth. The picture of her inside was even more ridiculous looking. It didn't even look like a pregnant woman. It looks like an egg got stuck on her belly. But I'm sure there are pregnant women feeling inadequate as a result.

One Man's Opinion,
Welcome to my blog! Thank you so much for your non-PC opinion! ;0 Thanks for the birthday wishes as well.

Glad you came across my blog. Welcome. I think if I didn't live here anymore I'd be missing all things Cali as well. I feel like I'm living somewhere else since it's like 45 degrees outside!
1969 said…
You are beautiful in the first picture. Why? Cause you're REAL.

Who wants to lead a photoshopped life only?
Liz Dwyer said…
Thank you for saying so. I think it would be infinitely sad to only have an existence in photoshop.
Anonymous said…
You know what the worst thing is? That even though I KNOW those celebrity photos are Photoshopped (I remember my art director giving specific instructions to the production artist to take a couple of inches off an actress' thighs!) -- deep down, I still think I need to look that way.
Jen said…
I like the first one better. Your expression also seems a little photoshopped out in the second one. That may sound weird, but that's what it looks like to me.
Liz Dwyer said…
It's all a complete illusion but we forget that when we're looking at it. I imagine it would be almost impossible to be a production artist these days if you were ethically opposed to Photoshop.

Oh, the expression is definitely thin in the second picture. I think that's what happens when the wrinkles get taken away. I keep hearing that there's a scene with Nicole Kidman in "The Golden Compass" where she's supposed to emote and it's just impossible for her to do so, which is just such a shame.
Anonymous said…
I so understand what you mean Liz. I am approaching 40 and even though I haven't changed much since you've last seen me(at Louhelen) I am definitely looking older (gray hairs and all). I really enjoy reading your blog and in fact just recently stumbled across it. You're still funny and haven't changed a bit (except for the kids, husband, and "real" life).
the last noel said…
There really isn't that much difference. If you didn't point them out, I wouldn't have thought about it.
Liz Dwyer said…
Hey, thanks for stopping by. Nice to have someone old school here to visit. Oh, I have a whole family of gray hairs making friends.

Sort of like the woman who says to her man, "Does my ass look fat?" and then gets upset when the man says, "Yeah, it does look fat!" ;) -- I suppose I notice it all because I'm more critical of myself than anyone.
storyteller said…
I've been busy and am way behind on my blog reading. I didn't intend to comment until I was all caught up, but I feel compelled to add ... REAL is always better! (Remember the Velveteen Rabbit?) Heck I'm 25 years older than you ... have never colored the grey (it started when I was in my late 20s and has spread like wildfire) nor do I try to cover the lines that show my character and wisdom. Be yourself ... love yourself ... just as you are ... beautiful!
Hugs and blessings,

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