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Read my lips: the rise and rise of photo-editing


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I first learned about FaceTune in Los Angeles in 2016 at a convention called BeautyCon. It’s an event that brings together beauty influencers, an ever-expanding throng of people who have become celebrities by documenting their make-up tutorials for social media. I was probably one of the last people at the conference to discover the app, which claims to “tune” your face as though it were an old piano. You can use it to smooth wrinkles, whiten teeth, remove blemishes or digitally apply make-up.


A beauty editor I went with was taking photos of herself with immaculately made-up influencers and retouching them on her phone before sharing them on social media. “Should I add a red lip?” she asked me as she was editing. I peered at her phone as she used the app to apply red lipstick to her lipstick-free mouth. After a few adjustments, I couldn’t even tell that her now bright-red lips were digitally enhanced.


People have been retouching images since the dawn of photography. Having worked in magazines I was well aware of the tortuous digital enhancement many cover shots endure before they hit the newsstands. But I had no idea that my mobile phone offered similar tools. So the beauty editor demonstrated how she could add more make-up, change the shape of her face and even the size of her features with a few finger strokes.


I’ve always felt self-conscious about posting photos of myself to Instagram. I thought this was because I wanted to be the kind of Instagram user who didn’t seem like a narcissist (if such a person even exists). But it’s equally likely that I don’t post many photos because I don’t like the way I look, particularly when I compare myself with the other glamorous people on the site.


One day soon after BeautyCon, I had almost decided against posting a photo of myself when I remembered my friend’s digital lipstick and realised I could use FaceTune on my own picture. After all, fashion journalists are now expected to have a face-forward social media presence. So I downloaded the app, cleared up my freckles and whitened my teeth. Then I felt good enough about my appearance to post it. Once I saw how easy and satisfying it was to polish my image – and that most of my friends were already doing so – I downloaded more apps. I now have five on my phone solely dedicated to photo editing.


I’m not the only one. FaceTune launched in 2013 and counts 40m daily active users, a majority of them female. Since the success of the first iteration it has launched a new, more sophisticated version, FaceTune 2, which encourages users to pay a monthly subscription for special tools such as simulated studio lighting. Retouching photos has become so commonplace that FaceTune isn’t just an app to millennials – it’s a verb. Other popular retouching apps include Kim Kardashian’s favourite, Perfect365, which like FaceTune is for brushing up selfies, and VSCO and Snapseed for photos of all kinds. The technology extends beyond apps too. The latest iPhone’s portrait mode automatically modifies images of people by blurring out the background.

并不只有我对美颜软件那么着迷。FaceTune创立于2013年,每天有四千万的活跃用户,其中大部分为女性。在第一版FaceTune取得成功之后,它还推出了付费版的FaceTune 2,鼓励用户购买更多修图工具,例如模拟摄影室打光效果。对于千禧一代来说,修图十分普遍,而FaceTune也不单单是一款软件,它已经成为了一个动词。其他流行的修图软件还有金·卡戴珊最爱的Perfect365、VSCO以及Snapseed。其中Perfect365是用来修自拍的,而Snapseed是各种照片都能修。修图技术已经不单单局限于手机软件上,最新的苹果手机甚至有自拍模式,自动帮你修图,虚化背景。

Millennials aren’t shy to admit that they retouch their photos. Beauty influencer Marianna Hewitt, who has 800,000 Instagram followers, her own line of face masks and endorsement deals with brands such as Armani, recently shared a YouTube video about how she alters her photos using mobile-phone apps. So has the first male face of make-up brand Maybelline, Manny Gutierrez, who has 4.8m Instagram followers. One of fashion’s biggest influencers, BryanBoy, who was one of the first bloggers to be given a coveted front-row seat at a big fashion show and now endorses labels such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci, says he modifies almost all his photos: “I don’t believe in this ‘no filter’ nonsense.”

千禧一代对修图并不感到难为情。Marianna Hewitt是一位在Instagram上坐拥80万粉丝的美妆达人,她甚至有自己的系列面膜,还为奢侈品牌阿玛尼做代言。最近,她在YouTube上分享了一段她如何使用手机软件进行修图的视频。另外,作为美宝莲首位男性代言人的Manny Gutierrez也发布了类似的视频。他的Instagram粉丝数也有480万之多。贵为全球影响力最大的时尚达人之一的BryanBoy甚至表示,他的每张照片基本都是修过的。他说:“我可不相信什么’不要滤镜’的蠢话。” BryanBoy是最早能受邀坐在时尚秀前排的博主之一,如今他为LV和Gucci代言。

For my generation, editing your own image has become as routine as using social media. We grew up with airbrushing and Photoshop and saw the exposés of flawless magazine cover stars who weren’t flawless at all. Instead of rejecting the falsehoods we’ve made it part of our daily lives, crafting idealised digital versions of ourselves that feel like an essential corollary to real life. Technology has set a new standard for beauty that quite literally doesn’t exist in real life. Rather than reject that, we’ve embraced it.


Mobile apps mirror the type of editing that professional retouchers routinely employ. FaceTune says its most frequently used tools are teeth whitening, skin smoothing and reshaping the face or facial features, such as slimming a jawline or nose. On Perfect365, make-up application tools, especially for the eyes, have long been most in demand.


Even the most deft users of the apps don’t go to anywhere near the extremes that professionals do for adverts or magazine covers. Lena Abujbara, a professional retoucher who has worked with brands such as Nike and Sephora, says she can easily spot amateur retouching. She notices instantly when people use the “liquefy” tool to morph certain parts of their body or face. “They think they can just push [away] the bump of their nose,” she says. When she edits a nose, she takes the nose out of the image entirely: “We’re clipping the nose out of the face and reshaping it and putting it back on.”

即使是那些修图软件的高级玩家,也达不到那些为广告或杂志封面修图的专业人士的水平。专业修图师Lena Abujbara为Nike和Sephora提供修图服务。她说,自己可以轻易看出哪些图是业余的人修的。她可以快速判断出照片中的身体或脸是不是用“液化”工具修过的。“他们以为自己能够简简单单把自己鼻子上的痘痘给修平,但是,我们专业人士可是将鼻子先从照片里分离出来,修好以后再放回照片里的。”她说着便将照片里的鼻子拿出来单独修图。

morph verb [ I or T ] UK  /mɔːf/ US  /mɔːrf/ to gradually change one image into another, or combinethem, using a computer program(使)图像变形;将(图像)进行合成处理

A magazine cover is sometimes a compilation of images rather than a single edited one (“an eight-hour edit, minimum”). It may include a woman’s eye from one photo and her arm from another. Abujbara says one model’s hair for a beauty ad may use parts of 15 different images. Even inanimate objects such as cereal bowls are retouched in this way. “No one knows that bowl is three different images,” says Abujbara. “It doesn’t actually exist.” She recently spent a month editing a mug for a hot-chocolate ad after the brand didn’t like the one that was photographed: she digitally illustrated a different mug using the bones of the original, then added hot chocolate, placed chunks of chocolate next to it and affixed the necessary shadows.


When retouching her subjects, Abujbara says she tries to make them look unblemished yet natural. Their clothing should be wrinkled just so. Their skin should retain the appearance of having pores, rather than look completely flat. Eyes are often made to look bigger by extending their outer corners.


The artificial beauty of retouched images has become so coveted that, in a case of life imitating art, there are celebrities who now have plastic surgery that mimics these photo-editing tropes. Some ask for procedures that make their eyes look bigger and wider. Botox injections in the forehead, for example, can mimic a cat-eye look. What celebs do eventually trickles down to everyone else: the American Society of Plastic Surgeons has recorded a rise in people using lip injections to plump up their lips since reality star Kylie Jenner became famous for doing so.


covet verb [ T ] UK  /ˈkʌv.ɪt/ US  /ˈkʌv.ət/ formal to want to have something very much, especiallysomething that belongs to someone else 觊觎,垂涎(尤指他人之物);贪求,渴望

Often these procedures merely necessitate more digital manipulation. Lip injections, for instance, can create the appearance of a moustache-like shadow when the upper lip is so full it flips upward toward the nose, and this, in turn, has to be amended. That doesn’t mean that these procedures are going wrong – simply that trying to attain a retouched look creates a vicious cycle, as the artifice becomes ever more artificial.


An anonymously run Instagram account @CelebFace documents the modifications celebrities make to their own images by finding the original version and juxtaposing it with the retouched image the celeb has put on their own feed. @CelebFace has spotted that Victoria’s Secret models routinely take in their waists, enlarge their eyes, make their hair fuller and smooth thigh bulges – supposed flaws that most of us would never have noticed. The account called out supermodel Bella Hadid for refining an already heavily edited May 2018 cover of Japanese Vogue. When Hadid blocked the account, @CelebFace posted a retort: “Hi Bella!  [mouth emoji]” it read. “You were chosen for the cover of Vogue (this is every girl’s dream), but you are using Photoshop again.”

Instagram上有一个佚名的账户@CelebFace,它专门去找那些明星照片的原图,然后和P过的明星发出的图并排放,进行对比。@CelebFace指出,维密的模特每次发照都会先P小腰围,放大眼睛,把头发P浓密一点,最后加上一层薄薄的滤镜——这些瑕疵小到大部分人根本注意不到。它还指出,超模Bella Hadid对自己已经P过头的日本版Vogue2018年5月刊的封面照,又做了一次。@CelebFace发了一条评论,“Hi Bella!你被选中成为Vogue杂志的封面。(这可是每个女孩的梦想。)但你却又在使用Photoshop。”

juxtapose verb [ T ] UK  /ˌdʒʌk.stəˈpəʊz/ US  /ˌdʒʌk.stəˈpoʊz/ to put things that are not similar next to each other 把(不同的事物)并置,把…并列

refine verb [ T ] UK  /rɪˈfaɪn/ US  /rɪˈfaɪn/ to make something pure or improve something, especially by removingunwanted material(尤指去除不需要的杂质而)精炼,提炼,提纯 to improve an idea, method, system, etc. by making small changes 改进;完善;使精炼

And so the bar for perfection rises ever higher, even for the world’s most beautiful. One model who has millions of followers says she edits her photos as a form of self-preservation. Posting a photo of herself with a blemish would provoke a deluge of “awful comments”, she says. She concedes that in an ideal world she would feel able to disclose every alteration made to photos like hers, but for many women it would only open them up to even more criticism for not accepting themselves as they are. It’s why she didn’t want to be named in this story and thinks accounts like @CelebFace are “fucking bullshit”. “Demonising people for their choices is not productive,” she says: “I don’t think it’s up to another person to decide what makes people feel empowered.”


demonize verb [ T ] uk usually demonise UK  /ˈdiː.mə.naɪz/ to try to make someone or a group of people seem as if they are evil 使惡魔化,將…妖魔化

Unsurprisingly, a large body of research shows that viewing idealised or retouched images adds to the dissatisfaction that many people already feel towards their body. Research by Kristen Harrison, a media psychologist at the University of Michigan, shows that even disclosing that celebrity and advertising images are retouched makes many of us feel worse about ourselves. Becoming more aware of what others edit may heighten our awareness of our own supposed flaws. That may encourage us to spend longer using digital tools to repair them. And once you start it’s hard to stop. I felt better about posting my first FaceTuned photo than I would have if I hadn’t edited it. And since we’re more inclined to post images of ourselves that we like, says Harrison, “it’s self-sustaining because you want to do it again and again and again.” Beauty is attainable for all. Just don’t expect it to be more than a pixel deep.

许多研究表明,人们在看那些P过的理想照片时,会对自己真实的身体更加不满意——这是自然。密西根大学的媒体心理学教授Kristen Harrison做了一项调查,结果显示,知道那些明星照片和杂志图片都是经过精修的,只能让人们更加不自信。知道别人是如何修图的,可能会让人们更加意识到自己的缺陷。这可能会让我们花更多的时间去使用那些修图软件修图。一旦入坑,你就很难不修图了。相较于没P过的图片,我更爱经过FaceTune修过的图片。Harrison表示,因为我们更加喜欢发那些我们喜欢的自拍,所以这就变成了一个恶性循环,你会一而再再而三地P图。对于所有人来说,美丽触手可及,但是不要指望它能从照片里走出来。

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