Open Letter: On the Use of Image in Magazines

December 16, 2011 astridmartin1116

Dear American Women and Magazine Corporations,

It’s a gloomy rainy morning and there is nothing for you to do. There’s nothing on TV, no one on facebook, or anybody picking up their phones. So what do you do? You go under your bed and you pull out your beloved magazine collection of Cosmo, Seventeen, or (You fill in the blank). As you open a magazine, imagine the familiar puffs of perfume rise up from each color bursting page, sucking you into an entirely new world.

In many ways, reading a magazine is an experience, a time where you can escape from the real world and enter into a realm of glamour, fashion, sparkle, and not to mention a whirlwind of advice. From horoscopes, boys, all the way to beauty tips, it’s no wonder magazines such as Cosmo are known as the ‘Bible’. In fact, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to call magazines a girl’s best friend, well that is until you flip to the photos of models and celebrities. At that moment, the world of happiness and fantasy come to an end, and a flood of insecurities rush into your head.

As a teenager, I completely understand this addiction to read all the time. After all, who wouldn’t want to read their monthly horoscope and the latest news on the latest seasonal fashions, but there’s a trade-off. As you flip page after page, you realize the several perfect bodies models and celebrities exude. What is their secret? One word—Photoshop.

After skimming through several versions of magazines in my life, I have noticed how over the course of the years, Photoshop has become a major component for every editorial. According to Self-magazine, the editor in chief, Lucy Danziger attempts to defend her magazine by insisting that retouching is:

“A form of editing, no different in spirit from using a flattering camera angle or kind lighting. It’s all about capturing a moment that shows her at [a person’s] best. This approach is meant to inspire women to want to be their best” (Bercovici).

Although I must concede at the great abilities Photoshop has to our appearances, I must disagree with Danziger. Seeing perfectly polished bodies without a single roll of fat nor a single wrinkle does not inspire women to look their best, in fact it pressurizes women to follow the norms these magazines set in beauty. After all, with over 346,571,912 (2009) readers buying magazines , the influences from each issue is bound to spread like wildfire, especially when corporations use iconic celebrities as models (Guardian).

Okay…I understand that magazines are pressured to present a perfectly polished product, but there should be a limit in how much magazines can alter a picture. According to an article titled,  “The Most Blatant use of Photoshop in Magazines and Ads” the author points out the several procedures done in on one photo alone:

“Whether it is heavy airbrushing, zapping zits, brightening those baby blues, contouring or more aggressively removing some unwanted back fat and pushing the eyes two inches apart so that the face appears more doll like–it happens” (Most Blatant Use of Photoshop).

Just reading this description alone anybody can see that magazine corporations are doing more than just hiding stray hairs and unwanted zits. Models are being put through an entire virtual session of cosmetic surgery to the point of unreconizabiity. And we wonder why so many young women are struggling with their self-esteem?

According to a study called “Depleting Body Image,” after forty surveyed women were  told to read through several fashion and glamour magazines, an overwhelming seventy percent of the respondents sometimes or always had negative thoughts about their body (Depleting Body Image). Simply seeing these effects demonstrates how images can have a huge impact in people’s perception about themselves. But why don’t magazine corporations care?

When perfection is put in front you, artificial or not, we are bound as human beings to compare ourselves and see if we measure up. However the sad truth is since these elements of beauty are being generated by a computer, it’s even harder to achieve such norms, especially when even the model does not even look like her photo.

In a most recent photo shoot with Faith Hill two versions of the chosen photo was released to the public—the pre and post  Photoshopped photo. (See Below) (The Beauty of Photoshop–Faith Hill)

From thinner arms, a brighter smile, all the way to a youthful complexion, there is a drastic and obvious difference between the two. It’s drastic changes like these that alter women’s perception of what true beauty really is and moves them away from appreciating their own unique qualities. Even Faith Hill, known as one of the most beautiful women in America, has to be put through several digital alterations to be worthy enough for the cover of Redbook magazine. What has our world come to?

For those of you that are readers, please do not be mistaken by these artificial norms, if you find yourself envying a certain trait of a model, whether it’s a perfect complexion a small waist, or the absence of cellulite, chances are that’s all an illusion. I am writing this letter to warn female readers away from the temptations of trying to achieve such impossible beauty norms. As for the magazine corporations as a whole, they must find a way to get their act back together. While we as a society need to be resistant from the poisonous images of virtual perfection, magazine corporations need to realize the effect they have on women’s self-esteems, young girls especially. A magazine should be a bible for women in a way that will help women’s lives inside and out. With young women dealing with puberty, peer pressure, and life drama, life is hard enough. We as a society should want to help people live happier lives, so why can’t magazine become that helping hand again?


Astrid Martin


Works Cited

” Most Blatant Uses of Photoshop in Magazines & Ads.”  Personalized Fake Magazine Covers – a Unique Gift from YourCover. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2011. <;.

” US magazines’ newsstand sales fall 9% | Media | .”  Latest US and world news, sport and comment from the Guardian | | The Guardian . N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2011.                                                 <;.

Bercovici, Jeff. “Magazines and Photoshop: When looking your best isn’t good enough – DailyFinance.” Business News, Stock Quotes, Investment Advice – DailyFinance. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2011.                                                          <;.

Chojnacki, Mary-Signe , and Christina  Grant . “Depleting Body Image:  .” SSCC – Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2011. <;.

“The Beauty of Photoshop – Faith Hill  .” TheGloss. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2011.                                                      <;.


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