How to Make A Plus Size Model Skinny

Photo Retouching: Take another little piece of my…

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Retouching by J. Pimentel

As we continue to discuss, photo retouching is the norm in a society that values flawlessness.  Even though they’re muttering “be yourself” out of one side of their mouths, they are ready with digital diet pills in the other.  Who wants “normal” when you can have perfect?

I asked one of my good friends, who is a graphic designer as well as a beautiful vivacious plus size woman, to take us through the process of what professionals are asked to do when pairing down models to the “perfect size.”

(1) What specific areas of the picture did you concentrate on– can you talk us through it a bit?

Let me first point out that the original picture was taken and produced by a professional photographer. In all likeliness it already had been significantly modified before I even touched it. Notice that there are no blemishes, cellulite or folds in here skin whatsoever. As a result, there was virtually nothing done to her bust and face at all. I contoured her jaw line a little but this was a relatively minor adjustment.

Most of the edits were done on her body, in particular the waist, arms and hips. These parts were edited to look much slimmer than they actually are. It would be the real-life equivalent of taking 8″ off her waist and 2-3″ off each arm. The hips were contoured as well, smoothing out the line between where her skin ends and the bathing suit begins. Shadows and highlights were added to imitate how light would cast off and on her body if it were to have appeared that way naturally.

(2) Would the retouched version still be considered “plus size?”

Plus sized models, also referred to as Woman models, run generally from sizes 12-18. Depending on the agency a size 10 may also marketed as plus size. Crazy right? Ironically, the modified version of this picture would likely edit her right out of both categories; too small to be a woman model, too big to be a misses model.

(3) Would the un-retouched picture ever make it to print without being downsized to the revised version?

In this case yes but only because this person is being marketed as a plus size/ woman model and the picture had already been modified. A regular misses layout would use a models size 0-4. In fashion and retail, very infrequently is there ever a picture that is taken and put into print without modification of some sort. This is most evident on the cover shots of magazines and other publications. The changes I made to this picture are dramatic. She essentially went from a size 16 to a size 6/8. If a designer had to make this many changes to a photograph they would just hire another model.

(4) What are some insider bits you can tell us about what you do?

As a designer we are trained to look for even the slightest flaw and correct it. The digitalization of the industry (move from photographs to digital images) has afforded us the ability to modify EVERY ASPECT of a picture. The most insidious edits are the subtle ones, the ones that imply flawlessness. They are the most believable and therefore the most unrealistic and damaging in my opinion. The better people like me get at our jobs, the more desensitized the observer becomes to how unrealistic the images really are.

So much for positive body image…

Any comments or questions for me or our expert graphic designer?  We love your participation! Please put all comments and questions below.


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