Photo Editing: Before & After, Truths & Trickery

I’ve been having a great time tinkering with my new Lightroom 3 photo editing software and working some editing magic on my photos.  However, it’s gotten me thinking about the future of photography.

Here are some before and afters of what photo editing can do:

No Bake Toffee & Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls



Got accepted into Foodgawker!


And spunking up the Cinnamon Sugar & Ginger Roasted Potato Sticks with editing



And from my earlier recipe post with these Cinnamon Sugar  & Ginger Roasted Potato Sticks, thanks for letting me know you liked the looks of them and for filling me in on how you like your taters.  Lots of you said you like sweet potatoes.


And brightening up Raw Pasta Salad with Creamy Lemon & Herb Dressing



And this picture made it into Foodgawker! I resubmitted it, and they took it!

So that’s two pictures now that I have edited and were accepted on the second go-roundSame composition, just some brightening, tweaking, and editing. I am now a Lightroom believer.


However, all of this has me wondering what will become of the future of photography.  More on that below.

But first, dessert: Vegan Fudge (No-Bake, Vegan, Gluten Free, Soy Free)

It just happens to be vegan.  It just happens to taste amazing, too.


1. I’ve been thinking about how photo editing can effect the future of photography.

When I was growing up, looking at pictures in an album was a physical record of a snapshot in time of something I saw that really existed.  It was not a stylized or “airbrused” or edited version of something that really existed.  What the pictures showed is what existed or happened.  What you see is what you get.  Those 1982 Poloraid shots don’t lie.  Nothing edited about those.

Nowadays, what you see is maybe what you get.

Maybe not what you get, at all.

Or maybe a really stretched truth or version of the truth.

In this post, the food I made was all real.   It all existed.  It looked much better in person than it did in my Before shots.

The After shots make the food appear on the screen much closer to what it looked like on my table. And this is why I like photo editing; because it brings back the vibrance, clarity, and beauty that really was present and existed in real life and to the eye, but that isn’t always present or captured properly on camera and thus on-screen or in prints.

However, it is entirely possible to make the food look nothing like what I saw on my table.  Or to take editing way too far.

And you can take this example and apply it to a person’s nose, cellulite, smile, the wrinkles on their shirt, or the color of their eyes.  Everything can be manipulated, and quite far.

Do you think we will one day enter an age where you don’t even know if the photos you’re looking at are “real”?  Or that they’ve been edited to such a degree it’s impossible to tell what things or the person really looked like?

2. Can you imagine how different models or celebrities in magazines look when edited or not?  Would you like to see them un-edited?

My food before and afters go to show you, don’t believe everything you see.  Editing works wonders.  On potatoes, salads, desserts, zits, lumps, bumps, and everything else.

It does sometimes feel a bit like “trickery” when you see these women and they are just too perfect in their photos in magazine or online.  We know intellectually that the photos have been edited after already spending half a day in hair and makeup.  But, I always wonder what they look like after they roll out of bed, or go to the gym, or even just walking down the street normally.  I wish we could see those pictures, too.  Oh wait, that’s what the papparzzi is for.

This Site has 20 great examples and is the source for these photos

Then again, I don’t mind seeing glossy, airbrushed, edited photos, either.  They are usually beautiful, but I know they aren’t real and that the woman doesn’t really look like that, and that’s fine.  I look at photos like this as art. That they are a representation of what the person looks like, but is not actually just a carbon copy snapshot.  Photography as art and artistry.

However, many women are not able to realize when they look at certain photos that Suzy Q Celebrity really doesn’t have a 22 inch waist with no zits and perfect hair.  She has a 32 inch waist, blackheads and zits, and her hair is full of split ends.

I think as long as we realize that whatever we see is most likely manipulated, to some degree, and you “keep your head screwed on straight about it” (to use my grandma’s expression) you’ll be fine.  But when you’re 14, you don’t know this or can’t rationalize this.  And some women who are 24 or 44 still haven’t learned this and that’s when it can get a little dangerous because all kind of comparisons and self-doubt can occur.

What are your thoughts on photo editing and manipulation?  Do you fall prey to thinking that models or celebrities in magazines really look the way they appear in photos? That even though you “know” they really don’t look like that, you just can’t help yourself and fall for it? I would say most women fall into this category.

Tell me your thoughts on it all!

47 comments on “Photo Editing: Before & After, Truths & Trickery”

  1. ok, i know you wrote this post a year ago, but i am now convinced. I AM sooooo GETTING LIGHTROOM! i need it. my photos need some vibrance!

    • Lightroom 4 was *just released* yesterday!!! I bet LR3 is heavily discounted right now or just get LR4, which I think is like $149 or if you’re a student, it’s possibly less? You will LOVE it and wonder how you lived. Trust me, along with a VitaMix and a great knife, this is a MUST BUY ITEM

  2. This blog mostly focuses on mineral makeup, standard poodles and product reviews.

  3. The picture can change with out the editing. My lil sister has been doing photography at the community college. She brought samples of photo paper to a family dinner one night. I was shocked to see the same modle and or place on five differnt kinds of photo paper. The paper felt different, the kind iof paper change the lighting of the pictures. Icould not believe it as there was a clear difference. I think ppl often for get that everyone is air brused to death. For me I hate the way I look in pcitures. My skin is terrible. Getting professional pcitures, with edting makes me happy. I think sometimes editing can be over done, and there is a way to make it not look so touched up and more natural..

  4. Great post and love the before and after pics!!
    I do hate that we basically ONLY see edited images of women and I don’t think it is really obvious in the moment that what you are seeing is fake. I mean, if you see perfect skin, zero fat, and no creases, it’s hard not to automatically wonder what you can do to achieve the same. They don’t put “these photos are art” on the bottom, so even though as adults we “know” they are manipulated, it’s not what my gut reaction is when I am bombarded with these images!

  5. That is so cool that your pictures were accepted with just brightening them up. I do like looking at pretty pictures, but most of the ones in magazines don’t look pretty to me. They look so inhumane and fake that it just comes off as odd. I wish they wouldn’t do so much to them! But even the prints I get to scrapbook I alter. I crop them, brighten them, take out red eye, etc. Nothing too major. But I remember taking pictures in high school and not getting to know what would come out until after the film was developed.

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  7. YAY!!! for getting your pictures accepted!! I love that your playing around with your camera so much! its something I need to work on! So Im learning alot from your blog;)
    I agree with you on the whole model thing.. but sometimes I wish all my photos would magically make me look like Ive been airbrushed;)

  8. I sometimes think that the models bodies look sooooooo perfect, until I realize that they are probably VERY airbrushed and adjusted/lengthened etc..

  9. I totally don’t care about editing, unless it is in a teen magazine. Those girls are so young and impressionable. I see my 13 year old neice and I just want to protect her from all the bullshit. But, then she’ll grow up sheltered and more prone to getting…I don’t know, but something bad is more likely to happen to her. That’s kind of an extreme, not really relating to the question or the post.

    Man, my brain is fried. I can’t talk.

  10. I’d like to comment more on this, but I am short on time at the moment!

    I love this post and your comments on photography. Kind of weird because I just read something for class very recently discussing something along the lines of this topic!
    Found a link that kind of summarizes it:

  11. I think we are already in an age where you don’t know if what you are looking at is real or fake. Your photos are looking great! Were your before shots edited with iphoto or totally unedited? Are you noticing a big difference between photos edited in iphoto and photos edited in lightroom?

  12. I don’t mind photo editing if it’s airbrushing or aqdding pleasant effects…but editing to the point where it takes one thing and changes it into something totally different (like..shedding 20 lbs instantly) isn’t right.

  13. Your pictures are looking great! :)

  14. Photo editing is awesomeeee!! i love picasa (use it for my school photography class) and windows live for blogging!

  15. your photos look fabulous. Congrats on Foodgawker! My 15 yr old daughter is in Art School for Visual Arts. One of her focuses is in photography. She’s doesn’t like using editing programs – but I think she’s too young to understand that it’s not “falsifying” the art, which is her complaint about it. I think it’s an enhancement. I wear makeup to enhance my appearance sometimes. Nothing wrong with a little photo editing to do the same!

  16. Love this post, I wrote something similar today. I wish the media would start portraying REAL women, but it seems like we are far away from that.

  17. even though i nkow photos are ridiculously edited, sometimes I forget and give in to what I see… It’s kind of like reality television: I keep telling myself it’s real even though I know it’s not haha

    Have a good one,

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