How To Spot Photoshopped & Facetuned Images on Instagram

posted on June 3, 2020

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Today I’m going to be talking about Facetune and Photoshopping of images on instagram, how you can spot the fakery and really my opinions on the whole Facetune/Photoshop thing in general.

So why am I doing this blog… you know me… since my transition from booty building fitspo-grammer into … parody musical creator (or something like that), one of my main goals is to expose the dark and toxic side of influencer culture and try to help people navigate through the bullshit and really make a change to the way we use social media.

Now Instagram is full of very attractive, perfect, colourful images of people, locations, food etc and ultimately it’s an image platform so the more ‘shiny’ an image is, the more clicks and interaction that image is going to get and the more likely the poster of the image is going to gain traction and have the ability to make some money through ads or affiliate links etc. And the platform is getting increasingly crowded, so images are constantly getting shinier and shinier in order to compete with competition.

So something we’ve spoken about before on this podcast is the use of Facetune and filters and how damaging they are to mental health. If you haven’t yet listened to that podcast go and do so because it’s only 7 minutes long and talks about the real harm that editing photos is doing, and how there’s a strong correlation between the use of social media and poor mental health and body image. It’s actually frightening but not surprising because I can scroll through my explore page as someone who has many reasons to like how I look, and come out feeling like an absolute pile of shit, micro analysing parts of my face and body and focusing on my imperfections. It’s actually exhausting and draining constantly looking at a highlight reel of amazing, and so often fake, photos and subconsciously comparing yourself. But it’s odd because so many of us understand that it’s social media making us feel crap, yet we don’t stop looking at it. Sure, we can adjust our content to see things which are less triggering, but it still has such a power over us and we’re compelled to use it. And in my opinion I think it’s sort of a reflection of how this generation are looking for quick fixes of highly satisfying and engaging media, like on TikTok for example, videos are quick – I can watch it, laugh and have moved onto the next within 3 seconds. There’s nothing else around us in the real  world that gives us a dopamine hit faster and more effectively than social media. So it’s kinda like an addiction using it. I also think there’s the social factor to consider that it makes people feel connected and people socialise on social media hence the name, and want to feel involved in a community.

So today, I’m going to be sharing some tips on how to spot these fake images. You may have seen instagram pages like Celebface, who use photos from Getty images and compare them to the photoshopped versions posted by celebs. Surprisingly people like Rita Ora are always there. But the people who really come under fire about this are influencers and I think it’s because celebs are these stars who are seemingly out of reach but influencers are much closer to home and people relate to them so much more, so people feel as though it’s a violation of trust. I think Facetune was a well kept secret for a long time in the influencer community but everyone knows about it and uses it, you’ve even got people editing every single one of their Facebook photos so it’s not just instagram it’s like peoples normal family photos. 

Now you do have influencers who have come out and admitted the use of Facetune (mainly after being caught using it so they probably did the right thing by owning up), but people like James Charles for example use Facetune and are very open about it. And I think that is healthy and a good thing to do as an influencer or someone in the public eye – it’s completely disingenuous and unethical to lie to your millions of followers about using it especially when you know that it’s contributing to mental health issues – like that’s not a secret now it’s probably one of the biggest topics of discussion on social media. The Kardashians are obviously the worst for this because they have been caught so many times bodging up their editing or just looking completely different to videos and photos taken by the paparazzi who they don’t pay – because remember guys, they pay paparazzi to take good pictures of them and edit them. Only paparazzi who get bad images are the ones taking photos who they didn’t commission to do so. So it’s all controlled because their image is their livelihood.

But although it’s good that some people admit to using facetune, it doesn’t mean that everyone has seen that clarification unless it’s specified on every photo or video you post. How would someone who stumbles on your content know if you’ve edited your photos if you mentioned it once in a video 6 months ago. Imo if you have over a certain amount of followers and are in a position of influence, ESPECIALLY if you’re making money from people thinking you look a certain way naturally, ethically they need to be telling people they’re using photoshop.

Like a lot of these people you could see on the street and would not recognise them from their social media – that actually happened a lot at Bodypower. A lot of the men who would post pictures looking really huge were the same height as me and really not big, just really really shredded. But I think that was mainly angles and lighting tbf.

Anyway, that was a bit of a tangent, but now I’m going to be discussing how to spot these edited images on social media.

Now I don’t recommend going out specifically to hunt down people editing their images because I don’t think that’s healthy, but what I’ve found is that now I know how to identify editing when I am on social media, it’s helped me to remember that the images aren’t real and it stops me from comparing myself or feeling like shit because I know the images I’m looking at aren’t true. 

  • 1. Warped walls.

So when someone uses Facetune, there’s an option to pinch areas of your body and make them smaller or larger, now unless you’ve got a really skilled editor using a desktop application like Photoshop, then most people are using Facetune which when you pull in your waist or pull out your hips for example, the app doesn’t distinguish between what is you and what isn’t, so it will end up pulling the background as well. So if you look next to the person’s body, and the background follows the shape of their bod, it usually means Facetune has been used. You can also see this in horizons, trees, and door frames (generally anything which would otherwise be a straight line) being wonky or having unusual kinks in them which line up to an area which would want to be made bigger or smaller. Usually the jaw, hips or waist on the person in the image.

  • 2. Blurry background.

So some people are aware of this warping so in order to hide it, people will blur their background to try and cover it all, you might see the person in the foreground looking very sharp and focussed, but then the background is blurred. And yes, this is a camera technique which is sometimes used to create a nice effect, but what we’re seeing time and time again is this is being used as an excuse for edited photos.

  • 3. Shadows and reflections.

So if something looks a bit off, you can check to see if the shadow or reflection matches up to the original because people are often so focussed on editing themselves that they forget to edit shadows and reflections which end up looking completely different to their body.

  • 4. Completely pore-less smooth skin.

Interestingly on this one I saw a post on tiktok the other day where a girl had done her makeup and you could see all of her pores and lines and spots underneath her foundation. And the comments were basically saying,,, ew, sis you need to get a better primer or sort yourself out. And all the girls commenting were under the illusion that this sort of skin is not normal. So they’re so conditioned to seeing makeup artists and photos where skin is filtered, normal skin seems abnormal to them. Dark shadows, lines, discolouration, spots, pores, texture are all part of normal human skin – if a photo doesn’t show that. Sure it could be lighting, and good skin to start with, but when it’s super super smooth whereby there is no texture, it’s fake! I also worry about how young these people are because their faces and skin area already so perfect because they’re like… teenagers… what’s going to happen when they actually do start to see changes and ageing on their face if it’s still demonised as it is today! That’s worrying. I even worry about it and I’m someone who is aware and actively trying to love my skin etc.

  • 5. Big elbows and general disproportionate body parts.

One of the more specific ones to note is big elbows, going back to point 1 about the warping, when someone clinches in their waist, the background usually follows including their elbows and arms which then look really weird. 

So those are the 5 things to look out for in photos. Sadly, it’s not just photos that are being manipulated! We now have live video editing to be mindful of – this is where the footage is altered in real time to change the shape of bodies and faces (see an example on my Instagram here). This technology has been used for years in media such as music videos and I recently shared a clip on my Instagram story of Jesy from Little Mix’s waist being clinched in during the ‘Touch’ music video. There is controversy around this as some newspapers have published claims that the warped wall was due to a ‘kink’ in the wall where Jesy was standing… but I’m not convinced! Watching the video in slow motion shows the stripy wall tracking around her waist. We have also seen this in a Mariah Carey music video where a mug was warping as the singer walked past it allegedly bringing in her waist. 

As this technology develops it is becoming more accessible to the masses and it is already extremely popular in countries such as China where lots of young women are making their chins and waist’s thinner in live time video. You can sometimes spot when this is being used due to warped backgrounds but it’s not always obvious. I have also seen this technology being used recently and you can barely tell it’s been altered at all – very scary!