Getty Images' ban on altered images

Editing our perceptions

Getty Images takes stand against “Photoshopped” bodies in stock photos

Getty Images, the largest stock photo agency in the world, has announced that, from October 1st, it will no longer accept creative images where the shapes of models’ bodies have been altered. The decision has been made in tandem with a new law in France obligating businesses that use images commercially to disclose where a “model’s body shape or contour has been altered to make it appear thinner or larger”. That law comes into effect on the same day, and failure to comply would result in a fine of up to €37,500 fine (AU$60,000).

So while agencies and magazines can edit all they want in France as long as it’s labelled, Getty’s outright ban may kill the practice widely. Getty has clarified that minor retouching, such as skin blemishes, hair colour, or “nose shape” are still acceptable, with the policy only applying to body shape manipulation. The new requirements will also apply to iStock, which is owned by Getty.

Retouching has long been a matter of contention in the photography world, and with the introduction of apps that allow the average person to edit their images, we wade further towards an even more unrealistic society than we already exist in. With the new policy, Getty hopes to reverse the influence that inaccurate depictions of the human form, as well as of diversity, are having on society.

(Above: time-lapse video showing a radical effect of Photoshop on a model’s body.)

“Our perceptions of what is possible are often shaped by what we see: positive imagery can have direct impact on fighting stereotypes, creating tolerance, and empowering communities to feel represented in society,” a Getty representative said, adding that over the last several years, the company has taken steps to “change the way women and other marginalised communities are represented in media and advertising.”

Promisingly, the Getty Images team has observed a positive shift in customer preferences towards more realistic representations of women in recent times. The search term “unfiltered” has gone up 219% over the past year; “authenticity” has increased 104%; and “real life” up 99%. “Our data and research tell us that the trend toward authentic representation in commercial imagery will only continue to build momentum.”

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