Last week, a few articles (from places like The Times [paywall], New Statesman and Daily Mail) appeared claiming that well known travel blogger Amelia Liana was photoshopping her Instagram pictures. Critics have alleged that she is creating composite pictures (where you take a few different photos and layer them together to make them look like one image)
In defence, Amelia has released some YouTube videos showing that she really was at the locations she has posted, but the critics of her images are saying that they still don’t match to her images – for example, if you check out the Daily Mail link above, they talk about how the scaffolding on one of the towers (that has been there since 2008!) is missing, and how her shadow doesn’t quite match up to what you would expect.
This brings about an interesting discussion. There’s no doubt that Amelia did go to these locations, but in order to get the perfect photo, she’s tweaked some images so much that they are not representative of reality. With the quality of photographs becoming higher and higher, even becoming magazine photoshoot worthy, bloggers and Instagrammers are almost expected to edit their photos to show off the most perfect version of what happened.
It’s natural to want to tweak images so they look more perfect, especially if your livelihood relies on people following your images and interacting with them. As Refinery 29 said in their article (“Instagram Travel Faker: Why The Outrage?”), there’s an additional problem in that when a brand is being tagged in the image that’s been photoshopped – are they aware of the potential deception?
You may remember a few years ago when various make up ads were banned because of the amount of Photoshopping that was being done to sell the product (examples of brands who had ads banned: Olay, Lancôme/Maybelline and L’Oréal). In 2011, the ASA brought out guidance that specified how things should be marked in ads, but there isn’t anything that is specific for bloggers and influencers…yet. Perhaps this is something that will be dealt with in the future?
What do you think – is there a limit to the amount of photoshopping that is acceptable in images on blogs and social media? Do you normally assume images are tweaked slightly (with filters, etc) to make them look the better version of what happened, or do you expect something to be mentioned when images are amended? Is it ethical for influencers to be publishing images that have been edited? Should the ASA be setting guidelines on how photoshopped images are disclosed, and to what extent?