11 November, 2014

Watch How Much Digital Alteration a Beauty Ad Really Gets [UPDATED]

A senior colorist gives us a glimpse at what it takes to make the model in a L'Oréal Garnier commercial look so good

It’s no secret that the face and body of pretty much every model in every advertisement we see in magazines has been smoothed and slicked into perfection through the magic of Photoshop. (Plumping lips and slimming thighs even happens when the model doesn’t want it to.) But if you’ve ever wondered whether the same sort of digital alteration happens to the models featured in the commercials that pop up on your television screen, well, the answer is yes.

In the above video Andreas Brueckl, the senior colorist at European postproduction outfit Colormeup, has created an eye-opening behind-the-scenes look at the color-correction process. Brueckl, who has worked on almost 200 commercials, condenses the half hour he spent color-correcting a L'Oréal Garnier commercial down to three minutes.

Although the model and the background might look just fine to the average person, Brueckl shows us how he tweaked every single thing you see on the screen. The model is naturally gorgeous, but the extra luminosity you see in her skin, the sheen of her blond hair, and her lack of dark circles are all due to a few clicks of Brueckl’s mouse. He even adjusts the lighting of the background and the color of the Garnier packaging. Despite all the changes, Brueckl wrote on the video’s Vimeo page that he didn’t have to show “much of the beauty retouching and skin grading” because “the model has a very nice skin and with the help of Garnier it was not much work for me.”

Of course, the women and girls who will see this commercial—and countless other advertisements like it—might not know that this model doesn’t in real life look exactly like the finished product. That disconnect between reality and a corrected version of a person does plenty of damage to viewers. Multiple studies have shown a connection between ads that have altered images of people in them and emotional and mental health issues.

That’s why the bipartisan Truth in Advertising Act of 2014, which was introduced in Congress in March, asks the Federal Trade Commission to create a “strategy to reduce the use, in advertising and other media for the promotion of commercial products, of images that have been altered to materially change the physical  characteristics of the faces and bodies of the individuals depicted.” It also asks the commission to create an “appropriate, risk-based regulatory framework with respect to such use.” The act has only been introduced, not signed into law—which means that unless the folks who work on the ads, like Brueckl, let us see what it takes to create perfection, we'll never know just what's real and what's been created on a computer screen.