Photoshopping your brand out of business that goes beyond the smoothing out of a wrinkle, dark circle, or weird fold all the way to changes in hair, skin, eyes, makeup, muscle tone…. Photoshopping that changes your brand’s believability.

Perhaps we should call it overshopping. That thing that happens when the picture goes from nice, to suspicious. When the photo looks corrected and unrealistic. When the editing of a photo detracts, consumers don’t see the story you want to tell; instead, they notice the the alteration.

Photoshop becomes the story, and not in a good way as Victoria’s Secret learned. In response to a trend of excessive photoshop use, there is growing interest to regulate the way images are edited for commercial and advertising purposes. Although the task to come up with some sort of enforceable standard is daunting, the end result may be that currently accepted practices become prohibited and fraudulent.

Need proof that excessive photoshopping can put your brand out of business? Take a look at some compilations where companies and editors were called out for the practice…

Here are some celebrity fails

And here are some ads that were banned.

Even a filmmaker joined in the backlash by releasing a parody ad for a miracle product called… you guessed it… “photoshop.”

To contrast these stories, American Eagle publicly pledged not to photoshop models for its Aerie brand of lingerie. The result? Increased sales.

Is a voluntary “no-photoshop” trend developing? It’s perhaps too early to identify a pattern, but at least one recent article identified 7 brands (including Aerie) that purportedly reject using photoshop on its models.

What can we learn from these excessive photoshop examples?

Consumers are often savvy and observant. Trust, vital to your brand, is built by delivering on the expectations you create in consumers. To succeed and meet those expectations, you must first create a realistic one. A perception that consumers will believe. Choose photo editors who know the story you want to create.

Don’t rely on photoshop to fix a bad photograph. Start with an accurate photo. If something is still “off,” don’t use photoshop tell a different story. In other words, be honest. Don’t change a size 7 person into a size 1 and do NOT change a person’s race. Otherwise, your brand could become the target of ridicule and scorn and alienate the exact people you were looking to attract.

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