Keeping it Real….Kind of.

Julia Roberts, LorealImages of beauty are everywhere. Plastered larger than life on billboards. In your face at the grocery checkout. In every glittering movie and television show. Even though we know all those celebs are airbrushed like crazy, we suspend our disbelief, even if just for a moment. Admit it, we’re all fascinated. If we weren’t, these images wouldn’t transfix us so intensely. And even though we know they’re all fake, we’re still wondering, ‘hey, what do they have that I don’t?’ (Lest we forget their army of personal trainers, personal chefs and a career dependent upon their physical flawlessness).  So when I was asked to check out the details of ArcSoft’s hugely popular app, Perfect365®, and write about it for an upcoming blog, I was really excited. I knew it could be an opportunity to focus on some really interesting perspectives on beauty in our culture while also having some fun with this technology.

Take Kim Kardashian. Halle Berry. Jennifer Lawrence. Whoever you personally find attractive, it’s undeniable that in our youth, beauty and celebrity-obsessed culture, it can be hard to relax about our own looks and just be ‘real.’ Even celebrities themselves can’t be that real. Most of them are enhanced to near perfection with expert photo editing. But sometimes it’s taken way too far. Take L’Oreal’s heavily airbrushed ad campaign featuring Julia Roberts that removed every last wrinkle to the point of absurdity and was subsequently banned in the UK. The Advertising Standards Authority “ruled that [these] ads breached the advertising standards code for exaggeration and being misleading and banned them from future publication.” Funny enough, during the controversy, they weren’t able to accurately assess the extent of the retouching because contractual stipulations with Roberts wouldn’t allow ‘before’ photos of the star to be seen!*

Julia Roberts, Loreal

While celebs may get the star perfecting treatment from personal trainers, plastic surgeons and photo enhancement, the rest of us often do our own beautifying with a little help from the imaging technology in our computers and smartphones. With some ‘self-editing,’ it’s voila and we’re a smidge prettier. I, for one, have been routinely improving and enhancing the photos of myself, friends and family since about 2005. With a few easy-to-use imaging tools on my desktop or smartphone and poof! everyone’s shiny foreheads and noses, glaring zits or under eye bags are gone.

I’m not alone here. According to a survey conducted by Glamour magazine last year, this is becoming a regular practice for the Millennial Generation. Nearly 25 per cent of women aged 25 to 29 retouch their photos. That number jumps to 41 per cent for women aged 18 to 24*. And I’m not even a Millennial, by the way. So I suspect the numbers are much higher. Looking and feeling our best is a common human desire. It has to do with attracting mates, securing high paying jobs, and projecting an air of confidence among our peers. As technology connects us at break-neck speed it also allows us ever greater anonymity and a newfound ability to create online personas that may or may not be real at all.

Some of us are photogenic while others never seem to be captured as they truly are. The solution?

Have some fun with technology: if the camera adds ten pounds, go on and take it off!

With Perfect365, you can! Ok, so here’s the deal: Perfect365 is a really fun (if not slightly addictive) desktop and mobile app. I took a ‘before’ photo of myself that I actually liked. I thought I looked pretty decent in it, although not glamorous, and it was a reasonably flattering representation of the ‘real me.’

With Perfect365, I was able to make myself ever so slightly more attractive with some subtle but effective and appealing changes. I used every tool in the arsenal, as a matter of fact. The app identifies the key points of your face automatically so the changes you make are incredibly accurate.

key point, facial key point, face detection, face contour

Left: unedited photo and right: ‘key points’ of my face

mac software download

Makeup, digital makeup

Left: unedited photo, and right: having fun playing with different makeup colors and styles

I chose ‘Angel’ as my ‘Hot Style’ for this particular picture. (Who doesn’t want to look ‘angelic’ after all?) I brightened, softened and added a light pink blush to my skin. I also removed my dark circles. Then came the most fun part. I suddenly lost those ten pounds I’ve been meaning to lose (in my face anyway). After all, if the camera adds ten pounds, then taking it away actually makes my image more ‘real’ (OK, OK, maybe not. But you get the point.) I have to say that I really liked being able to slim my face a little, lighten my eyes, whiten my teeth, add pink gloss to my lips, and refresh my whole look in a variety of ways.

Perfect365, makeup, instant makeup, digital makeup

From left to right: original photo, enhanced photo with natural makeup, enhanced photo with dramatic makeup.

Would anyone be able to tell the difference at a glance? Unlikely. Yet, in a side by side comparison, the natural looking ‘after’ photo is definitely much better. And I like that. Perfect365 has experienced huge popularity for this very reason: it’s fun and easy to use, it makes a strong difference, it lets you add variety to your look with makeup styles you’d wear in real life – but it’s still ‘you.’ And I must admit: it’s rather addicting.

I think the best part about Perfect365 is that it lets you express yourself at your very best. The you when your face is alive in mid-conversation, free of blemishes, with your makeup just right. Perfect365 is the you you see in the mirror – not the version of you in that ever-so-clear high res shot that seems to illuminate all your perceived flaws. Sound familiar? Yes, I know. The fact is most of us, women in particular, are far too hard on ourselves. Perfect365 doesn’t change you; it lets the best you shine through.

So what does the future of beautification software look like? To date, there are 3 million downloads of Perfect365 across various platforms (including iOS iPhone, iOS iPad, Android phone, Android tablet, Windows Phone and Windows tablet and PC). With more than 1 million installs on the iPhone alone, from where I’m sitting, it looks like it’s just going to get prettier and prettier everywhere.

And if this amazing imaging technology lets us all have some fun and feel a little more ‘normal’ in a not-so-normal celeb-obsessed, hugely airbrushed world, I say let’s just bring on the beauty and enjoy it!

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Jessica Gwinn

About the guest blogger: Jessica Gwinn is a freelance writer who works with ArcSoft on various assignments from web content development to software applications. She has been a creative consultant and professional writer for the past 12 years working with clients in industries such as medical, biotech, fiber optics and software.

 

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