beauty standards

Is Photoshop Harming Pinup Communities?

Is Photoshop Harming Pinup Communities?

Pin up and photoshopping. They walk hand in hand, but do we acknowledge their relationship enough?

You know I’m all about honesty, so I feel it’s time we honestly discussed the relationship between photoshopping and pinup art. How much is edited? Are we okay with it? Do you know when you’re not looking at reality?

I’ll be showing you my own before and after photos as well as some historical examples. ( Because I’m not interested in calling anyone else out, ya know?). I hope you’ll find it interesting and that it opens a conversation about how we feel about photo editing and it’s effects within our pinup communities.

What is Photo Editing?

Photo editing, often achieved using tools like photoshop , lightbox or photo filters ( we’ll refer to ‘photoshopping’ to keep it simple) is digitally or manually manipulating a photograph. This can be anything from adjusting some colours or brightening a dark photo, to slimming a body, airbrushing skin, adding length or volume to hair or changing background locations.

Let’s Start With Some Pros and Cons

Like every tool photo editing has it’s upsides and downsides. Let’s run through a few to get an idea of what we’re dealing with.


  • Photo editing is an incredibly powerful artistic tool allowing users to create images that don’t exist in real life, just like a painter or a sculptor.
  • Editing images can improve our confidence, removing temporary or permanent blemishes like scars or acne.
  • Photo editing can correct or improve lighting and colour discrepancies, and details that can’t be captured by a camera the way the human eye sees them.
  • It can be super fun and inspiring to change the way you look, the colour of your hair, or create a highly artistic version of yourself without having to make those dramatic changes in real life.


  • Photoshopped images create and enforce unrealistic and unachievable beauty standards – especially when used in advertising and by celebrities.
  • Photo editing can make us unfairly compare our real life selves to edited images, leading to negative body image and mental health issues.
  • Photo editing can give a false example of a product or it’s results ( hello Instagram makeup artists ;p )
  • In some circumstances photo editing can just be downright sneaky.

To decide if a photoshopped pinup image is positive or negative I ask myself these questions:
Is it fit for purpose?
Is it creating a false ideal?
Do we know it’s been photoshopped?

Is It Fit For Purpose?

Definition:  well equipped or well suited for its designated role or purpose.

Fit for purpose is the main factor in how I feel about photoshopped images. Does the photo become more suited to it’s purpose by being edited?

I’m going to quote an anonymous source here, because they summed it up really well but I don’t want anyone getting crucified by trolls.


“Are you making a cheesecake image which is effectively highly photoshopped by definition? OR are you making your Instagram images so edited you make people wonder what happened between when you placed the photo on Instagram in the morning, to when they saw you? The initial is a style, the latter is a self image issue. “


We can safely assume that cheescake pin up photos are edited.

This isn’t news to fans of the cheesecake or glamour style, it’s been happening for as long as the genre has existed. Early photographers edited their subjects by burning and dodging, or by altering lines when they colored the images with paints. Gil Elvgren essentially photoshopped his models, slimming and lengthening their proportions in his paintings like the ones below. You can see more examples of 1950’s pinup photographs vs paintings here.

I feel like this is okay, because these images are created as art

On the other hand, I feel that heavily edited ‘candid’ shots * side eye at the Kardashians* create a harmful and unrealistic expectation of what a human body looks like. A filter and hiding a few zits are one thing, being unrecognizable is another.

To quote another anonymous babe from my local pinup community…


“I love artistic editing, and those style choices can really take images to a whole other place, but passing that level of editing off as natural would just seem ingenuine. “

In My Opinion…

Pinups making cheesecake style photos, or consistently editing ‘candid’ images but being open about it – cool, whatever makes you happy, we know you’re being an arty motherfucker with those photos.

Pinups editing candid or event photos and pretending they’re natural – you’re probably contributing to the body image and self confidence issues so many people struggle with, because they’re comparing their natural selves to your secretly super edited self.

How do you feel about editing cheesecake pin up images compared to candids or Instagram selfies? Do you think there’s a difference? Are they both okay or is one or both contributing to our unrealistic cultural beauty standards?

How Photoshopped Am I?

I want to show you exactly how Photoshopped my photos are. It’s important that you can see the difference between professional, edited glamour photos and review or event images.

When I’m shooting a cheesecake or glamour pin up I let the photographer edit whatever they need to fulfill their artistic vision. Photographers clear up my skin and cellulite, adjust the colours and contrast, or give the image a film grain or other texture. This stuff is great for a creating an idealised pin up style like you’d see in traditional pin up art. Personally I feel it’s an appearance altering tool like contouring makeup and shapewear.

Mike Froger photographs and edits most of my images. We share the opinion that women’s bodies are rad and don’t need to be changed in the shape department. He does kindly edit out my psoriasis, pimples and sometimes freckles and cellulite on my chest, arms or legs. The freckles on my face are usually covered by makeup. Not because I don’t like them, but because I use a heavier foundation to cover my psoriasis and I’m not skilled enough to cover that and leave the rest sheer!

Here’s an example of the difference on our photos. The left hand image is unedited apart from being made black and white. The right hand image is edited.



Logan Davies was kind enough to give us some examples of the more heavily edited photos I’ve shared. These are edited and unedited images from our lingerie photoshoot and you can see the huge difference in colour, contrast, skin texture. I’ve been stretched in one shot to make my 5’4 frame longer.



You don’t see this level of editing on my review or candid photos. I’ll clear up any major skin problems and sometimes throw on a filter to create a mood, but secretly editing my body shape or height would be unfair to you guys. And what’s the point of creating a warped idea of what the reviewed garments actually look like?

Here’s some before and after examples of clothing review photos I used a few months ago.



As you can see, not a huge difference there. I wear makeup and practice poses that enhance my natural body shape, so what you see in these photos is basically what you see when I pose in real life.

My Instagram selfies use filters to enhance colours or lighting,  or my phone’s beauty face filter on low strength to even out my bad skin. I don’t know how to remove zits or scars or make my eyes bigger or my waist smaller or any of that stuff haha.

I do basic editing because my Insta account is for my modelling and brand, not myself personally, and I want it to look a little polished. I’m okay with my freckles, wrinkles and white hairs though so you’ll see those! I’m happy to tell you exactly what I’ve changed on a photo if you’re ever curious.

My personal photos on Facebook haven’t been edited at all for the last few years because who has time for that?

Can You Spot Photoshop?

Photo editing seems most dangerous when you can’t spot it. When it’s not alien smooth skin or mismatched backgrounds whispering that the thigh gap isn’t 100% legit.  When you think that it’s real. When a social media feed of perfect selfies makes you feel like you’re the only person to ever have love handles, tummy rolls or bad skin.

Just for the record, every person I’ve ever met has tummy folds and back folds and armpit bums or whatever the hell they call them. The skin that stretches flat when you stand straight has to go somewhere when you curl up, so it makes folds. IT’S PERFECTLY NORMAL AND YOU’D BE FUCKED WITHOUT IT.
*Edit: Apparently they’re armpit vaginas and Miss Victory Violet has a hilarious video about them that you should all watch*


Anyway back to sneaky photoshopping. The whole premise of really good photo editing is that you can’t see it. I look at photos of my pin up inspirations like Jazmin ( Vintage Vandalizm ), Rachel Jensen and Dita Von Teese and I often have no idea if anything’s been changed. I just assume they look that amazing in real life.

And that’s the danger. Like millions of other women, I aspire to be as beautiful as a photograph of a person I’ve never actually seen.  This is the aspect of photo editing that might be harming our pinup communities. The part that makes our gorgeous friends and those that look to us as role models feel like they’re not good enough. The part that we need to openly talk about and remember that what we see on social media is usually someone’s highlight reel, not their full time life.

So Is Photoshopping Good or Bad For Pin Ups?

It’s both and neither.

Photo editing is a tool. We can use it to create art, to rose tint our daily lives, to exaggerate, show the truth or to lie. How we use it is up to the individual, but it’s also up to the individual to consider the message they’re sending to others.

It’s common knowledge that heavy handed photoshopping is de rigueur in mainstream marketing. We know it’s having a negative effect on our society, particularly on women and young girls. I don’t know if highly edited cheesecake photos and selfies have the same effect within our pinup communities, and I think it’s something we need to discuss honestly and often to make sure we’re supporting and educating ourselves and those who follow in our footsteps.

I’ll be opening a discussion around photoshopping in pin up on my Instagram, my Facebook Page and my pinup support group The Pinup Posse. Please stop by and share your experiences and opinions, I’d really appreciate hearing your views on the Photoshop debate!

In the meantime can you do me a favour? Put down your phone or step away from your PC.  Stand in front of the mirror and appreciate your body. It may be skinny, thick, tall, short, scarred, damaged, spotty or dimply, but it’s your body. Cellulite is just another texture and mummy tum’s or visible hip bones are another shape to explore. I know it can be hard ( trust me, I know ) but be kind to yourself, and please don’t compare yourself to photos that might not even be real!

With Style and Sass,

   Velvet DeCollete

Posted by velvetdecollete in LIFESTYLE, PINUP, 0 comments