Will Getty Images’ Photoshop Ban Set A New Standard Throughout The Advertising Industry?

Where photoshop and digital enhancement were once industry standard practices that didn’t elicit any raised eyebrows, these days they have become the target of scandals and exposes in the age of the body positive movement. Sure, they are still being used by major brands and advertising campaigns, but nowadays a viral story about a photoshopped image gone wrong is akin to the kiss of death thanks to the watchful eyes of consumers in teh digital age.

The largest stock photo library in the world, Getty Images, has been taking the lead in helping to create industry-wide change, by introducing various collections such as the Sheryl Sandberg “Lean In” collection, as well as the more recent ‘No Apologies’ collection explicitly launched to flood the internet with stock imagery that is more diverse and inclusive. Looking for a generic image of a woman in a grocery store or walking down the street? You can now find a range of body types, skin colors, ages and aesthetics to choose from. No need to only resort to the default cis, white, skinny female anymore.

The conscious effort to want to revolutionize the representation of women in media is important and well overdue,and it seems Getty was not done making changes to their internal standards. They announced that starting October 1, 2017, they will no longer accept images from contributors that contain manipulated images of models to make them look different to what they naturally are.

The subject of the email sent to contributors was titled: “RE: Important Information on Retouched Images — Legal Update” and outlined that they cannot submit “any creative content depicting models whose body shapes have been retouched to make them look thinner or larger.”

However, “other changes made to models like a change of hair color, nose shape, retouching of skin or blemishes, etc., are outside the scope of this new law, and are therefore still acceptable,” it continued. In a statement to the media about their new policy, Getty spokeswoman Anne Flanagan explained how the company has been taking the temperature of new trends and realizes the need to do their part.

“We have been passionate about elevating the ways in which people are portrayed by the media and we have been very clearly communicating this to our contributing photographers. In fact, we’ve seen a trend towards stepping away from the hyper-airbrushed, perfect images of the past and a growing demand for intersectional realism,” she said.

“Our perceptions of what is possible are often shaped by what we see. Positive imagery can have direct impact on fighting stereotypes, creating tolerance, and empowering communities to feel represented in society,” she added.

For the company to acknowledge the growing demand for authenticity in imagery is certainly a step in the right direction, especially if it ends up having a ripple effect throughout the industry.

“Images illustrate and reflect the events of our world today and therefore have a responsibility to be delivered to the customer with accuracy and impartiality,” says the Getty policy about what they hope to deliver with these new standards.

The Getty announcement came around the same time that France implemented a new law which will require all digitally-enhanced and photoshopped images to be labeled as such. As NPR reports, failure to comply is punishable by a fine of more than $44,000, or 30 percent of the money spent on advertising.

“It is necessary to act on body image in society to avoid the promotion of inaccessible beauty ideals and prevent anorexia among young people,” said France’s former health minister, Marisol Touraine, who initiated the idea.

France has been on the ball when it comes to trying to make legislative changes, such as its focus on ensuring models working during fashion week events meet healthy body standards so as not to promote the appearance of eating disorders or negative body image trends.

It’s also crucial to note that these major changes are not being done arbitrarily, but are in fact the result of people raising their voices and consumers demanding change. Thanks to social media and digital influencers, for the advertising and fashion industry to ignore trends would be foolish.

The New York Times recently published an in-depth look into how stock photos have changed over the past decade, thanks to growing trends such as the “femvertising” wave we are seeing with brands such as Dove and Always (#LikeAGirl will forever be a pivotal turning point for modern-day advertising).

“From Sex Object to Gritty Woman”, written by Claire Cain Miller gave data about the dominant types of images that came up in searches for the word “woman”.

In 2007, the top-selling image for the search term “woman” in Getty Image’s library of stock photography was a naked woman lying on a bed, gazing at the camera with a towel draped over her bottom half. In 2017, it’s a woman hiking a rocky trail in Banff National Park, alone on the edge of a cliff high above a turquoise lake. She’s wearing a down jacket and wool hat, and her face isn’t visible,” she wrote. 

Stephan Hoeck/Getty Images


Jordan Siemens/Getty Images

She says stock images, which appear everywhere from billboards to magazines to bus stops reflect the current culture and have the ability to shape perspectives or double down on reinforced stereotypes. A Getty spokeswoman she interviewed shared her thoughts on the significance of the 2017 most searched image of “woman”.

It really feels like an image about power, about freedom, about trusting oneself. Who cares what you even look like? Let’s focus on what you’re doing,” said Pam Grossman, director of visual trends at Getty Images.

Internally, they referred to the trend as “gritty woman” because of the increased appearance of strong women in various action poses, often with dirt and grit on them. Pam alluded to another crucial cultural moment which has ensured the representation of women be forever changed, and perhaps empowered.

Especially in light of the election last year it definitely seems like this idea of women having grit was a really important ongoing message, both rhetorically and visually,” she said.

Indeed. The dramatic shift happening throughout the industry is exciting to witness. It is going to have widespread impact on how future generations grow up looking at representations of bodies in the media. It’s great to see major companies taking a stand and leading the way to ensure this shift continues.


  1. Pingback: Lovely Links: 11/17/17 - Already Pretty | Where style meets body image

  2. Pingback: Photo Stock Agency Releases Gender-Focused Data Around Depictions Of Certain Professions - GirlTalkHQ

  3. Pingback: Artist Eli Rezkallah Brilliantly Reverses Gender Roles In A Series Of Sexist Advertisements - GirlTalkHQ

  4. Pingback: Canva’s "Natural Women" Collection Changing Female Representation In Stock Photography - GirlTalkHQ

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.