Photos should not be pure reality

Melanie Suzanne Wilson mid shot arms folded blue dress
Melanie Suzanne Wilson

Images Were Not Always ‘Realistic’

Photos are not pure reality, and nor should they be. Realism was not always expected in imagery. The world is now heavily influenced by image. People seem surprised by photos which are not precisely what would be seen with the naked eye. Of course they are not. Colours change. Edges are cropped out. Flaws are faded. There is no need to be surprised. We have been doing this for a very long time.

Realism was not a priority since the dawn of time

Realism started in the 1800s. Photography grew with an assumption of ‘realism’ in the 1830s and 1840s. Other artistic methods followed this philosophy. But people did not assume such precision in prior centuries.

This is incredibly important, for then taking today’s images with a grain of salt. There is no way public people would have included their flaws in images several hundred years ago. Would those individuals have requested for their pimples and freckles to be included in representations of them? Maybe not all the time. Then why include the depths of pores in modern photos? If it doesn’t define someone as a person, what does it add?

Photos naturally do not include the whole story

Chances are the early cameras would not have captured every detail of the pores on someone’s face. Black and white images would have obviously left out details like the colour of clothes.

camera-1149767 from Pixabay for What Mel Knows blog by Melanie Suzanne Wilson

More recent photos will always leave out some details. A person can be cropped out simply by cropping the edge of a picture. Photographers can zoom in on specific objects, easily leaving out context. Selfies are great for focusing just on the face. It’s possible to wear a daggy outfit and simply not show it, when zooming in on a facial expression. That’s no less real. But it doesn’t tell all.

Flattering angles can be chosen

Different angles can make anyone look different. For an easy example, take a photo with your smart phone from two angles. First point and shoot from much lower, and your chin will be in view. Then aim your camera up high, looking down at you from above. Both should look very different. This is a basic idea developed simply from this blogger experimenting with an iPhone.

Apps step back from realism

Photo editing apps are now commonplace. Instagram had more than 400 million active users in April 2016. Plenty of techniques can be used to change photos, in such a user friendly way. Filters are applied. Brightness hides shadows and lines.


Photoshop has became a stereotype in itself. Occasionally an image will take a more abstract or filtered look. Or an aspect will be dramatically edited. Perhaps there’s a brightness, and those wrinkles aren’t as visible. But, as long as the person is still recognisable, why not be a bit more flattering!

Photoshop is listed last in this post to prove a point. It is not the only way ‘reality’ is represented differently to an ‘in person’ experience. There are plenty of other ways.

Expect honesty more than realism

Human beings do what they can to give a flattering honest representation of life. It will not always be precisely replicating the face-t0-face point of view. Modern images of people should be honest. But it is time to welcome a tiny bit of flattering filtering.


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