This lesson is a critical examination on photo retouching. It can be used in conjunction with a lesson on teen health, eating disorders, bulimia, anorexia, photo retouching, critical media studies, health and art class.

Time:  3-5, 50 minute sessions
This lesson introduces students to techniques for photo retouching using Adobe Photoshop. The video tutorial provided above show common techniques used for modifiying an existing photography such as: blemish control, wrinkle removing, color and texture adustmens.
The lesson also asks students and teachers to think critically about the way photo retouching is used in visual media. The video entitled “Photoshop and Ethics” provided above and the images provided can be used as a springboard for a class discussion and for student projects.
California Visual Art Standards:
2.1 Create original artworks  in a variety of media that reflect their feelings and point of view.
2.3 Demonstrate in their visual artworks a personal style and an advanced proficiency in communicating an idea, theme or emotion.
2.5 Present a concept in a multimedia artwork that demonstrates knowledge of technology skills (Photosop).
Student Learning Outcomes:
Use Adobe Photoshop to retouch an image.
Adobe Photoshop skills covered: layers palette, layer masking, brush tool, adjustment layers, duplicating layers, blending modes, blur effect
1. Computers with Adobe Photoshop installed
2. LCD projector of TV with A/V capabilitiy
3. Internet connection for image searching or collection of images from students or teacher
4. Video tutorials and resources found on
1. Teacher will show examples of photos retouching found in visual culture. Teacher will show the video entitled Photshop and Ethics to class.
2. Teacher will ask students to provide their thoughts about the media shown. Teacher will ask students for any examples of retouching they have encountered in their lives.
3. Teacher will introduce retouching techniques as shown in tutorial video.
4. Teacher will provide project ideas (see list below).
1. Students need to capture (with their phone or camera) or find (google) an image to retouch.
2. Students can start to practice techniques shown in class.
1. Teacher will start by asking students if they had any questions on techniques or concepts covered on the previous day. Teacher will answer questions and review as necessary.
2. Teacher will discuss more retouching techniques.
3. Teacher will inform students that project is due on following session.
1. Students are to continue working on their retouching project.
1. Teacher will ask students to print, or upload finished projects.
2. Teacher and students will discuss each of the projects. Using critique strategies to discuss the work.
3. Students will back up projects to a hard drive, or cloud storage.
1. Photoshop CS “Lesson in a Book”
2. Youtube tutorials on retouching
3. Photoshopping: Altering Images and Our Minds
4. Beauty Whitewashed: How White Ideals Exclude Woman of Color
5. Ethics – definition
6. PBS Kids site on eating disorders
7. Body Image, Eating Disorders and Obesity in Youth (Book)

Questions for Discussion:

  • What kind of modifications to the human body are possible with retouching?
  • How does the use of photo editing distort reality?
  • Why is the usage of retouching in media so prevalent?
  • What is an eating disorder?
  • What is the role of ethics in the realm of photo retouching?
  • Can these forms of representation be dangerous to youth?
  • Should the media be censored?
  • Do you believe there is any correlation between eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia and images such as these?

Project Ideas:

  • Create a video, or 2-D work that shows your knowledge of retouching skills. When you are finished, arrange the finished and original image side by side to compare your results.Save the file in .psd and .jpg format and print or upload your work.
  • Create a video or 2-D work that either supports or challenges the use of photo editing in visual media.
  • Create a video or 2-D work on the topic of eating disorders.
  • Attempt to retouch an image without the use of the computer, using traditional art mediums.
  • Write a 1-2 page paper discussing a retouched artwork and your feelings about its effects on society.

6 thoughts on “Photoshop, Ethics & Body Image”

  1. Thank you for making these materials available to the public. I am experiencing second-hand something similar to what you are discussing in your article/lesson plan.

    In a bit of irony today my sister and me were watching a news report on this issue involving Kiera Knightley and she told me that during a photography session yesterday for her CA state employer she was photo shopped. The photographer took pictures of her and other CHP employees and informed her that he removed what he felt were imperfections from her photo. A fellow female employee said that the photographer modified her to the point where she looked as she did in 2004. My sister has been sensitive about blemishes on her face since she was a teenager. She has self esteem issues and didn’t feel she could have said anything and since others there weren’t speaking up she just let the changes stand. It seems from my perspective that these women were coerced into this photo shopping and its probably due to the county of Solano and CHP not wanting to line their office walls with pictures of imperfect ugly women. I’m incensed and shocked. I have always considered my sister beautiful and have felt for her struggle with body image and to think someone could just come in and start modifying what they deem as imperfect is inexcusable and a sorry reflection of how intolerant society has become of imperfections of any sort. For women dealing with body image issues and other emotional issues a situation like this one could lead a women into a downward spiral. If I had been there I would have asked the photographer to show her the untouched photo and then ASK HER if there was anything SHE didn’t like. Leaving the choice to retouch or not to the women is being respectful. Retouching without asking is projecting your own judgment of what is beautiful on others with no regard to your subjects feelings or values.

    Mary Martinez

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