Filtering or Faking: One in the Same? 3 Questions to Ask Before You Filter


Photographers and graphics designers have long since been applying filters to enhance specific elements of their photos. We accept and appreciate these enhancements as art and enjoy the varying perspectives of nature and humanity that these artistic portrayals provide. When similar filters became available to us “regular people” it was suddenly like we could all be our own amateur photographers, using borders, enhancing colors and creating our own visual art.


The question is…


Where is the line between art and false creation? At what point do our filters make us fake?


For example, filters and editing tools are often used by professionals to edit the reality out of photos: removing wrinkles, slimming thighs, lifting bums, plumping lips. Despite protests from advocates for embracing our real selves, these practices persist. The result in many eyes is a generation of unrealistic ideals and self-loathing as this filtered presentation of reality makes most real people think we aren’t good enough to show ourselves in photos.


Apps are thriving on this, selling beauty through editing. Some apps specifically say you can “make yourself beautiful” with their apps, implying that there is no beauty in real human imperfection. What delusional messaging. We are all beautiful in our own unique ways. Unfortunately, many of us are also falling prey to the temptations these photo filters offer. We succumb to the temptation to use filters to smooth some skin here, remove a few wrinkles, take away any so-called blemishes, etc. Before we know it, it’s easy to become just another one of many in a sea of plastic faces floating around on social channels – Stepford Wives, as a colleague of mine recently labeled the many filtered faces in her feed.


As more and more of us succumb to the temptation of using filters to edit our real selves in photos, we perpetuate the myth that beauty is only skin deep. So, where do we draw the line?


Here are 3 questions to ask to help you decide whether it is worth it for you to filter.


1.      What filters are you applying?

Are you applying color filters or lighting filters? Are you adding borders? Are you using effects? Or are you using tools that blur, fix or shape? While the first three might be for artistic reasons, if you are blurring or fixing or shaping, those filters imply that there is something you perceive as needing fixing in your photo. The deeper question here is…what needs fixing? And will adding a filter to fix the perceived problem in the photo actually make the subject of the photo fake?


2.      What are you filtering?

Do you want to apply a filter to a photo of nature, an object or a person? Or is it of yourself? If you want to filter the photo of yourself, ask why. Does the photo show someone you see as too fat? Too thin? Too blemished? Not pretty enough? If that’s the case, there is a deeper issue. Applying a filter won’t help you feel better about any of those things, and it strengthens the belief that in order to be photo-worthy we have to be fake.


3.      Why do you want to apply a filter?

This question really underscores this entire thought process. Are you motivated by artistic license? Or, do you want to filter something because you are ashamed of the way the subject of your photo looks just as it is? If there is shame there, then choosing to use a filter is a way of hiding the truth and replacing it with something that isn’t real. Making this choice won’t help you feel better about whatever it is you’re hiding; it will simply make it easier for you to hide.


It’s time to stop the fake filtering and start embracing our own beauty and loving ourselves for who we are. That’s the only way we can help our children love themselves, too. So, the next time you want to filter a photo of yourself, remember how beautiful you really are and let the whole world see you for you.

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© 2020 Frances Leary