Keeping things natural in a digital world


Sarah Mosteller

Social media warps our definition of the word “natural” by filtering out superficial imperfections and presenting what is left as reality. Manipulated photos have become so common that it is increasingly difficult to detect what is real and what users have engineered for likes. The best way we can attempt to fight the social stigma against our physical imperfections is by accepting ourselves and spreading the body positivity trend.

As a photographer I often need to remind myself to ease up on the editing and resist the urge to hide blemishes, wrinkles and other “flaws.” If I continue to cut out these normal features, I am supporting the societal trend of hiding what is physically accurate. My goal through my photography is to inspire others to be themselves and build their confidence.

A major struggle I experienced when capturing this challenging photo was finding someone willing to be vulnerable enough to model: someone brave enough to be stripped of anything man-made (with the exception of pants and shoes) and deprived of artificial elements such as piercings, hair dye or makeup. Many potential subjects were uncomfortable with this idea, but sophomore Will Andrews agreed to participate.

After taking a series of photos, I immediately uploaded them to my laptop and started editing in Photoshop: removing eyebags, adding contour, brightening his eyes and softening his skin. After editing I looked over the photo for a while. Nothing was real anymore; the photo had become fabricated version of the truth. I fell into the trap of societal influence and lost track of my values. I undid all the edits until the photo was untouched.

Here is the original photo in its pure form: completely unedited. This is what natural looks like to me. 

What are your thoughts on photo editing? Let us know in the comments below.