Unethical Influences in Visual Storytelling

Storytellers have a ton of power. They can alter perspectives by showing their viewers only what they want from behind a camera screen or by creating misleading visual data. 

With images, the photographer can capture exactly what they intend to, and how as long as it’s possible. Then, the photo most likely goes through an editing process, which may cause some further shifts from the real image. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s unethical, though. 

Editing photos is very common, particularly for photographers who do it for a living. And let’s be clear – there’s nothing wrong with having some set prefixes to change general lighting, and coloration so that the image has the right style. 

Also, taking photos from unique perspectives is an art form, and shows evidence of a good photographer. Consider that photographers may have to stand, sit, crouch, or climb to get the angle they desire.

However, editing can be taken to the extreme, resulting in an unreasonable outcome. Over the years, photoshopped images have become a huge talking point as beauty standards are controlled and unrealistic. And many celebrities (particularly women) have spoken out about the impractical edits made to their bodies through image retouching.

One of the top 10 doctored photos is where Oprah’s head was photoshopped onto Ann-Margaret’s body. Talk about being discreet, first of all… But, why couldn’t Oprah be pictured in her own body? 

Similar to stock photo clichés, where, again, particularly women pose in arbitrary settings, always smiling. Why always smiling, laughing, having a good time with seemingly un-funny products or settings? It’s not real, and goes to show that the perspective of women are often controlled by the storytellers. 

Essentially, visual storytelling can be very much unethical by spreading unrealistic standards. And while this issue is more recently well known, I think it’s still one that needs attention. Photographers and editors shouldn’t have the control over what someone else truly looks like. 


10 Free Photoshop Actions for Wedding. (2020). https://photographycourse.net/free-wedding-photoshop-actions/. 

Bar, S. (2017). 53 Pics That Show Photography Is The Biggest Lie Ever. https://www.boredpanda.com/truth-behind-photography-tricks/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=organic. 

Calkins, I. (2016, April 11). 13 Times Celebrities Called Out Magazines Over Retouching. https://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/news/a56561/celebrities-respond-retouching-magazine-covers-criticism/. 

TIME. (2019). Top 10 Doctored Photos. http://content.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1924226_1949540,00.html. 

Stock Photo Cliches. (2011). https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/stock-photo-cliches. 

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