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Vivid time-lapse videos show how Photoshop makes fashion models picture perfect

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but it can be digitally enhanced in myriad ways with the mere click of a mouse.

A new series of revealing time-lapse videos shows just how much happens to fashion photos, from their untouched beginning to their high-gloss, magazine-quality end.

RARE Digital Art / YouTube
Before and after 6 hours of Photoshop

“I know that most people viewing advertising are aware of the skin retouching and body shaping, but I wanted to show some of the other little things that they probably didn’t realize were being done,” Elizabeth Moss, founder of Rare Digital Art, a high-end retouching boutique in New York, told TODAY.com by email.

Two of the videos Moss shared condense more than four hours of behind-the-scenes Photoshop work into roughly 90-second clips. A third video crunches 90 minutes of retouching into 90 seconds.

The videos reveal that virtually nothing goes untouched in any of the photos. In addition to the expected erasing of blemishes and other so-called skin “imperfections,” the videos shows how even fingers are slimmed down, teeth get straightened and eyeballs made larger.

Moss said that one of the videos shows work “a bit more dramatic” than usual, because she wanted to demonstrate the capabilities of Photoshop. Her other two videos were intended to demonstrate what typically happens on high-end retouching projects.

“I thought people might find it interesting to see how we add pores to models with skin that is deemed too perfect in its natural state, and therefore unrealistic,” Moss said. To prevent this, photographers often use intentionally severe lighting.

“The idea is not to overlight everything so that models look flawless. A lot of times it's the opposite; they light them harshly and they look worse in the raw files than they do in person,” Moss explained. “We use Photoshop to bring them back to looking as good as they do in person and the final image is more dramatic and impactful than a softly lit image would have been.”

RARE Digital Art / YouTube
Before and after 90 minutes of retouching

Moss knows that the use of digitally altering images of models is a sensitive subject, but she wanted people to know all the factors that go into creating a picture-perfect image.

“Often when you see an image that boasts ‘no Photoshop,’ the lighting is pretty flat and boring," she said. "Does society win in that situation where we’ve forced the photographer to light in a way that he might not have otherwise because he’s afraid of what the subject might look like without Photoshop?”

The response to her videos, including one seen more than 2 million times, has been overwhelming, and Moss said she's been busy keeping up with requests for interviews.

“I hope that young people understand that what they see in magazines should not be setting a beauty standard for them to try to achieve," she said. "Even without retouching, models make up such a minuscule percentage of the world population it’s crazy to compare yourself to them. Then they have makeup, stylists, the best photographers, and people like me spending days to make the beautiful look even more beautiful.

"How could anyone expect to obtain that?”

Follow TODAY.com writer Eun Kyung Kim on Twitter.

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