Opinion and Editorial

Maybe she’s born with it… maybe it’s a filter

Sushmita Bose
Filed on June 5, 2021

Crow’s feet on the woman’s visage who got shot for the magazine cover, make them vanish, and voila, Photoshop would save the day at a single command.

My tryst with beauty apps and photo filters started a few years ago when I clicked a picture of a friend (“Oooh, nice one, I should become your official photographer!” I had remarked), who promptly asked me to WhatsApp it to her so she could “edit” it… before putting it on social media.

“What do you mean by editing? You have Photoshop on your phone? Besides, why do you need to edit, you look great.”

“No, silly,” she laughed. “There are tons of photo editing apps — beauty apps — you can download. And no, I don’t look all that great: look at my nose, it needs some slimming, and my facial skin could do with some tightening.”

Till then, my only acquaintance for anything to do with photo editing and filters had been Mr Photoshop. Crow’s feet on the woman’s visage who got shot for the magazine cover, make them vanish, and voila, Photoshop would save the day at a single command. What’s more, even unwanted cleavages of fashion models could get clipped to make them more ‘appropriate’ when the newspaper or the magazine had to carry style segments. Being terribly tech-challenged, I’d foolishly assumed this computer software couldn’t be all that ubiquitous.

My friend’s observation that one can always look “better” made me curious, so I flipped through my smartphone’s photo gallery settings and discovered the editing tool. That’s the basic one, I was told: it can add new filters — like make you (magically) glow or cast an “ethereal” tone to your dull expression. Not just you, the individual, but anything you click could be “improved”. Make a sunset look way more romantic than it really is. Or make your lunch vegetables look much crisper and greener (and presumably, tastier) than their actual soggy, bland versions.

For more enhanced — and life-altering — changes, I would need to download apps. There were scores of them. I downloaded a couple that had the best reviews. And never looked back. Today, if I want to make someone in polluted Delhi go green that the sky is a vivid shade of blue in Dubai, I run a skyline photo through the filter. The sky may be blue in any case, but what’s the harm in making it doubly blue?

A Facebook friend had put up a new profile picture. It was getting likes and loves like nobody’s business, alongside a flood of comments:

“Mwuaahhhh…. Looking great!”


“Pretty woman.”

“Getting more gorgeous by the day.”

That’s when I noticed that the face had something strange going on in the eyebrow area. There appeared to be two sets of brows. I called her and asked her what the deal was. “Oh yes,” she exclaimed excitedly. “I had inserted a fresh pair of brows from an app — the kind I always fancied but cannot seem to attain despite YouTube tutorials — on my face… they get didn’t aligned, so yes, it looks like there’s an extra pair of eyebrows — but only if you look very carefully.”

“And you don’t think that’s odd?”

“Noooo, check out the comments, nobody else except you noticed.”

“Maybe they did, and are just guffawing silently,” I said to myself.

Most people I know these days will not put up a photo on social media unless it’s been altered. Often mind-numbingly. Once a chubby friend took out a photo of hers from her phone gallery, got it on to an app and started swiping away at her torso. I realised she was shrinking herself in the photo before she put it on Instagram.

“Wait, that’s not you: why would you want to put up a svelte photo when you are, in real life, pleasantly plump? Isn’t that cheating?”

“Listen, social media is the only place on Planet Earth where I can appear to be what I’d like to look like, so why are you giving me a reality check?”


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