The Problem With Influencers

The Problem With Influencers: Edited vs. Fake Photos

The Problem With Influencers

There was a bit of kerfuffle on Twitter about an influencer being caught ‘faking’ her photos.

Now, I’m sure this comes as no surprise to anyone; we all know that just as the photos on magazines are very far from reality, so are the influencers’ photos always photoshopped and edited to the max.

Many bloggers rose up on Twitter defending this influencer, who was (quite rudely, I might add) brought to stake, and was being made a mockery of. They all pointed out, that while TV adverts and magazines faked pretty much everything they were advertising, why shouldn’t influencers do the same?

And I hear their point, I truly do. It’s not fair that the major media can mislead the public in such way but then influencers, who are doing the exact same thing, advertising, shouldn’t be fake at all.

But this is the whole point, which makes the hairs at the back of my neck stand up: when did FAKE become okay? When did literally misleading customers become ethical and a widely accepted practice?

Let’s first look at the photo editing and what the actual difference is between plain fake and just edited photos:

The Problem With Influencers

Editing versus Faking Photos

Every single blogger, Instagrammer, any sort of influencer edits their photos. By editing I mean adding a filter, strengthening the saturation and brightness of the photo, maybe smoothing one’s skin a bit.

None of this is going to change the actual message of the photo; the background is as it is, perhaps a different shade than in reality, but there’s nothing that could cause any harm to anyone. Yes, I said harm. We’ll get to that later, because harm is what these fakers are causing.

Now, when you take the editing process one step further, and start changing the actual photo and what is in it, that’s when you cross the line and become fake.

Soo many people do this and, because it’s so easy, very few understand or care how much damage this can actually cause;

By changing the size of your hips or your bosom you present a fake image of yourself; by adding elements that were not in the photo to begin with (sunshine, clouds, a product) you make a place look different than what it is, and thus portray a wrong image to your followers.

Yes, I’m aware that adding clouds doesn’t alter a scenery much, but you’re still faking it. Why would you do that? What’s wrong with the sky as it is? And once you’ve added those clouds, next you’ll add a beach where there isn’t one, and oops, you’re presenting a pristine beach that actually doesn’t exist.

Which brings us to the next, much more serious issue:

The Problem With Influencers

Misleading Advertising

When you put a faked photo online and it reaches thousands and thousands, maybe millions of people, it starts to have an effect. And if what you’re showcasing is fake, that effect is not in any way positive.

“It’s just a pretty picture” you say, but when somebody decides to act based on your fake photo, it’s not just a photo, it’s an advert. And there are laws and regulations in place for misleading adverts.

Okay, I’m aware that these regulations are extremely loose in the US and the UK, but where I’m from you might gain yourself actual jail time by continuously misleading your followers. And thanks to these faker ‘scandals’, I think it’s a very legit system to have.

Couple examples, s’il vous plait:

There is a beach in Bali that many, many influencers from all over the world have been advertising over the years. I haven’t been there myself, but my colleagues told me about the utter shock and outrage when they actually got to the said beach:

It was covered in trash, washed up from the ocean. There was no way you could sunbathe or swim there, let alone surf.

The most shocking part for them was to see a little part of the beach being kept clean by the locals so that more influencers can come and advertise this fake image of a paradise, that in fact doesn’t exist. There had been someone photographing at that very moment when my colleagues were on the beach.

Now, imagine yourself seeing these beautiful paradise images and thinking “Finally a perfect paradise holiday destination!” So you go and spend a small fortune on the flights and hotels. And when you get there, and see the reality… How would you react?

The second example, that immediately sprung to my mind, is short and simple: Fyre Festival. I rest my case.

The Problem With Influencers


Perhaps it’s just me – coming from a country where we have authorities monitoring adverts, and weeding out those advertisers that in any way mislead consumers – but telling people to buy something that in the end isn’t what you said it was, is totally unethical and, at least in my country, illegal.

The unethical and misleading advertising is probably the single biggest issue why influencers have such a bad reputation nowadays. Yes, it’s bloody unfair that media can do it and we can’t, but that has to change! They should definitely NOT be allowed to do that!

I totally applaud the bloggers who stood up for this poor girl who was being dragged through mud because she did something that everybody else does. But at the same time I can’t ignore the fact that what she did was borderline illegal.

It’s not okay and you shouldn’t be doing it just because everybody else does it.


And for transparency reasons, I will now reveal how I edit my own photos:

First I crop them on Snapseed (4:3) and then add the HDR-scape on them (this makes the colours pop). HDR-scape is quite a strong tool, so me having pockmarks on my cheeks need to sometimes use the Portrait, Smooth 1 filter as well.

Then I transfer the photos to VSCO and add a full filter on the photos (either A5 or HB1) and adjust brightness, contrast and saturation (0,5-1,0 grades). And that’s it. No added elements found in my photos, no faked corners of a beach, and no smoothed out sellulite.

I totally understand filters and colour manipulation edits! But if you seriously can’t tell the difference between edited and faked images, and if you think fake equals ethical, then you get what you deserve.

I’d love to get a conversation going around this issue! Please comment your opinions, I really want to see what other sides there are to looking at this subject. Whether your opinion is for or against mine, it doesn’t matter, they’re all valid opinions as long as they’re justified well. Let’s discuss!


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