When Erin Satterfield wanted to capture a moment from her recent tour of the Capitol building, she did so in the most modern of ways: She reached into her pocket, pulled out her smartphone and snapped a picture of herself.
Satterfield liked the photo so much she thought to make it her professional headshot on LinkedIn. There was just one issue: She wanted her face to appear a bit slimmer. So Satterfield once again turned to her smartphone — and an app called Photox.
The brainchild of a former politico from Northern Virginia, Photox (pronounced like Botox) allows users to submit candid photos to a team of editors who will give it a touch up — or overhaul — depending on what changes the subject wants to see made.
The edits can range from minor tweaks, such as teeth whitening or eye color correction, to near-surgical changes, including breast and butt enhancements, full-body weight loss and bald spot coverup.
“It’s incredibly empowering to be able to have control over how you’re portrayed online,” Satterfield said. “That’s one of the best things about Photox, it empowers you to do that and be able to put the best version of yourself forward.”
The use of photo editing software to manipulate images in advertisements and on magazine covers is all but guaranteed. Models and celebrities alike have their waists slimmed, their breasts augmented or their skin smoothed to achieve a particular look.
But the practice is now working its way into our most-candid moments. From family portraits to spontaneous selfies, the images people post to their social networks are increasingly altered to cultivate the image we want people to see — reality be damned.
Photox founder Louisa Imperiale developed the app after her own Photoshop moment. Imperiale’s husband took a photo of her holding their newborn daughter, but the touching scene was tarnished by a bra strap sticking out from her medical robe.
“Something silly like that can really mar a once-in-a-lifetime photo,” she said.
Once a user uploads his or her photo to the app, they are presented with more than 30 editing options. Each edit requires a certain number of credits, and each credit costs 99 cents. Removing a tattoo or scar requires one credit, or 99 cents. Erasing the photo’s background runs nine credits, or $8.91.
“We have a lot of people using a photo from their family vacation as a LinkedIn headshot and you would never know it was taken at a restaurant or on the beach,” Imperiale said.
If you haven’t been hitting the gym lately, Photox can add six-pack abs ($3.96), give you skinny legs ($3.96) or bulk-up your arms ($2.97). If it’s a dermatologist you desire, the app can also minimize wrinkles ($2.97), lighten skin ($3.96) and remove acne (99 cents).
Photox isn’t without competition. Most camera apps now offer filters that can make images more vibrant or softer on the eye. Adobe has also released mobile versions of its widely used Photoshop software for those who want to edit on the go.
But Imperiale said Photox is different primarily because it connects people with a team of experienced photo editors who can alter images as quickly and naturally as possible.
“You really do have to have the artistic expertise and ability to do it, and you also have to have the technical skills to be able to do it,” she said.
Imperiale recognizes there are critics of rampant photo editing. Many assert it perpetuates an ideal but unattainable body image, and some photography purists argue it bends the truth too far.
But she said Photox appeals to a particular clientele, primarily women, who have money to spend and a desire to control their image online for reasons that range from professional to superficial.
“Our customers aren’t teenagers who share absolutely everything on social media,” Imperiale said. “Our customers are older, a little more contentious, and very deliberate about what they’re putting out there on social media.”
“People spend a lot of time obsessing about things that no one else cares about,” she continued. “For some reason, I always raise one eyebrow in photos, but it’s something only I would ever notice. So with Photox, if you’ve got something like that, some fault finding in your own pictures, you can fix it and stop worrying about it.”
Melissa Conner wanted a photo with her husband after a recent wedding while the pair were still dressed in formal attire. She got the picture, but the lighting was harsh, there was a glare in his eyeglasses and the angle wasn’t flattering for her face.
Conner, who went to college with Imperiale, submitted the picture to Photox with those complaints. The end result now sits on the desk in her office.
“I thought it was just going to be one of those [photos] you delete and they made it worthy of framing,” Conner said.
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