Gee Whillickers!

Befores-and-Afters or How I Learned to Love the Bomb

Not really. This tidbit has nothing to do with atomic warfare, unless it occurs soon and the survivors walk around with Apple iPads strapped to their mutated faces, displaying digitally enhanced pictures of the way they were before.

Moving on. Most people know that “Before and After” photos or comparative representations are often unreliable or outright swindles. Unfortunately, it is a tried and true gimmick or it wouldn’t have lasted. Marketing is unforgiving and has its own “natural selection.” Let’s take a closer look at the art and deception of comparable before-and-after representations.

B.P. (Before Photoshop)

Artistic License
Think about it. Early on, painters and illustrators commonly embellished portraiture, leaving the less naive art enthusiasts and historians wondering just how ugly some of those blue bloods actually were.

Advertising License
This continued to be true in the earliest marketing and advertising (pre-photography), where etchings and line drawings offered a chance to represent things “bigger, better, faster,” especially when showing befores-and-afters or product comparisons.

Say “Cheese!”
When photos became reproducible in printing, tricks were used with the photo shoot, camera, darkroom and later airbrush, for nearly a century before computers even existed.

“These Photos Have Not Been Retouched”

So what? Without any manipulation of the photos themselves, the setup and direction of what’s being shot can seriously sway the outcome.

Some basic tricks that make the before pics worse and the after pics better without retouching:

Before
Unflattering lighting
Unflattering angle
Bad hair
Bad, ill-fitting clothes
Vacant expression
No sleep
Duller tones
Awful background

After
Proper lighting
Flattering angle
Good hair
Good, properly fitting clothes
Livelier expression
Well-rested
Brighter tones
Pleasant background

“Before” Is the New “After” or Something

You can sometimes see that the exact same photo was obviously used for both the before and the after. These have three flavors: 1) improved “after shot,” 2) worsened “before shot,” 3) both. Look for telltale signs like exactly matching elements that are normally erratic: clothing wrinkles, hair, flames in a fireplace or clouds in the sky.

Stock Photos and Photoshop vs. Acai Berry and Colon Cleansing! Who will win?

From an actual website, “Before, during and after,” the caption read. They must have forgotten to put the word “retouching” at the end. Have a look at the unretouched photos from the popular stock photo website istockphoto.com below.

Retouchers Are Adapting

Really good retouchers have a bag of “don’ts” they follow to fake out an increasingly sophisticated audience. In addition to avoiding basic mistakes like the Lee Harvery Oswald Time magazine cover’s mismatched shadows, retouchers are consciously leaving in some imperfections to increase believability, like leaving bloodshot lines in the eyes and not over-whitening them, or adding “skin texture” after it has been over-corrected.

So, beware and look really closely when you see before-and-after photos if you’re in the habit of letting them affect your decision-making process.


Gee Whillickers!

Befores & Afters of Olde

Long ago it was discovered that before-and-after representations could have a strong power of persuasion. Some uses showed enhanced comparisons, or just one exagerated condition, some didn’t even have anything to do with the product claims but lent credibility by association.

With Vaseline tonic, his dandruff and unkempt hair simply don’t stand a chance. And he’ll get the girl! See the pleased “he doesn’t have dandruff” look she’s giving his glossy helmet of slicked hair. That’s true love.

How could any woman fake expressions like these? Plus, those “bling” lines radiating from her gay after-face is practically scientific evidence. Forget “securing” and “keeping” a good complextion, here’s a solution apaprently good enough for horrible disfiguring from the pox or a shotgun blast to the face. The best part, it’s a laxative. So, saddle up!

This ad has an alarming before-and-after that’s subheaded “Smiles DO show on report cards!” But then it goes on, not about the product, but about orthodonture and how “a child’s personality and future may depend on” it. Somehow, this stupidly adds up to Pepsodent = straight, undeformed teeth = child with a bright attitude and prospects. We’re still talking about toothpaste, right? Wait, isn’t that sort of like showing a before-and-after from liposuction on an ad for an excercise system?