27/09/2017 13:58 SAST | Updated 27/09/2017 14:09 SAST

Getty Makes 'Hugely Positive Move' By Banning Images That Photoshop Models' Body Shape

It’s been described as ‘long overdue’.

Photoshopped images are often blamed for negatively impacting body image and self-esteem among women and girls. A recent study published in August found looking at photos of slim women for just 15 minutes “has a negative impact on women’s health”.

Following a new law in France calling for greater transparency around digitally-altered images, Getty Images has announced it will be banning the use of Photoshop on its stock images.

The photos in question, which are are routinely used by the media and creative agencies, will no longer be manipulated to make models “look thinner or larger”.

The policy change, which comes into effect on 1 October, has been praised by body-positive campaigners who hailed it as a “hugely positive move” and said they hope other companies follow suit. 

jeffbergen via Getty Images

Leyah Shanks, a body-positive activist and founder of the Body Confidence Revolution, told HuffPost UK the move is “long overdue”. 

“I hope this becomes commonplace in the near future and we can become accustomed to real, diverse bodies in the mainstream media,” she said.

SLiNK magazine, a fashion and lifestyle magazine for plus size women, agreed that Getty’s policy change is a step in the right direction.

“It absolutely astounds us that altering models smaller or bigger has been allowed for so long and it is a hugely positive move that an image resource such as Getty is taking responsibility for this,” a spokesperson for the magazine told HuffPost UK.

The move comes in response to an update to the Public Health Code in France, whereby commercial images featuring models that have been altered will be accompanied by the words “retouched photography”.

In an email sent to contributors, seen by HuffPost UK, Getty explained that “other changes made to models like a change of hair colour, nose shape, retouching of skin or blemishes, etc., are outside the scope of this new law, and are therefore still acceptable”.

A spokesperson for Getty told HuffPost UK: “As a leader in visual communications, Getty Images upholds the responsibility to ensure accurate and authentic visual representation.

“Our perceptions of what is possible are often shaped by what we see: positive imagery can have direct impact on fighting stereotypes, creating tolerance, and empowering communities to feel represented in society.”

Getty is one of the biggest suppliers of stock imagery - delivering images to the press, as well as large and small creative agencies, corporations, nonprofits and educators. The images it provides therefore have the potential to impact a lot of people.

“Being such a large image database, publications could unwittingly be promoting poor body confidence through highly retouched photos and now everyone can feel a little more assured that the size they are showing hasn’t been altered,” SLiNK’s spokesperson said.

“Young girls are already shown so many altered images in terms of beauty retouching, if we can give them one less thing to worry about and start representing bodies as they are, it is a step in the right direction.” 

Grace Barrett, from the Self-Esteem team, which delivers workshops in schools and colleges on mental health and body image, said while Getty’s policy change is “exciting” it’s also a reminder of how much work there is to do to make the media a better and safer place for all. 

“On the one hand this is an awesome step, we all deserve to be presented with genuine humans in the media instead of having humanoid figures thrust upon us daily,” she said. “On the other, it’s mind-blowing that we must demand images minus changes to body type in order to get to that point and that this demand is considered groundbreaking.

“For us it’s a reminder of how far from the path we’ve strayed and how much work there is to do to make the media a safer place for generations to come. Great work Getty! Now, what next?”