Think Piece: The Rise of the Filter Faces

When I was younger, I took a lot of photos. I took pictures of my family, my holidays, my pets, and of course, myself. Starting from a young age I’ve gone through all kinds of cameras—from disposable film cameras, to digital cameras with a floppy disk (under 20s please google floppy disk), to flip phone cameras and now massive DSLRs. In the beginning, film cameras and early digital cameras produced what-you-see-is-what-you-get photos. There was nothing beyond pointing at and shooting the subject. In the case of film cameras, however, it took a bit longer to actually see anything.

But technology rapidly changed and the photos became clearer. You could see every mark, line, and wrinkle on your face. With the integration of these cameras into smartphones, a quick snap of you on a bad day could be posted for all to see. Even if you wanted to edit a photo, not everyone had the funds to buy Adobe Photoshop, and honestly who has the time to sit down and painstakingly make every photo perfect? But in 2011, the first photo-editing apps were made available on the App store and soon after the filters came.

Every major app that has camera integration also comes with filters. Filters that change the shape of your face, features, skin tone, and even your height. What started out as simple fun and maybe a tool to get rid of the odd blemish has turned into something that some can’t live without. Now, many would never dare to post an unedited photo of themselves online.

Even if it’s just a faint pinkish tint to your picture,
why would you choose not to see the world through
rose-coloured lenses?

Professional photographers have always used editing to enhance their photography. In fact, photo editing dates back to the 1860s when professional photographers had to physically cut and then put back together photos. Photo editing isn’t new, and if it’s for the sake of creativity… then no harm done in my opinion.

Flash-forward, and editing your photos before posting them online has become the norm. Facetune is well known among the influencer community as a basic tool for preparing your photos before they’re viewed by a massive online following. Anything less than flawless is unacceptable. And why wouldn’t you want to look flawless?

There seems to have been a rise in plastic surgery and one of the reasons for this is apparently because of app filters. We are seeing ourselves through the lens of cameras and it is leading to insecurities and body dysmorphia. Apps such as Instagram and Snapchat give us access to a wealth of filters that allow us to manipulate our facial structure. On the surface, it’s for fun—what isn’t fun about a flower crown? But if you keep adding those filters, it becomes harder and harder to see yourself without augmentation or distortion.

The face that you see through your camera lens is not exactly an accurate representation. Factors such as lighting, lens proximity, and angles have a huge impact on your face shape, contouring them in different ways. There’s a reason why you can get your “best side” in a certain spot of your room when you tilt your camera just right.

Filters and photo editing isn’t all bad. As mentioned earlier, enhancing photos for creativity and art is something we should embrace. The intersection of technology and art is fascinating and we should continue to push those boundaries. For the average person looking to add an aesthetic touch to their social media feeds, they can use filters as a quick and easy way to achieve their signature style. With most apps you can get really creative and go beyond colour editing by adding frames and stickers and text, and really have fun with your photography.

This technology itself is neither good nor bad, but the frequent use of it has clearly impacted our collective psyche. It’s important to take a step back and understand all the factors that go into taking a photo, not only so we can take better photos, but also so that we can take note of how it can distort our perception of ourselves. Maybe instead of using your phone camera to see yourself, use a mirror.

Because as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder… not the lens.

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