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Editing on Instagram: How far is too far?

How the pros get their instagram so flawless

The highly competitive arena of social media can drive even renowned bloggers and ‘grammers to manipulate their images beyond reality. But how long can they get away with it? Miss FQ explores the backlash.

As social media’s presence in our daily lives continues to increase, there is mounting research suggesting the negative effect it has on our productivity, our life satisfaction, and our self-esteem by way of comparison.

However, just as you would your morning latte or your 3pm sweet treat, social media can bring about equal parts joy when consumed in moderation.

In an effort to keep content authentic and relinquish the onslaught of negativity surrounding, say, Instagram, some spectators are quick to call out bloggers when their images are edited beyond reason.

Why it’s called ‘expectation’ vs. reality

The trouble with heavily Photoshopped images is they warp our own expectations about what we’re seeing, causing our most deep-rooted insecurities to come to light. We’re not talking about those making your teeth slightly whiter, dialing up the exposure or concealing that pesky blemish type of changes. We’re talking about when bloggers superimpose images of themselves over existing images to pretend they were somewhere they weren’t or edit their bodies to make them appear more long-legged, slender or bronzed. Because, FYI, that’s bending the truth which make us beg the questions: “Why can’t I travel everywhere?”, “Why can’t I look like that?”, and “How come when I have a picture taken, it doesn’t look this good?

A post shared by Amelia Liana (@amelialiana) on

Earlier this year, travel blogger Amelia Liana (@amelialiana) was called out for doctoring her globe-trotting snaps amid suspicions of editing fails or geographical inaccuracies, with her 450,000 plus followers flooding her comment threads. Despite her defence of using techniques to enhance her images, she believes they’re representative of the true setting and “reflect her aesthetic”.

Whether her followers have forgiven her for such fabrications remains to seen.

How comparison can be funny

At the other end of the spectrum, others have made it their mission to expose the ‘best-practices’ of Instagram and pose ‘versus reality’ images side-by-side to bring some humility to the game. For example, Australian comedian Celeste Barber has inspired the movement “Challenge Accepted” to duplicate the praised and popular Instagrams of the rich and famous (we def recommend a follow for some laughs).

A post shared by Celeste Barber (@celestebarber) on

A post shared by Celeste Barber (@celestebarber) on

Others seek to bring comfort to their followers via a similar approach, such as Sara Puhto (@saggysara) who subjects herself to creating the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of Instagram, encouraging body positivity and self-love.

A post shared by Sara Puhto (@saggysara) on

When is it okay to edit your Instagram photos?

The latest Instagram stars to bring transparency to the extent of their image editing goes to travel bloggers and couple Lauren Bullen (@gypsea_lust) and Jack Morris (@doyoutravel). Their efforts go beyond that of a typical Instagram mockery; with 4.5 million combined followers, six-figure salaries for traveling the world and paid posts which can land them up to $9,000 USD ($12,900 NZD), their edits are no laughing matter. They told the Daily Mail just how much time and Adobe Lightroom effort goes into producing their carefully staged shots. (Spoiler: it’s A LOT). So much so, their shared account @doyoutravelpresets allows you to view their before and afters, and shop their presets.

Hover over the images and select arrows to view before and after:

The rule of thumb here being, you can edit your photos, so long as you don’t deny they’re edited. Some people even love an expertly-edited image. They just don’t want to be told it’s real.

How to not let Instagram affect you

The ‘Instagram versus reality’ topic is a heavily debated one and shows no signs of slowing in the near future. The sentiment remains, however, that what people and followers are receptive to is authenticity. They appreciate beautiful images and they also appreciate the raw vulnerability of the occasional unedited or posed picture. While we love a flawless beauty ‘gram and a dreamy landscape of a foreign land just as much as the next guy, keeping our head above the sand and not buried in comparison is so important to remain happy and focused.

Our takeaway? Don’t let your aspirations become your demotivation and always take every perceivably perfect Instagram with a grain of salt. Who wants to travel the world only to get there and have the experience not marry up to the Instagram pictures? Or purchase that product promising flawless skin only to come away looking like a greasy oil painting? Not us!

Let their images bring you joy and inspiration on their prettiness alone and follow influencers closer to home who you can trust. Or, ultimately prepare yourself to live a life that pales to a Photoshopped version of reality… which isn’t really living at all.

Words: Terri Dunn
Photos: Getty Images, Instagram

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