Defining "Unretouched" - Trusting Pixels
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Defining “Unretouched”

Trusting Pixels was built to bring a window of honesty and transparency to consumers by authenticating unretouched content. We have developed a structured framework that allows companies to validate their work as unretouched, while clearly defining what editing limitations their content is restricted to. It is by using our service that companies can clearly communicate to their customers how much editing may have been done to their content.

Companies like Aerie, ModCloth, and Bluenotes, have moved towards creating unretouched content because they have acknowledged the negative health effects of retouching as well as having realized that people are frustrated by the prevalence and magnitude of retouching across the entire media landscape.

While the initiative of these companies is laudable and ambitious, their approach hinders the success of this movement because these companies are promoting unretouched content only according to their own subjective definition of what it means for something to be “unretouched”.

The terms “unretouched”, “no retouching”, or “unphotoshopped” can be compared to the terms “organic” and “natural” used in the food industry. We often see the terms “organic” or “natural” on products that contain little traces of these types of ingredients, while alongside these products there may be a completely organic product with similar labeling. In return, this harms the consumer as they assume they are purchasing something that is healthy for them. This principal is exactly what drives Trusting Pixels to be precise when authenticating an image as “unretouched”. We want it to be very clear for viewers to easily determine to what extent an image may have been altered. We clearly define what retouching edits were not applied by labeling the image with our authentication mark and pairing the image with the *regulation it abides by. The regulation number an images abides by can be found beside each image in our gallery.

The reason it is important to clearly state what defines an image labeled as “unretouched” is because those creating unretouched content may evaluate retouching edits differently than do the people viewing their content. In other words, people have different values when it comes to determining what types of retouching edits are considered excessive and what types are not. A person may think that changing a body/feature size is unacceptable but making skin adjustments are acceptable. Because of this, simply claiming “no retouching”, or “unretouched” on an ad or photo can be quite misleading.

To confirm that people can evaluate retouching edits differently, we conducted a study where we asked women, “How important are the following edits when labeling a photo as unretouched?”. The rating was from 0 (where 0 was considered not important), to 10 (where 10 was considered very important). Our results showed a wide variety of responses in each of the retouching categories (categories included removing hair frizz, changing body size…. etc.), confirming the fact that retouch enhancements hold a different value of importance based on whom you ask.

If we look at the results above for “Removing Acne”, we can see that this was a very important edit since it returned an average of 7.5 on a scale of 0-10. Although this average proved that this edit was important for most individuals, the results below the graph indicate that the responses did vary among individuals. This proves that if an individual or a company decides to promote unretouched content, we truly don’t know to what extent they considered certain retouching edits because our study shows that individuals can gauge retouching edits differently.

You could askWhat would happen if companies were to clearly define their retouching restrictions?” This would further complicate this already complex issue. Every consumer would need to memorize each company’s standards, which would be extremely difficult, if not impossible. Therefore, it is essential for all these brands to work together under one standardized system, which Trusting Pixels provides.


* As our clientele grows, we will expand our retouching regulations to address and include the wide array of retouching edits that can be applied to an image.  As of June of 2018 we only provide regulation numbers beside each image in our gallery rather then watermarking each image.


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