Spot The Fakes: How to spot digitally altered images and why it matters

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Spotting fake pictures of women can be an empowering lesson for your daughter. Use these activities to give her the savviness she needs to understand media images and appreciate different body shapes.

Everywhere you turn there are photos of incredibly “perfect” and impossibly attractive women, from billboards on your way to work to posters at the mall. . Is it therefore surprising that young girls struggle with their body image?

Although you can't always tell, the media regularly manipulates photos of women in real life using technology. Watch the Evolution video to see how dramatically the model's image is altered and manipulated.

These images have an enormous influence on societal ideals, particularly when it comes to girls. Did you know it takes as little as three minutes of looking at these photos for a girl’s self-esteem to plummet, according the research published in Dr. Susie Orbach’s book, Hunger Strike: The Anorectic’s Struggle as a Metaphor for Our Age?

What your daughter may not realize is that almost all of these photos have been manipulated to look like that. With this Spot The Fakes activity, we open your daughter’s eyes to this artificial world and show her what really happens behind the scenes and then we ask her to apply this critical eye to the world around her.

Show your daughter how to spot faked media images

Behind every model in a magazine, there’s a whole team of make-up artists, hairdressers and Photoshop artists waiting to buff, polish and airbrush every part of them. Our activities have been created to give you and your daughter the skills to spot Photoshopping.

Spot The Fakes – comparing the fakes with pictures of real women

With this activity, we want you and your daughter to talk about why it’s important not to compare yourselves to these fake images and how to start to think about what “real” beauty is.

How to create your Spot The Fakes

1. Spend some time looking at magazines and websites together. Find three pictures of women that you both think have been altered.

2. Either cut or print them out.

3. Now find three pictures of women in your life that represent real beauty to you. Print them out if they are online images.

4. Download the “Spot the Fakes” PDF here, or get a large piece of paper and place the images on it – the three altered images on one side, the real ones on the other.

5. Below we’ve created two statements. The first one is about the Photoshopped pictures. The second one is about the pictures of real women you’ve found. Read them carefully and add your thoughts, focusing on real beauty.

Statement for altered images: I don’t think these fake images of women represent real beauty because...

Statement for real images: These real images of women represent real beauty because...

1. Add your ideas in response to the statements to your own article. If you find it hard to think of the words, you could always draw your thoughts and feelings.

2. When you’re happy with your article, share it with your friends and help them see the beauty in themselves and how to spot fake images.

Whenever you see a friend compare herself to women in the media, remind her how fake these images can be and that she’s special not just because of her looks, but because she’s a great friend and a unique person. Remember to always judge yourself on your own terms and that not even the model in the picture looks that way in real life.

What next: Action steps to help

  • Share this page with your daughter: Encourage her to watch the video then try out the Spot The Fakes article activity. It’s a fun, creative way for her to explore the ideas around “real” and “fake” beauty.
  • Use a critical eye when you watch TV: Watch TV or movies with her and discuss how images of girls are portrayed. Why is there so much pressure on girls to look a certain way? Would she like to see more realistic portrayals of women in the media?
  • Look at magazines together: Flick through her magazines and discuss any image manipulation you see. Remind her that beauty isn’t simply about how she looks, it’s about the person she is inside.
  • Help her out with a few pointers on Photoshopped images: It might help if you look through the magazines with your daughter first to help her spot the obvious alterations that have been made. She might not be as savvy as you to start with.
  • Use the poster you’ve created together to start a conversation: Talk to your daughter about the images she’s chosen. Why did she pick these ones in particular? How does it make her feel to compare “fakes” with “real” images of women?

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