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News & Insight

Students’ Option To Pay For ‘Digitally Slimmed’ Grad Photos Has Company In Hot Water

By Kishore Sawh on July 17th 2014


It’s really incredible just how quickly news travels, and in particular, bad news. Even more incredible is that there are individuals and companies who may feel physical isolation or local geographical boundary lines are the parameters wherein our activities travel. There really aren’t many, if any borders anymore, as evidenced by anyone who’s done something stupid anywhere, and had the event reported on everywhere else.

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Photoshop has a particular knack for helping companies make the news for the wrong reasons. Most recently, UK based Success Photography that specializes in graduation photos, has found itself in hot water after complaints about some of their post production services; ‘digital slimming’ for £9.95; ‘Digital Complexion & Smile Enhancement’ for £7.95. According to their site,

The traditional graduation gown is a mark of respect and achievement. However, it can be bulky and unflattering. With advanced digital technology, we can reduce the gown’s appearance, making it more fitting to your shape.


While the complexion and smile enhancement options, which remove blemishes and brighten/whiten smiles, are along the same vein of edits, it’s perhaps little surprise that the slimming is what has been getting the most attention. The attention, of course, hasn’t been good. A number of students whose Universities, etc are clients of Success Photography have spoken out on Twitter against the options. Some calling it a sad snapshot of society, and others simply seem to be surprised.


There hasn’t been much of a response from the company itself other than to back their words, and ensure that the slimming only refers to the gown, and not the person.



I really don’t see why anyone is that surprised. Maybe that’s ‘jaded’ speak from someone who is sort of on the forefront of this type of news, but it seems that news does get distributed around and most people know there’s a lot more editing that goes on than they previously thought. That a company would seek to make more money by giving people a more idealized version of themselves isn’t in the least bit shocking. Do I agree with it? I’m not sure, but I’m also unsure they should be chastised for it.

I will say, however, that there is some concern on my end that the company may be too reliant on post processing, and their defensive tweet stating how it’s only the gown that’s slimmed seems bogus. Even if that was the case, I would ask how they know and work with the dimensions of the person under that gown, since it’s also that person’s shape that affects how the garment falls.

Before Photoshop, and I’m not strictly longing for those days, but you had to do things before the photo was taken to achieve a look you want, and that would include pinning a garment for a more flattering drape, having the right make-up to cover blemishes, and lighting that achieves the look wanted. I would say some of this would be better done this way still.

Sources: BBC, Twitter

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Ian Moss

    As for smile enhancement, as my daughter found out today at the hands of Success Photography, it’s not a great experience, so perhaps their smiles need enhancing!

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  2. Ian Moss

    Oh, and Stan, everyone hires their own robes at UK universities (the only place where students would ever wear robes) and at about £50 a day to hire them, they should (are are) fitted to the size of the student.

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    • Jim Johnson

      It just so happens that I have seen the Photo process at a University of York graduation ceremony. It is a sausage mill.

      And I would also add that not only are the robes more fitted than in the US, they are also a heavier, higher quality textile, so they hang more like a garment.

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  3. Ian Moss

    Having just been to my daughter’s graduation (covered by Success), I can understand why they might want to make their smile enhanced! Not a pleasant experience being put through this sausage machine.

    (But the department she’s in did provide a very nicely lit wall to take some more relaxed photos later.)

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  4. Greg Faulkner

    Extra services as add ons to make more money lol what’s so shocking.

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  5. Stan Rogers

    The problem with the trusty ol’ C-47 (that’s a clothespin to normal folks) is that it takes time, and these sorts of sessions (the in-school, two-or-three-robes-and-a-couple-of-mortarboards gang sessions) are usually allowed a very small window. You *might* have an hour or two to get everybody (it’s often just the length of one class period for the entire graduating year in a high school), and that’s just not enough time to play with wardrobe. (Please note: it’s not the photographer or the photography company that sets the ridiculous time restrictions for these things, it’s the school.) Sure, if you have the time available, there’s no excuse for not doing it right, but you don’t always have the time available. And yes, a slim five-footer wearing a one-size-fits-none circus tent *is* going to look a whole lot larger than usual — sometimes comically so.

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    • Jim Johnson

      “a one-size-fits-none circus tent *is* going to look a whole lot larger than usual — sometimes comically so.”

      My response to this in my head is, “so what?”. I’m not nearly as hostile as that makes me sound, but I think we have become too used to the idea that we can constantly shape (i.e. control) our image. So we look a little silly. Well robes and mortarboards look silly when you really think about it. If you looked silly in the robes (and most do), the photo should reflect that.

      The point of having a photo like this is not to look good, but to commemorate the moment of achievement. I have a fundamental philosophical problem with the idea that what we see reflected back to us never confronts our mental self image. It’s a terrible combination of narcissism, denial, and avoiding (the sometimes unpleasant) reality.

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    • Stan Rogers

      If you think people are going to stop being concerned about their appearance because they’re marking a moment of passage in life, I suggest you stay away from wedding photography and the like. These aren’t the happy snaps of everyday, they *are* commemorations. This particular genre just happens to be an imperfect implementation of the concept – but these pictures are still going to wind up in newspapers, biographies and yearbooks, as well as on Grandma’s wall/mantle.

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    • Jim Johnson

      I was never really a wedding shooter, and that was actually one of the reasons. I felt sleazy enabling people’s unhealthy body issues.

      I am not a photo purist, by any means, but I tend to draw the line between “presenting people in their best light” and fraud a little differently than some. I have to live with my conscience on this one.

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  6. Jim Johnson

    I think this is shameful, not because the company is offering it, but because there is obviously a market for this.

    I am reminded of a time several years ago that I had to have a very serious conversation with a close friend because they wanted to hire me to reshape them in their vacation snap shots. We all have insecurities, but there has to be a better way of dealing with them other than a $10 “slimming” in Photoshop.

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  7. James Matthews

    While I’m not sure if it’s ethically correct. It’s not such a big deal…my friends are ALWAYS sending me photos and asking for adjustments, some slight and some…not so slight.

    Personally, I like looking back at my photos and photos of friends where we were skinny runts or carrying a few extra burgers, teeth were crooked and those ghastly pimples were sitting in all the wrong places, it shows development and how you’ve grown. We don’t all need/want to be completely sanitized with a masked out gaussian blur layer :)

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    • Jim Johnson

      I had a friend do that, and had to finally tell her that I did not think it was a healthy way of dealing with her issues.

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  8. Richard Olender

    Some people look for something t complain about.
    If you don’t want to be digitally enhanced….dont do it.
    No need to get your knickers in a knot over it

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    • Drew Valadez

      You’re missing an “o” in the first sentence and you forgot a period on the last sentence. Get it together man.

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  9. Steve Enoch

    This is getting old. People pay other people all the time to get bigger or smaller boobs, nose jobs, all sorts of botox, teeth whitened and any number of body parts waxed. I can also go to any number of carnivals and have someone draw a caricature of me that makes me look totally different, my guess is the artist isn’t going to make me look fat, or draw all of my pimple or make sure my teeth are the correct color of yellow…and guess what, no one gets all up in arms about it. If someone wants to pay to have a few pimples, wrinkles removed, a little of the coffee staining off their teeth and remove a pound or two, who cares. We need to stop being so sensitive people. Just my two sense.

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    • Jim Johnson

      “We need to stop being so sensitive people.”

      This statement could be used for either side of the argument.

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