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Trend: Image Manipulation or Poor Self-image?

30/06/2014 15:33 BST | Updated 26/08/2014 10:59 BST

It has been decades since Photoshop has been around. And, what essentially took ages to 'achieve' with a picture, now takes seconds, all thanks to this genie called photoshop. Image manipulation today has become a norm. It's not just restricted to advertisements or corporates touching-up their product shoots. Like wind and atmosphere, it has now touched every corner of the digital world.

Image manipulation was first discussed decades ago when NASA released its 'Neil Armstrong on Moon' images. It showed the proud American flag fluttering about in the environs of moon. Hold on, that's what got the cat out of the bag. How could a flag flutter if there is no atmosphere on moon and there's absolutely no wind or gravity? Did Neil Armstrong actually land on moon?

Curiously and strategically enough, NASA remained silent on the issue. Conspiracy theorists have been crying hoarse since long that NASA has been touching up images before releasing them for public/publication consumption. Yes, in a way, that's done because space organisation's images are highly detailed and unless they are processed, the finer details of the picture can be easily missed. But, what about retouching the images to effectively being termed as 'manipulation'?

Starting from the biggest and most reputed space organization in the world, image manipulation happens everywhere. Be it a wedding picture, or the picture of normal boys and girls in school, or even those 'getaway' pics and images one sees in advertisements. Film stars have a team of people dedicated to photoshop their images on all occasions, and especially the 'accidental' biki shots, before 'leaking' them to the press. Manipulated, manicured and manufactured, never to be confirmed.

This happens more in the case of women than men, since the theory of self-image starts quite early for girls and weighs them down for years after. None of their academic or professional achievements can be adequate to wash this off. Let's call it the 'OCD of self'.

What is this doing to the psyche of normal growing teens and women at the prime of their life? Prima facie, this is surely creating a huge gap between what's virtual and what's not. Little girls world over, in countries where technology has taken stronghold are suffering because of this.

Puritans are those who reject the curated and manipulated images. Conspiracy theorists have been crying hoarse about the psychological damage this is making to the society.

Image manipulation isn't the forte of photoshoppers alone. Tech mavericks have created thousands of online tools and supporting software to make image editing and manipulation a cakewalk. Today, manipulation doesn't stop at being just 'improvement' from the original picture. It is an alter-ego. It is the 'other life' people are living and that seems more real and possible than the drab one in the physical world that has limited opportunities.

There are several means and ways in which images can be manipulated. And, there are as many needs too, to get images altered to suit the world of one's imagination.

For, the camera captures only the natural phenomenon. Who would add imagination to it, to make it look super cool? This is where technology with manipulative mechanisms steps in.

Car image manipulation, landscape manipulation, background dropping, vehicle image manipulation, photo retouching and enhancement - all these options make the world go round today.

Among online tools that can help image manipulation for enhancement, GNU Image Manipulation Program or GIMP, Pixlr, ImageMagik, Photobie, Phantasmagoria are rated to be extremely good by the users. If one isn't all that hands-on with technology and would like to have a professional work on the images enhanced to perfection, there are companies who offer image editing services. For instance, companies like Smartphotoeditors etc. offer photo enhancing services.

All the online resources work in a similar manner. You send the picture, specify what needs doing and bingo! The pic is gleaming in your inbox, just the way you want it. Of course, at a particular cost.

Experts may debate for hours after hours on the ills of image enhancement or manipulation and hold one seminar after another to list out the dangers of living in the alternative world of enhances pictures. But, image manipulation is here to stay. Because, art made image improvement a possibility at the time when portraits were painted. The artist took a 'bit' of liberty when it came to the portraits of kings, queens and their children. Images were more endearing than the persons.

So, that being the case, how can the world not acknowledge the fantasy it has been nursing since ages? Hence, negatives of image editing notwithstanding, the human kind has taken special liking towards the concept. Whatever the psychological effects be in the long run, one cannot rule out the positive effect it has on the person who uses it to improve his self-image, even metaphorically speaking. After all, we want everything in this world to look good. So why not employ the technology for it!