The Bureau of Advertising Purity

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.” It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
– C. S. Lewis

One would think that with the myriad of problems facing the United States and the rest of the world, our lawmakers might be content to prioritize them, determine which are best to be solved by the private sector, the public sector, or some combinations thereof. But alas, there seem to be some that believe every problem should be solved with some form of government intervention and control. Recently, Congressional Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R -FL), with assistance from Ted Duetch (D – FL), and Lois Capps (D – CA), introduced a bill (H.R. 4341) allegedly to save our children from eating disorders and other mental problems by regulating the use of what essentially are labeled as “unrealistic Photoshop” alternations to pictures of models and others that are prominently displayed in advertising, magazine articles, etc. I was a bit surprised to find out that Ros-Lehtinen had sponsored this bill. I happen to be well-acquainted with her stances on many issues and often find myself in agreement with her.

They title the bill, “Truth in Advertising Act of 2014.” Don’t get me wrong – I am not advocating advertisers should be allowed to make blatant false representations regarding their products’ benefits. But policing every photo tied to an advertisement under the watchful eye of some government overseer seems to be fraught with it its own set of problems.

Photoshop Beauty

So how could anything go wrong with such a well-meaning piece of legislation? Read on…

1) The Evils Of Photoshop

Photoshop is a popular target for bashing nowadays. And why not? It easily and quickly enables us to modify photos in a myriad of ways, including improving complexions, eliminating imperfections, and even changing body dimensions and shapes. Some people are incensed by such capabilities. They literally think this is a crime, or at least on the border of being one. Many have seen this famous youtube video. They claim that it has perverted our view of beauty. And yet, where is the proof of that? In every age, and in every culture, people have had different ideas regarding what constitutes beauty and what does not.

Surely this can’t be good for society. Somebody somewhere has to be suffering as a result. And if verifiable victims can’t be found? Well… it seems that some will invoke broad sweeping generalizations, create a flawed cause and effect relationship, and attempt to bypass our intellects by appealing to our emotions. By attaching positive names to legislation, even if the names have nothing to do with the real intent or outcome of the legislation, it makes it more difficult to be against a given bill. Thus supporters of a bill entitled “Truth in Advertising Act of 2014” challenges opponents with the obvious question, “So you mean to tell the citizens of this great nation that you are not for truth in advertising?”

2) Sounds Good, But…

The bill’s author states (I paraphrase) that there is some strong evidence that links eating disorders and other mental issues to children’s repeated viewing of “Photoshopped models.” Yet there is precious little proof offered. And any that is submitted should be rigorously reviewed and interrogated. There is a reason we have a 1st Amendment in the United States. Free speech, in whatever form it takes, is not something we should ever relinquish. Unfortunately, this bill is just another in a long line of attempts to have us trade our rights for some magical solution to an ill-defined and extremely vague cause and effect relationship.

Invoking the name of the AMA (American Medical Association) would seem to dissuade us from questioning the bill’s “sincere” attempt to help our children. And yet every time I hear the AMA’s name linked to a product endorsement or being used to refute some health claim, my mind harkens back to those many commercials from the 1930s through the 1950s featuring physician endorsements for cigarettes, despite plenty of evidence to believe there was a strong link between smoking and cancer and other respiratory maladies.

Luckies Physician Endorsement

Camels & Doctors

SM 9800XL

It is often said that one of the best things we can do for our children is help develop their critical thinking skills – to thoughtfully question everything they see and hear. Sadly, this bill’s author seems to want both children and their parents to turn off their critical thinking abilities. This bill is a real insult to both children and parents. First, the bill would have us believe that there is a strong link between eating disorders and other mental disorders and the viewing of images altered by Photoshop. This alone is a highly dubious claim that deserves a healthy degree of skepticism. The most obvious question is why, if Ros-Lehtinen is correct, do millions of people view Photoshop-altered images and fail to suffer from eating disorders and other maladies? And who is to say who has realistic and unrealistic notions of beauty? Secondly, the bill seems to assume that children’s parents are ill-suited to helping understand the context of advertising messages – as if only all-knowing bureaucrats from Washington, DC can do the job for us. Thirdly, there is no ability to measure the implied benefits against the very problems listed. Then again, it would be difficult for many government programs to quantify their ability to achieve the benefits they claim to provide. Fourth, over simplifying the cause of eating disorders and other mental illness to such as a degree as represented by this bill is simple-minded at best. Mental illness issues can be incredibly difficult to diagnose, understand, and treat.

And lastly, the real issue plaguing the United States, and well as many other developed nations, is obesity. If our children are really suffering from attempting to reach some mythical ideal, it sure isn’t apparent from the statistics. Here are a few facts the Mayo Clinic outlined in 2012:

  • Currently 35.7 percent of American adults and 16.9 percent of children ages 2 to 19 are obese (defined as a body mass index over 30).
  • If trends do not change, by 2030 the obesity rate for adults could top 44 percent nationally. In addition, rates could exceed 50 percent in 39 states and 60 percent in 13 states.
  • Currently more than 25 million Americans have type 2 diabetes, 27 million have chronic heart disease, 68 million have hypertension and 795,000 suffer a stroke each year.
  • Approximately one in three deaths from cancer each year (approximately 190,650) are related to obesity, poor nutrition or physical inactivity.
  • In the next 20 years, obesity could contribute to more than 6 million cases of type 2 diabetes, 5 million cases of coronary heart disease and stroke, and more than 400,000 cases of cancer.
  • By 2030 costs associated with treating preventable obesity-related diseases are estimated to increase by $48 billion to $66 billion a year.
  • The loss in economic productivity could be between $390 and $580 billion annually.
  • It’s also projected that if the average body mass index was reduced by just 5 percent by 2030, thousands or millions of people could avoid obesity-related diseases, thereby saving billions of dollars in health care costs.
Obesity Increase

Despite Ros-Lehtinen’s concerns, it would seem that the number one eating disorder that our nation needs to address is its addiction to overeating. Ros-Lehtinen may make vague overtures to the link between Photoshopped images and eating disorders, but the links between being overweight and its impact on our life spans, joint disease, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular concerns, and other maladies are very well-defined and leave little room for debate.

But let’s explore her proposed bill and see where we might be headed if such legislation ever gets passed.

3) Welcome To The Bureau of Advertising Purity

Someone obviously needs to be in charge of what is acceptable and what is not in the world of advertising images. And that is precisely what Ros-Lehtinen proposes. Here’s the text from the bill:

(1) a strategy to reduce the use, in advertising and other media for the promotion of commercial products, of images that have been altered to materially change the physical characteristics of the faces and bodies of the individuals depicted; and
(2) recommendations for an appropriate, risk-based regulatory framework with respect to such use.

Nothing like a “risk-based regulatory framework” to improve our lives, I always say… So how would this new organization work? Well for starters, we would need a pretty hefty bureaucracy. Total US Ad Sales spending in 2013 was approximately $180 billion. That number likely includes millions of images that the new Bureau of Advertising Purity would have to oversee. That is no trivial matter.

The agency would need processes for submitting, verifying, approving, denying, appealing, etc. images for publication on various media. A Standards Committee would have to define what is and is not an “acceptable” level of photo processing. One might imagine that color, contrast, skin smoothing, limb and torso reduction, muscle enlarging, and other categories of photo manipulation would have be defined in lengthy manuals, which of course would require frequent revisions. Some notion of standards for each of these relative to an alteration being “acceptable” would have to be defined as well. Just who in our society is qualified to make such decisions for the rest of us?

You can guarantee that developing such definitions would likely involve many research grants, studies, debates, and in the end, an umpteen thousand page documents that cover every picayune aspect of altering an image. One might also imagine that a large team of “Photoshop Forensic Specialists” (new career opportunities?) would be needed to verify the “authenticity” of photographs, particularly in the event of a dispute. A vast computer system would need to be developed for cataloging, tagging, and tracking images from advertising agencies.

The Bureau of Advertising Purity might eventually choose to co-locate their agents within the various advertising agencies, in order to observe the entire creative process first hand, thereby ensuring that no unacceptable or unauthorized Photoshop alterations take place. Advertisers might vie for that treasured endorsement of “Bureau of Advertising Purity Certified,” as they might speculate it will have a positive influence on sales.

4) The Photoshop Tax

The Bureau of Advertising Purity will not be properly implemented on the cheap. Vouching for having $180 billion dollars of advertising images pass the rigorous standards of the Bureau isn’t going to be done with handful of staff members and a few interns. We are talking tens of thousands of people. The money has to come from somewhere, so why not tax the very software at the heart of this debate – Photoshop!

But why stop there? There are other programs that enable various forms of photographic manipulation. Soon the tax would extend to just every aspect of the creative process. It only follows that some group of people would be responsible for monitoring, evaluating, and determining which programs, products, and services should be eligible for what will likely be dubbed as the “Photoshop Tax.” The tax would start out as something “reasonable.” With time and eventual increase in the Bureau’s size, scope, and responsibilities, this tax would also rise significantly.

Of course, many of our lawmakers would want you to conveniently forget that when the Income Tax was first passed in 1913, it was promised never to rise above 7%. And even then, there were healthy deductions one could take to reduce the tax. It would require just four short years before that “not to exceed 7%” tax rose to 77%. So much for political promises and their reality… Something to keep in mind the next time you hear a politician indicating that some government agency, under the guise of “helping” you, wants to diminish your choices and/or exert more control over your life.

Perhaps I am just being cynical. A federal bureaucracy, meant to serve the people, could never abuse its power. It’s not like the IRS would ever be used to punish political opponents or the Veterans Administration would ever conspire to falsify its treatment of veterans so legions of bureaucrats might rake in millions in bonus payments. Right?

5) Today, Cosmopolitan’s Cover. Tomorrow, Your Wedding Pictures & More…

The initial bill is only targeting images associated with advertising. But why stop there? It is only natural to expect that the Bureau of Advertising Purity would attempt to regulate ALL images they deemed as being “unrealistic representations of the human body.” What about all those young ladies are looking at Photoshop-processed wedding pictures on Etsy, for example? Aren’t these images, if altered by professional or amateur photographers, also potentially “dangerous” to young women’s mental health as well?

And what of high school yearbook photos? Photoshop did not invent skin smoothing techniques. Even in the 70s (that period of time just after the dinosaurs became extinct), “airbrushing” was a well-known and accepted practice – and much appreciated by those teens suffering from acne. No doubt that every teen was glad to have smooth skin in that once-in-a-lifetime yearbook photo. Little did they know the damage that was being caused by their adding to that heavy burden of “unrealistic expectations.”

And as the digital photography universe continues to experience exponential growth, who is minding all the sites where photography plays a major role? With today’s children learning to live out their lives on various internet forums and magazine sales tanking, doesn’t it also make sense to regulate Facebook, Twitter, flickr, 500px, 1x, Instagram, and other such services that feature significant volumes of photos? Shouldn’t these websites, like Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, and others, be suspect of fostering unrealistic expectations among young people, through a bit too much skin smoothing here, and a little extra liquify there?

6) Expanding The Notion of “Unrealistic”…

If “unrealistic” images of beauty or body types are the cause of so much mental anguish amongst our youth, should the Bureau of Advertising Purity be really be constrained to photos alone? I think not. What about the Michelangelo’s Sistene Chapel, with its idealized images of the human body? Or the statue of David? What about the many statues of the ancient Greeks and Romans that represent perfection of the body? Perhaps the Fall of the Roman Empire was really due to having far too many statues of idealized men and women?

Is it so unrealistic to believe that some idealized statue, painting, or other work of art may also contribute to mental illness and eating disorders every bit as much as some Photoshopped ad? Should not the creation and display of art be linked to some standard created by the Bureau of Advertising Purity? And what of individuals who possess some notion of human beauty or body symmetry that simply beyond the hope of mere mortals? Should Angelina Jolie be banned from films because she possesses a unique form of beauty? Would the Bureau of Advertising Purity have stopped Sylvester Stallone from filming Rocky II, III, and IV because his physique was unattainable by most men? Should the Bureau prevent Kate Moss from modeling in advertisements because she is rail thin, more likely due to genetics as much as any other factor, and is such may cause some young girls to have some form of mental distress? Even if images of such people do not have to be manipulated to, does that mean that they should escape the moniker of “unrealistic.”

6a) Make-up

Take a good look at the before/after photos from any professional make-up artist’s work, and you will quickly realize just how the application of different tones can literally “sculpt” the face. If you look at the Dove youtube video, you will see that the vast majority of the young lady’s “transformation” is the result of hair style and make-up. Any good make-up artist will likely tell you with pride that they can significantly improve your looks. Should the use of and effects of make-up really be considered so much different than what Photohop’s can accomplish? A quick search on Amazon and a few peeks inside some of these books will reveal just how transformative some of these techniques can be. Why not regulate its use as well? It should be obvious that you do not need Photoshop to significantly alter someone’s appearance.

6b) Lighting

A skillful use of lighting can also make a huge difference in how we perceive a person. The Hollywood actresses and actors of yesteryear were nearly religious regarding how their faces were lit and the camera angles involved. Extensive testing was done to ensure that everyone looked their most glamorous self. Every light, every camera angle, and every lens was carefully considered in order to achieve what the actresses/actors and studio sought to achieve – idyllic results – whether they were associated with making someone look beautiful, or making them out to be the very incarnation of evil. Using lighting to manipulate someone’s appearance surely needs someone to be monitored, doesn’t it?

Here’s a photo of one of my all-time favorite actresses, Greer Garson. She was known to be nearly fanatical regarding having “her lighting man” arrange the lights and camera angles to show her at her best. This was not a responsibility to be handed to others who were not intimately familiar with her face and how light could sculpt it to bring out her best. Most of the photos were taken exposing her right side, with her face angled at 45 degrees from the camera and with a Fresnel light approximately 45-70 degrees above her head. You may say that this is not on par with Photoshop manipulation, but you cannot argue that lighting does not play critical role in our perceptions of someone’s appearance.

Greer Garson

6c) Avatars, Dolls, Comics & Animated Films

Hollywood filmmakers involved with animated movies, illustrators of all kinds, and anyone else involved in depicting the human body, in any medium, must also be candidates for regulation. Comic books depicting various superheroes have always featured idealized body types. That would include Batman, Superman, The Shadow, Green Hornet, Superwoman, Cat Woman etc. And what of the fantasy work of Boris Vallejo? Should someone be looking over his shoulder and determining what is and is not a realistic image?

Boris Vallejo

The Barbie doll has recently come under fire for representing an unrealistic image of the female body and supposedly causing widespread unrealistic ideas of feminine beauty. Some claim that Barbie “should” have more realistic dimensions.

Despite the outrage over Barbie, I apparently missed the protests over the movie “Avatar,” that featured 10 foot creatures with idyllic proportions that Barbie could only hope to match. Will the Bureau of Advertising Purity demand that the Na’vis look more proportional to their human counterparts, or are unrealistic stereotypes acceptable if they are associated with a different species and support a green agenda and an anti-military, anti-corporate theme?


7) Why Not Regulate The Message Itself?

With the Bureau of Advertising Purity expanding their scope to photo sharing sites, Facebook, the art world, illustrations, and film makers, you have to wonder if they are really getting to the heart of the issue – namely, just how realistic are some of the ads we view, and are they really preying on people’s insecurities, hopes, dreams, and fears? Certainly someone could argue that many ads may cause a portion of our population to have unrealistic expectations and/or to chase wealth for the purposes of securing material possessions that may add precious little value to their lives. We don’t need Photoshop to create such connections.

When Michael Jordan began advertising “Air Jordan” basketball shoes and clothing some years ago, his magical aura had a tremendous impact on demand. At one time, it seemed that every young boy dreamed of having a pair of Air Jordan basketball shoes, even those who rarely played basketball and had little talent for the game. Sadly, there have been a number of well-documented cases of kids being killed for their Air Jordan sneakers. For poor kids in rough neighborhoods, being sold on the unrealistic dream that wearing a magical pair of sneakers could somehow transform their lives, seems to be dubious at best, and a rather tragic misdeed at worst. Your heart has to go out to the families of those killed over something so trivial as a pair of basketball shoes, which will likely show up in the local Goodwill once they get a bit of wear and are replaced by the next year’s model.

Beyond the images conveyed in our advertising, perhaps the Bureau of Advertising Purity should also focus on the message that is embodied in the ads. This opens up an entire new can of worms relative to legal and financial responsibility as well as regulatory oversight. If Michael Jordan and Nike benefit from the mania they caused with their basketball shoe advertisements, should they be made liable for the murders and/or broken dreams that may stem from them? If a young man, engaging in weight lifting, overdoses on steroids, are we ready to indict Iron Man Magazine because month-after-month, it plastered the pages with images of unachievable (by the vast majority of people) looking images of bodybuilders?

8) What Could Go Wrong With Such A Well-Meaning Idea?

As you can see, quite a bit. Once you buy into the simple-minded notion that broad swaths of the population are being negatively affected by some Photoshopped images, and implement another government agency to control the publication of images, you are heading down a slippery slope. The creative process itself will bog down due compliance challenges with continually changing and growing numbers of regulations. And the private sector (business and creative) will soon contract as the legion of bureaucrats grows.

No doubt that some advertising companies will be able to skirt some of the Bureau’s laws, based on donating to certain politicians who hold sway with Bureau’s management. Lawsuits will spiral out of control, since instead of people taking responsibility for their choices, they will increasingly blame advertisers and others that they believe somehow caused them mental or physical anguish. And with each new controversy, the cry will go out that, if we will only expand the size, scope, and sphere of control of the Bureau of Advertising Purity, none of these bad things will happen. Eventually, we will end up with commercials that look something like this parody, and a society to match:

9) Summary

Despite any soaring emotional rhetoric associated with this bill, it is simply a bad idea. History shows that censorship, in all its flavors, has always been offered as a means of protecting and helping us. But it never turns out that way. And blaming complex mental disorders on digitally altered photographs is a terribly specious argument, as well as an insult to our intelligence. Visual influences of beauty and physical ideals are not limited to Photoshopped images, but rather extend to the realms of film, art, and myriad of other aspects of our culture. Once the bureaucrats master the control of Photoshop, it is only a matter of time before they set their sights on other targets.

In the last year alone, we discovered that the many promises of being able to keep our healthcare plans, the Veterans Administration officials assurances that it was providing adequate medical treatment to our veterans, the IRS’ claims that it was not targeting political opponents, and a video alleged to have been the impetus for the murder of our Ambassador and military personnel in Benghazi all turned out to be lies. As such, it would seem that we should be more worried about the veracity and integrity of our politicians, instead of photos associated with product advertisements.

What Rep. Ros-Lehtinen fails to realize is that the free market can indeed foster the very change she seeks – if non-Photoshopped ads are what the public truly wants. As an example, if a given dress designer increases its sales as a result of putting average-looking models in their ads, featuring little make-up and little, if any, Photoshop modifications, people will take note. Competitors, who continue to use highly modified photos, will quickly follow suit in switching to more natural looking advertisements, lest they see their market share and sales decrease. It is that simple. No Bureau of Advertising Purity required.

I urge everyone to write their congressional representatives as well as Rep. Ros-Lehtinen. Let them know that you would rather have them focus on the serious challenges of the day. Emphasize that you are responsible for the education and training of your children, not the Federal government. Remind them that attempting to regulate people’s use of Photoshop, just as with any form of censorship, will create far more problems than it solves. And suggest that if they are genuinely concerned about Truth in Advertising, they should start with their own legislation and campaign promises.

“Truth is the first casualty in war.”
– E.D. Morel

Perhaps the same could be said of politics as well.


  1. 1) Jon McGuffin
    June 30, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    Thank you so much Bob for writing such a thorough and comprehensive article on this subject. The references and opinions you offer are spot on in my humble opinion and I’m just thankful there are those out there who see things the way they should be. Thank you very much for authoring this piece!

  2. 2) James Kern
    June 30, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    Bob, thanks for posting this. I read it and almost could not believe it (notice I said almost). Without going into the rant about oppressive government regulation and legislators that are over paid and under-worked I think that this bill is one that is worth my time to write a letter – in fact, several letters. I don’t know how my fellow Photoshop users feel but I would hope that Washington gets a flood of letters, particularly the bills author. To that end if you have her contact info and could post it (or give us a link to it if you can’t directly post it) it might prompt a few more letters. Thanks again for the post.

  3. 3) Vinny
    June 30, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    I agree with this article to a certain degree. Only thing that should be banned is altering the actual size of the person in the photos (like reducing the hips, altering the nose etc.) Other than this, any enhancement to a photo can be achieved the same way using makeup, lighting etc and hence cannot/should not be banned. It’s just a waste of everyone’s time..

    But what perplexes me is the number of people who think the problem of obesity lies in the media and not in the food. When will we understand that processed foods, sugar and lack to eating good fats are the cause of our obesity…


    • June 30, 2014 at 4:10 pm

      Amen to that Vinny. But remember that the food industry, agriculture industry, pharmaceutical and diet industries all have much to lose if we eat healthier foods. So they’ll ensure most people don’t understand the valid point you make. Tate and Lyle recently said that a single ingredient like sugar shouldn’t be demonised in respect of obesity. Like a drug dealer saying his product shouldn’t be demonised for causing addiction, or a tobacco company saying its products shouldn’t be demonised for causing lung cancer…

      • 3.1.1) Vinny
        June 30, 2014 at 4:18 pm

        That’s a great point… Change can only come from the people. If they start avoiding bad foods, food industry will (in theory) try to sell “good” foods that people want..But maybe there isn’t enough money to be made there.. who knows..

        • Profile photo of Alpha Whiskey Alpha Whiskey
          June 30, 2014 at 4:39 pm

          The food industry want to maximise their profits so they’ll always try to use the cheapest ingredients, such as sugar, salt and high fructose corn syrup. They also know that the right combination of sugar, salt and fat will act on the brain in the same way as cocaine or amphetamines, triggering an addictive response to junk food, hence ensuring their continuing sales. They apparently spent more on advertising junk food last year than higher education, new cars and new computers combined…! Encouraging people to eat better food is like pushing against the ocean.

    • 3.2) Patrick O'Connor
      June 30, 2014 at 8:33 pm

      Banning the alteration of size is no different than any other ban. It’s either all okay or all not okay. I agree with your second point, but only to a certain degree. People have a responsibility to themselves, and their children, to understand what they’re eating. People make fun of me due to the fact that I won’t eat anything without knowing what it is. But I’m healthy as a horse for it. Well…some horses are fat and sickly. ;-) No matter what you regulate, people will still do what they want to do, even if they don’t realize what they’re doing. You can’t ban ignorance, laziness, gluttony, etc…

  4. 4) Colleen
    June 30, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    Great article; I’m sharing it on Facebook. Thanks!

  5. 5) William Jones
    June 30, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    Great article! Several points to add:

    Should certain types of clothing be banned? For example: Push-up bras for women. Talk about false advertising!

    Also, TV ads. For example: Go to McDonalds and view the people actually in one, as opposed to the ones in the TV ads. Or the food (any restaurant) shown on TV. It looks a lot better on TV than it does in person; or, for that matter, in the pictures on the menu when compared to when it is served.

    I am sure lots of other examples can be provided by other people. Down with oppression, and please pass around the bucket of fried chicken (and why is it that the bucket on TV is overflowing with chicken, but I never get such a bucket when I buy one?).

    • June 30, 2014 at 6:24 pm

      Haha William, remember the movie Falling Down with Michael Douglas? I love that moment where he says “what’s wrong with that picture?” :)

      I love this movie!

      • 5.1.1) Guest
        June 30, 2014 at 10:07 pm

        Michael Douglas’ character was sure having a bad day, no?

      • 5.1.2) Jorge Balarin
        July 1, 2014 at 1:05 pm

        The light was wrong ! : )

  6. 6) Tim Griffith
    June 30, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    No make-up on any of the models then?

    • June 30, 2014 at 6:35 pm

      That may have to regulated as well, Tim. As you can see, it can be used to visibly affect our perceptions of people. Seems like a good candidate for bureaucrats to get involved with… :)

  7. 7) Ed Long
    June 30, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    Well said in all its parts.

    I have a fairly good regular interaction with my Congressman and with staffers who serve his committee. I will sit down with one of more of them, including the Congressman, and point out that what is taking place in our nation is a cancer of vast proportion, as this article well describes.

  8. 8) Thomas
    June 30, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    I am sure that the representatives sponsoring this obviously well thought out piece of proposed legislation will surely follow it up by introducing the “Truth in Campaign Promises Act.”

    This is pure, unadulterated nincompoopery.

  9. 9) John
    June 30, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    I generally agree with the original premise of the article, namely that trying to regulate the use of image altering software in advertising is a fool’s errand and introducing legislation to that effect is ridiculous.

    I do think however the point should be made without introducing Fox News talking points at the end. They are not relevant in my opinion and I think a photography website should avoid overtly political comments.

    • 9.1) Jorge Balarin
      June 30, 2014 at 6:08 pm

      I disagree with you. Politic is everywhere and we can not escape of it. A photographer has not only a camera inside his head.

    • June 30, 2014 at 6:33 pm

      I am not sure what “Fox Talking Points” are, even though I am well-acquainted with the network. Representative Ros-Lehtinen happens to be on Fox News quite a bit. Apparently, she must not know them either. The opinions expressed happen to be mine, and I stand by them.
      If anyone is guilty of bringing politics into photography, it would seem to be the very politicians that are seeking to expand the government’s role in the use of photography software, the creative process, and the advertising industry.

      • 9.2.1) John
        June 30, 2014 at 6:51 pm

        I have no doubt that you’re well acquainted with Fox News. I’m not going to wade into a political discussion with you. I don’t come to photography web sites to read about Benghazi, IRS probes etc. Stick to the subject.

        • Profile photo of Bob Vishneski Bob Vishneski
          June 30, 2014 at 7:13 pm

          The subject is whether the government has any right to inject itself into our use of photography software, and what, if any expectations we should have regarding their intentions and claims. Do you think it is unreasonable to question the veracity of that same government’s previous claims in order to gauge what we might expect from its statements and intentions associated with this legislation?

          I’ll bet that you read plenty of product reviews before plunking down your hard-earned cash. And you know you wouldn’t ignore the past performance of a company when making a purchase decision. Why would you suggest that we ignore the performance of the government with respect to the veracity of its other claims? Should Rep Ros-Lehtinen introduce sweeping legislation that amounts to censorship and simply get a pass because she means well?

          The answer should be obvious…

          • John
            June 30, 2014 at 7:30 pm

            Let’s be clear. This administration, as far as I know, has no position on this proposed legislation much less any “intentions and claims”. I think it is unlikely they’d support it. So your reference to these other issues regarding the administration is totally irrelevant in a discussion of this proposed legislation.

            As I said I’m not going to wade into a political discussion with you so this will be my last post on this subject.

          • Profile photo of Mike Banks Mike Banks
            July 1, 2014 at 7:40 am

            Bob, you are correct. That answer is obvious. To me at least.

  10. 10) Ozzie
    June 30, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    This kind of over-the-top inflammatory anti-goverment stuff, is very disappointing to find on this website. Yes, we need to track and be aware of pending legislation but really, “The Bureau of Advertising Purity”, let’s keep some perspective.

    • June 30, 2014 at 6:28 pm

      Some might say that having an agency of bureaucrats determining standards for photographs runs counter to the notion of liberty. I would be in that crowd. If you haven’t noticed, there are indeed many governments around the globe that control all aspects of the media. And more than a few would have tossed me in the slammer for writing such a piece. Not much to debate on that point…

      • 10.1.1) Ozzie
        June 30, 2014 at 6:36 pm

        Now it’s “an agency of bureaucrats determining standards for photographs”
        You just won’t stop, will you?

        • Profile photo of Bob Vishneski Bob Vishneski
          June 30, 2014 at 7:32 pm

          Read the bill as written, Ozzie. Just how do you suppose the goals of the bill will be carried out? The honor system?

          Questioning our elected representatives regarding legislation they propose, and holding them accountable for their actions (or lack thereof) is a virtue that many people around the globe can only dream of. This particular legislation hits home to many in the photography and creative fields. Thus it is fair game for coverage on this site.

          If you approve of this particular bill and trust Rep. Ros-Lehtinen’s intentions and implementation plans, you should indeed write your representative and indicate your support. No doubt she is looking for all the support she can find.

  11. 11) Jorge Balarin
    June 30, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    The government must regulate the offering of some kind of food and promote a healthy life. To force us to see overweight and ugly people in advertising is ridiculous.

    • 11.1) Patrick O'Connor
      June 30, 2014 at 8:37 pm

      I assume you wrote that tongue, firmly in cheek!?

      • 11.1.1) Jorge Balarin
        July 1, 2014 at 12:51 pm

        Yes, just like you : )

  12. 12) Anna
    June 30, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    Great post Bob. Just fantastic!

  13. 13) Patrick O'Connor
    June 30, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    This is just creepy! I completely agree with everything you wrote. I may have to kill myself. ;-)

  14. 14) CharlesLeverett
    June 30, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    This web site is dedicated, or should be, to photography. Political issues, whether I agree with them or not, are too devious. Please let us stick to the subject, that we all enjoy. There is a time and place for everything.

    • June 30, 2014 at 10:27 pm

      There is much more to photography than camera models, megapixels, and lens reviews. There are many legislative concerns that photographers share, including laws outlining their rights regarding what they may photograph and under what conditions, product liability and warranty concerns, and detailed aspects of copyright laws.
      They are all fair game on Photography Life. When our politicians propose legislation that affects the photography community, we have the right and obligation to raise the issue and share our concerns. Others are free to read the posts or not, and form their own opinion.

    • 14.2) bitanphoto
      July 1, 2014 at 3:39 am

      Do you mean “divisive”, perchance?

      • 14.2.1) Charles Leverett
        July 1, 2014 at 12:45 pm

        Yes, of course, that too. But, I used the term I intended.

  15. 15) Art
    June 30, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    I totally agree that politicians should be concerned about other more important things like the economy or foreign policy instead of whether an advertisement has been Photoshopped or not. This country was founded on the freedom of expression thus even corporations have the right to express their vision of a product and us as consumers should be aware and smart enough to know there may be some stretching of the truth in that vision. The old adage of “Let the consumer beware” should remain foremost in our minds when evaluating an product. But then again I have to wonder about us as a society when the government is perceived to be needed to protect us because we let advertisements dictate how we should act, look, or what we need. Freedom of expression even in advertising should never be infringed upon, since once you start down this road it is hard to know where it will end. Will it end with advertising or will it end with the personal expression of the artist?


    • June 30, 2014 at 10:32 pm

      Thanks for your insightful comments. Indeed, if someone in the government can determine what is an unrealistic expression of the human body, then it only follows that such judgments will expand beyond Photoshopped images. That was the essence of this post.
      I am not sure that it is the society at large that believes the government should regulate the use of Photoshop, but rather those seeking to gain and exercise control over the rest of the citizenry. That, as we so tragically saw in the last century, has been the cause of most of the world’s misery. And that is the point of the C.S. Lewis quote as well.

  16. 16) Stephen Davies
    June 30, 2014 at 11:20 pm

    What a hyperbolic, probably pointless and unnecessary diatribe. Hundreds of bills are introduced every year in the “House” and go nowhere, just as this one will not. Even if it were to somehow get past the House, which it won’t, it wouldn’t even be considered in the Senate, which still has some halfway decent legislators in it.
    The fact that you “usually agree” with a Republican Representative from Florida of all places immediately puts your judgment into question. The ill-informed and biased accusations at the end of your rant seal the deal.
    P.S. one of the first things the Benghazi militant said under questioning after he was recently caught was that the attack was in retaliation for the video.
    Sorry to confuse your ideology with facts.
    No, I don’t think the legislation is a good idea. Yes, I think the VA has been screwing up royally for decades, at least since Vietnam if not before.
    P.S. the Republicans have obstructed every attempt the Obama administration and the Democrats have made to help veterans and their families. They also cut off food stamps to almost a million veteran’s families just this year. They cut funding for VA hospitals last year. Sorry to confuse your ideology with facts.
    Do I think that the government has been out-of-whack at times and overbearing?
    Yes, I do.
    I bet you don’t get nearly as exercised and upset when the government tries to give women forced ultrasounds or makes gays second-class citizens or lies and manipulates us into a major war that cost hundreds of billions and killed thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi’s.
    You didn’t need to say you were familiar with Faux “News”.
    It was obvious.
    There are a lot of photography websites. This one used to be pretty good.
    It now leaves a sour taste in my mouth.
    I’m unsubscribing.
    I’ll probably drop by on the web from time to time to read the more photography oriented writers and articles.
    I don’t need this kind of drivel in my inbox.

    • 16.1) Patrick O'Connor
      June 30, 2014 at 11:31 pm

      So what do you really think? ;-)
      There’s no need to get upset. If we can’t disagree and still be friends, we’ve got a much bigger problem than can be attributed to politics, web sites, or, well…anything.

      • 16.1.1) Stephen Davies
        July 1, 2014 at 12:06 am

        Patrick – Ha! – Touché.

        Yes, I guess I was a little exercised myself.
        I wouldn’t have had nearly the same reaction if he had stuck to the Photoshop issue – even though I do think the concern expressed was overwrought and overlong.
        It was the right-wing BS that punched my buttons.

        But you’re right – no need for the intensity.
        Thank you for calling me on it in such a humorous and gentle manner.
        My apologies if I offended anyone with my anger.

        And I won’t unsubscribe – the website overall is too good.


      • Profile photo of Bob Vishneski 16.1.2) Bob Vishneski
        July 1, 2014 at 1:09 am


        Not to worry – this is standard fare for some. If you disagree with them or call some of their sacred cows into question, something must be terribly wrong with you. They rely on ad hominem attacks and emotional-laced generalizations.

        Stephen – No one is talking about taking away your Photography Life subscription. If you like your Photography Life subscription, you can keep it. Period. :)


        • Stephen Davies
          July 1, 2014 at 1:51 am


          Your snide oblique rejoinder has confirmed my previous assessment of your character.
          I gave specifics, not generalizations.
          And I never said anything about anyone taking away my subscription.

          Your political diatribe really brought down the usual level of quality on this website.
          I apologized for getting angry before,
          but you, like a lot of right-wingers, have a talent for triggering anger.
          I’m sorry to have engaged on this issue.


  17. 17) Thierry
    July 1, 2014 at 12:52 am

    I usually read any article on this website with pleasure. This one is a very serious disappointment in that respect.

    Please remember that a fair amount of your readers are not American and therefore any political discussion regarding an American bill on a photography website is a major turnoff. And that is really all this is about.
    Oh and please don’t tell me this could happen in other countries as well. Since when do you understand anything of foreign politics?

    Sorry, I don’t comment often on fora but the topic and tenure of this article really is unworthy of this otherwise excellent site.

    • July 1, 2014 at 1:42 am


      We cover a wide variety of topics on PL. Not all articles will appeal to everyone.
      BTW, on what basis do you claim to know my understanding of foreign politics? That is based on…?

      Photography laws are very different across countries. Almost all have much more restrictive laws than the USA concerning what can and cannot be photographed. Much of what we do relative to photography in the United States would land you in jail if done in many other countries – especially taking photos of police and the military, which is often forbidden.

      None of this is hard to uncover. 15 minutes on Google and you can uncover the written and unwritten laws and guidelines for taking photos in any country.


  18. 18) Fred Drumlevitch
    July 1, 2014 at 12:59 am

    Mr. Vishneski:

    Methinks thou doth protest too much — and I can’t help but wonder if that isn’t (in part) because you have a vested interest in the alterations that Photoshop permits. At least, I see the potential for a conflict of interest.

    I fully agree that the regulation of content is a dangerous, slippery slope. And thank you for the C. S. Lewis quotation, with which I was not previously familiar. I also believe that the consumer should endeavor to intelligently analyze advertising claims, be they stated or implied, and that he/she bears some responsibility for doing so.

    But I’ve lived enough years to also know that with regard to many product areas, the supposed “free market” that you laud for its corrective power doesn’t exist except in the fantasies and claims of Ayn Randian-style neocons (and their neo-liberal enablers). A true “free market” requires — among other things — that there be adequate competition and that the parties to a transaction possess accurate and adequate information.

    In countless areas, those conditions don’t apply. Consolidation has reduced the number of significant players in many fields to just a handful, sometimes only two or three. So vigorous, potentially-corrective competition doesn’t exist. (Think: cell-phone service, cable TV, banking, dSLR manufacturers — and politics — to name just a few areas where this is true). And modern advertising is one part information and 99 parts sophisticated manipulation of the consumer — manipulation so sophisticated that it would make infamous 20th-century tyrants envious.

    It’s not for no reason that editorial users of photography have imposed strict limits on photographic manipulation. While this has been voluntary, I see no prospect of genuine widespread voluntary action within advertising by our consumer-product corporations, for too much money is at stake for them. Perhaps class-action lawsuits when a product doesn’t live up to its claimed — or implied — promises would help a bit, but such suits are seldom successful. So I guess that what we can look forward to is more of the same visual lying to the consumer — and photography further discrediting itself as a truthful medium in the eyes of the public.

    (Off-topic: Thanks, Nasim, for a wonderfully-informative web site).

    • 18.1) Jorge Balarin
      July 1, 2014 at 5:56 am

      If the use of photoshop is going to be regulated by the government, politics are going into the land of photography, and not the opposite. So accusing Bob of introducing politics in photography’s world is completely out of place.

      I agree with your next lines: “A true “free market” requires — among other things — that there be adequate competition and that the parties to a transaction possess accurate and adequate information.”
      But include photoshop in the melee seems exaggerated and out of place.

  19. July 1, 2014 at 1:26 am


    Free markets are not perfect. Reasonable government regulation is indeed required. I have no vested interest in Ad Agencies using Photoshopped images. None.

    I too can find fault with Ayn Rand’s philosophy, characters, and plots. And I would agree that too much consolidation distorts the market.

    And yet, the Utopian world promised by those that seek an ever larger role for government in our lives would have us ignore the Dystopian realities we have seen throughout history. I could name the countries, but it would be a very long list.

    It is those that offer us some magical cure to the capitalist system that have unleashed the worst forms of tyranny upon the masses.

    Photography doesn’t need to be “discredited in the eyes of the public.” I already proposed the solution – companies can choose who models their products and services. If those offering natural-looking models and spokespeople gain favor with the masses, you will see demand for heavily Photoshopped images drop pretty quickly. It really is no more complicated than that.


  20. 20) Jorge Balarin
    July 1, 2014 at 5:57 am

    If the use of photoshop is going to be regulated by the government, politics are going into the land of photography, and not the opposite. So accusing Bob of introducing politics in photography’s world is completely out of place.

    • July 1, 2014 at 7:14 am


      Like it or not, today’s “politics” often become tomorrow’s laws. My article was simply meant to make people aware of a law that may not have been on people’s radar and show how some of its terms, concepts, and implementation association with this particular law could go awry. Some people appreciate it, and some do not. You can’t please all the people all the time.

      As you can see from some of the responses, pointing out some of the gross misrepresentations of current political establishment upsets those that support it. As if such examples shouldn’t cause us to pause and carefully scrutinize potential legislation that purports to set up standards and regulate what can/cannot be done with a photograph. And while the article focused on a law in the USA, you can bet that if such a law was passed, it would indeed be noticed by other countries as well. Freedom of expression, in any form, is a issue that touches everyone in every nation.

      Some believe Photography Life should only include reviews, tutorials, techniques, etc. Others of us believe it should cover all relevant aspects of photography, and that includes proposed legislation that may impact those engaged in the profession or hobby.

      I can guarantee that if everyone got slapped with a 5-10% tax on photography gear tomorrow to pay for this law’s implementation (or any other), this, along with every other photography site, would light up with scathing commentary. Of course, no one would label their outrage “politics.” ;)

      Thanks for weighing in as always.


  21. 21) Gordon
    July 1, 2014 at 8:50 am

    I would be more inclined to support this type of legislation of the movie industry. Can you imagine a more contrived situation and improbable outcome than we see everyday on television and movies. This is what is really affecting the minds of the American public and amounts to brainwashing. Now, of course with the influence Hollywood has in Washington, there is not a chance this would ever happen.

    Really, I think this whole discussion is stupid when we have so many serious issues to deal with. Who votes for these clowns? Can’t we find people who can solve the real problems instead of these straw dogs.

  22. 22) John
    July 1, 2014 at 11:58 am

    Rather than this idiocy about Photoshop, Lois Capps (D, including Isla Vista – CA) should concern herself about guns — Nazi guns — those she voted for [ ], currently being used by vicious eastern European Nazis, supported by US-based mercenaries being paid up to $540,000 per year of our tax dollars, to terrify, starve, gas, rape, murder, and expel from their homes the civilian populations of southeast Ukraine:

    [04:39] ‘”For Inna” – a video which should be circulated worldwide’

    ^ *** WARNING: extremely graphic live footage begins at [02:13]

    ‘Ukrainian Successors to Hitlerite Wehrmacht Rape and Murder in Saurovka’


    ‘UKRAINE: Lois Capps gets her war: Neo-Nazis burn dozens to death in Odessa; Neo-Nazi armor heading east, attacking Russian-Ukrainians’

    BACKGROUND INFORMATION (78-second video):

    [01:18] “Save Donbass People from Ukrainian Army!”


    UKRAINE CAMPAIGN – FOR INNA! (how you can help):

  23. 23) Hugh
    July 1, 2014 at 12:01 pm


    Regardless of whether I agree or disagree with the content, I think this post is inappropriate on this web site for at least two reasons:

    1. It is a website dedicated to photography. While there is a link to photography, the topic is approached from a purely political angle. Fine if you want to write it and you are entitled to your opinion, but not here please. There ample opportunities around the web where it could belong

    2. It assumes your audience is USA based, undoubtly a fair share, but there is a RoW (Rest of World as the US centric view of the world calls it :-) out there that also follows this site and they, in general, could not care less.

    So please spare me these political posting and stay on topic.

    • 23.1) Jorge Balarin
      July 1, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      It’s amazing the totalitarianism of certain people who ask a photographer to not expose their ideas because they do not share. Why a photographer can’t write about a law concerning the use of PHOTOshop ?

      • 23.1.1) Hugh
        July 1, 2014 at 2:06 pm


        Thanks for your comment but O honestly do not understand.

        If saying “I think” I believe I give an opinion for discussion
        If I say “please” I give a request

        I fail to see what is totalitarian on that, sorry …

        • Jorge Balarin
          July 1, 2014 at 4:49 pm

          Hugh, you said: “So please spare me these political posting and stay on topic.” For me that is a little bit rude, and also not accurate, because Bob wrote about a law that could affect the use of photoshop, that is a basic photographer’s tool. If you don’t want to write or read about it, you are free to not do it, but let Bob to exercise his freedom of speech on a valid photographic tribune.

          A photography blog exists not only to publish lenses or camera reviews. Also philosophical ideas, art concepts, and politics that affect the life of photographers, have a place in a photoblog. Best wishes.

    • July 1, 2014 at 4:57 pm


      You are welcome to your opinion. And at PL, we are as well. I am not exactly sure why you think you alone should determine what is on/off target for PL. That would be based on…?

      The PL site covers a variety of topics. Some are wildly popular and appeal to many readers. Others have smaller audiences and are less popular. Because something isn’t of interest to you, does not imply that is not a subject worthy of our attention, or anyone else’s attention. If next week Nasim writes an article regarding how to photograph hummingbirds, should we expect a diatribe from someone living in the Arctic that has never seen a hummingbird?

      The notion of any legislation that takes aim at the $180 billion advertising industry under the guise of regulating the use of photography processing tools is indeed news – perhaps not to you, but it is a concern for others. With respect to covering legislation in the USA, this law could easily be discussed in the context of any nation. If, as an example, this law was passed, and a French, Italian, British, German, etc. advertising agency was creating the ads shown in the USA, they would have to abide by the same rules, would they not? If you understood the bill, you would easily see that photographers and advertising agencies across the globe would be interested in it, since they likely do business in the USA. So much for not being about the ROW, huh?

      If I understand your perspective, if something is specific to the USA, you don’t care to hear about it? What an enlightened perspective. I have a feeling that others may not share your view regarding this issue. Rest assured that we will indeed cover subjects pertinent to the USA at times, as well as subjects that appeal to the ROW.

      You are always welcome to read anything on this site – or not.


      • 23.2.1) Hugh
        July 2, 2014 at 12:15 pm


        Thanks for the elaborate reply, highly appreciated. Incidentally, I do agree with most of what you said in the post, but not necessarily with the tone, although that is primarily a personal style thing. Still, my agreement or disagreement is really irrelevant to my remarks, as I also wrote in my original comment.

        I also agree with you that it is ultimately the publisher who has -of course- the right and obligation to determine what is on and what is off topic on their site. My plea, as user / consumer of this site was to “spare me the political”, as a feedback. The main reason being that politics is such a slippery slope and will likely solicit all kinds of reactions, some of them quite extreme and certainly off-topic. From the reactions I’ve seen, at least one such posting proofs that claim.

        As to your question whether I want to be ignorant of what happens in the US of A the answer is no, of course not. Believe me, I do have an interest in the USA, if only because I lived and worked there (for 3 years in Ca in the early 90’s and some 10 years later later for 2 years in Ut – both as an expat for my employer). I have very fond memories, and good friends there (as well as quite some miles in campers and visits to great national parks). Still politics is often very local.

        So I apologize if my wording struck you as impolite or offensive, that was not the intent. And acknowledging your arguments, I still believe it would be better not to approach items from a political perspective on this site – but fortunately it is (at least in our countries) a free world and everybody is entitled to their own views.

        So let’s agree to disagree and leave it at that :-).

        kind regards,


  24. 24) Jorge Balarin
    July 1, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    I’m from Peru, and for me the topic is relevant and interesting.

  25. Profile photo of Mikhail 25) Mikhail
    July 1, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    Hi Bob, perhaps we need to introduce a bill to control article content on PhotographyLife? :)

    I thought this was another Vishneski prank, but I guess this bill is real (sort of). I think someone has mentioned this – I doubt this thing will go any further – at least I hope not, anyway.

    What shocks me more is the offensive comments… ‘let’s keep some perspective’, ‘inappropriate on this web site’, ‘puts your judgment into question’, etc. etc. – what?!

    Anyhow – great article! Thank you :)

    • July 2, 2014 at 5:25 am


      Thanks for commenting. Yes, it would seem that some have laid claim to “editorial rights” regarding what does or does not get published on PL! ;) You shouldn’t be shocked by the commentary – it is simply part of the times we live in, where “keyboard warriors” can say just about anything they wish from behind the comfort and anonymity of their computer screens! The loudest of them wouldn’t say “boo” to you in a face-to-face setting.

      Even the worst of the comments on PL pales in comparison to much of what I read elsewhere. On some other photography blogs that won’t be mentioned, you can’t read more than 5 or 6 responses without someone hurling some harsh insults over some rather trivial subject matter.

      I fully expect that when we publish the article, “How to Capture Hummingbirds,” those in Arctic Circle will weigh in with the most obvious criticism – “We have no stinking hummingbirds!!!” ;) The publication of “Photographing Grizzlies” will cause the Caribbean Island readers to flame out with such commentary as, “Do you see any moose on these beaches?” ;)

      I wish I could say that this article was a spoof, but it is not. I merely pointed out that this bill’s language opens up Pandora’s box, since quite a few areas apart from Photoshopped images come into play. Controlling the media is every tyrant’s dream, as history has demonstrated time and time again. Appeals for more regulation almost always come wrapped in flowery messages and unrealistic and unmeasurable promises in order to mask their intentions, which are power and control of the medium.

      “Hoping that the legislation goes away” seems to be a risky philosophy, one which assumes, without input from us, that our lawmakers will always do the right thing. I would not trust that to happen!

      What I would like to see is the “Truth in Legislation Act of 2014.” I, of course, am offering my services to act as the sole arbitrator of truth for all political advertisements as well as legislation. :)


  26. Profile photo of Mike Banks 26) Mike Banks
    July 2, 2014 at 6:50 am


    First, I would like to thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. When I first read the article I thought…bunk. This could never happen and perhaps you got some of your information wrong. Doing further research I find that certainly there is a bill before congress to limit the use of post production processing. I also think the bill is bunk and will not pass legislation due to its infringement of First Amendment Rights privileges. Furthermore, the advertising and product manufacturer industry is very powerful and their lobbyists would work to quash this bill. However, with the current mind set of our executive, legislative and judicial branches running amuck much of the time, considering knee jerk legislation…who knows. Were this bill to pass and be signed into law; it certainly would affect all of us as photographers. Although I think what I just wrote is moot because I don’t think it will ever happen… BUT WHAT IF? After all, Amazon was recently granted a patent on photography using a white background and three lights. What portrait photographer doesn’t?

    As to whether or not this article should be on PL, I’m of the opinion that it should; as it is just as important a consideration to photographers as new equipment or technology. What better forum than Nasim’s great Photography Life board could there be even though many think it inappropriate because it does not relate directly to technique or equipment. I’d been using model releases for years before I found out that one might also need premise releases for photographing and publishing photographs of an historic home or business. I discovered, from another source, that indeed they were needed and sometimes difficult to obtain but now I carry three different releases, just in case. This has nothing to do with technique but I was glad to learn about these releases from another forum that almost never talked about such things until a member was sued by a business for appearing in a photograph that was published. S#!T happens.

    I’m sure the negativity tossed at Mr. Vishneski, will be well handled as Bob, seems to have big shoulders. I ask all of you to just take a step back for a moment, consider the information for what it is and the foolishness of such legislation, but also the effect should it actually pass. As to whether or not it might affect those from other countries, consider a photographer, professional or amateur, from another country, trying to sell enhanced photographs to a greeting card, calendar printer, or advertiser or even a private collector, in the USA. That persons income would be affected should this kind of foolish legislation be enacted here in the US. I have already contacted my representatives to voice my displeasure over this proposal and would have never known about the bill had it not been for Bob bringing it to my attention.

    Just the ranting and raving of an old man and his .02.

  27. 27) William Jones
    July 2, 2014 at 7:17 am

    I believe that most of the negative comments to this article are because of section 9, when Bob made comments that were perceived as attacks upon the “messiah” (otherwise known as Obama and his administration). Once any aspersion is made in that area his supporters will attack, truth be damned.

    The main point of this article is the potentially negative impact of such legislation. Being a sports/action photographer, and a non-user of Photoshop (what I show is what I shot, just cropped to fit the action), you might think I have no reason to agree with Bob and his concerns. You would be incorrect in such an assumption.

    This type of legislation would affect all photographers, if for no other reason than increased costs. In addition, such legislation would increase costs of products (all types) for all consumers. How? Simple. More regulation results in companies having to spend more money to obey or be penalized. This increase in costs must therefore be passed on to the final consumer by an increase in price, otherwise profits will fall. Without profit, a company does not stay in business, but instead closes its’ doors, and thereby increases the amount of unemployment. Profit is NOT immoral or evil. If you want to continue that discussion, then E-mail me directly at and we can argue non-photographic issues all you like.

    The other negative issue is the censorship, which Bob has already covered quite well. So kudos to him.


    • July 2, 2014 at 7:53 pm

      Indeed, the influence of this legislation is much broader than those commenting seem to understand. Once “realistic” and “unrealistic” concepts are governed by a government body, it is safe to say that any advertising medium or message is fair game. Thanks for your comments.

      • 27.1.1) William Jones
        July 7, 2014 at 12:03 am

        Bob, if you will send me an E-mail address, I will E-mail to you an essay I think you might like. The essay is not posted to the net. My E-mail:

        Stand your ground Bob. The more mud they throw, they more likely you are correct. They are only throwing the mud to cover up the truth.


  28. 28) Bob Baitty
    July 2, 2014 at 9:33 am


    I agree with the author’s main point: this bill is a patently dumb idea. And informing the photographic community of it, in a well phrased paragraph or two, would be appropriate for this website.

    But I don’t read this site hoping to discover long political essays. They are plentiful on the web, along with the usually polarized and often disrespectful commentary pro and con. I am sad to see such appearing here, and hope not to see much more of it.


    • July 2, 2014 at 7:57 pm

      Politics was brought into the subject, not by me, but by the author of this bill, when she proposed creating a government bureaucracy and set of rules for managing the use of Photoshop and what can be done with such images.
      I only did what anyone who is being “sold” something would do – look at recent past performance, as it is very relevant to what we can expect from future performance. As my examples show, any reasonable person looking at the veracity of recent promises in light of our lawmakers’ performance should be very concerned that this new bill may yield similar results. And once something is on the books, good luck getting it removed…

  29. 29) Muhammad Omer
    July 3, 2014 at 11:38 am

    Great effort Bob. I do not live in the US but people use photoshop all over the world and most of its advancements come from American users and engineers. If such a law comes into effect it will influence the whole world. We are all right behind you in opposition of such a bill.

    It also seems you have an interest in body building which is great.

  30. 30) Matteo Stanicheio
    July 4, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Bravo!!! If our freedom is to last, any attempt to deny freedom of expression via a government agency must be fought tooth and nail and brought to the front of the public conscious via articles like this. I hope people have not abdicated their responsibility of choice to the point where government is given a blank card in the name of the public good. Again bravo and cheers to personal freedom and responsibility. They go hand in hand and are what make the United States such a wonderful place but unfortunately they cannot be separated…there is no freedom without responsibility of choice.

  31. Profile photo of Daniel Michael 31) Daniel Michael
    July 5, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Thanks for the article Bob. I wish I could say this type of Nanny state is exclusive to the US, but unfortunately, it is a symptom of modern democracy across the globe. It isn’t exclusive to photography either. You name the subject, Governments will meddle and bring some sort of draconian law into being, to show us how we need to live, while using tax-payer’s money to do so. At the same time, they inevitably will need to increase the amount of public-sector jobs to help regulate the said problem. They will decry the problem from the roof tops to show that they, the all-knowing politicians, are doing a wonderful job by helping us, the little people, with the said problem. Aren’t the great? They’ve killed a few birds with one stone! Never mind that the tax money could be better spent on educating us little people on the problem, which is a better long term and cheaper solution, but no, they won’t be able to increase public sector jobs and make themselves out to be the heroes they are, by doing so now would they?

    Ladies and Gents, this is the democracy, that we want to export to the less democratic nations in the world, using any means necessary (including government change!). Are we really living in a real democracy or is it a sham? God knows what else they want to regulate soon for our own safety.


  32. 32) cgw
    July 6, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    I guess what Bob’s screed proves is that PL isn’t a reliable source for reasoned or balanced discussion of what’s likely not an issue of concern for photographers in legislation that’s far from being law. Just too many conservatiuve dog whistle issues here that obscure some key issues in favor of the same old tired chew toy of “liberty” imperiled, as demonstrated in the decidedly non-photographic rant of Daniel Michael above.

    Might be wise in future to steer PL away from contributors whose concerns are less photographic than political. I’ve no particular issue with private opinions; it’s private facts that bother me.

    Just curious if Bob has a daughter or any familiarity with the damage eating disorders cause?

    • July 6, 2014 at 9:38 pm


      Not sure why you think my expressing concerns regarding legislation regulating the use of Photoshop and “standards” for image processing indicates that PL is not a source of reasoned or balanced discussion. For that matter, I am not sure what “private facts” you are referencing.

      I simply copied the verbiage from the bill and explored how it could be interpreted and the practical implications of having some government agency regulate the notion of “realistic” and “unrealistic” images.

      Liberty may seem like a trite term to you, but I guarantee it was no trivial matter to those that have suffered at the hands of oppressive governments where it was in short supply. That would include immediate members of my family.

      Eating disorders include a wide variety of behaviors. And even if I did have a family member that had them, that doesn’t mean I would support this legislation or trust that it would do anything to solve the issue it purports to address. It is rather simplistic to believe any flavor of the Bureau of Advertising Purity would do anything other than hand over more power to bureaucrats to regulate our lives.


      • 32.1.1) cgw
        July 7, 2014 at 7:09 am

        Have you suffered or are you presently “suffering” at the hand of the US government?

        This proposed bill is far from becoming law but it seems you’re a bit foggy on how the legislative system works. I guess this explains the lengthy “Chicken Little” panic attack.

        Sorry but you’re unsympathetic and plainly misinformed about the issues behind this bill.

        • Profile photo of Bob Vishneski Bob Vishneski
          July 7, 2014 at 5:41 pm


          Not sure what difference my answer would make in terms of my opinions regarding limiting the role of government in the use of Photoshop and micromanaging notions of realistic and unrealistic photos in advertising.

          There is little to be misinformed about regarding this bill. It is pretty short, and some important connections between Photoshopped magazine covers and eating disorders are rather vague, along with the notion of the so-called regulatory framework. How much more clear can it be the the bill calls for government intervention in these matters? I oppose it. Period. (not to be confused with some politicians’ use of putting “Period” as a standalone sentence after a declarative statement).

          And I didn’t ask for sympathy, but rather for people to consider the implications if such a bill is enacted.
          If you support the government regulating Photoshop, feel free to contact Rep. Ros-Lehtinen. No doubt she would appreciate your support. And who knows, perhaps you could snag a job being part of the Bureau! ;)


  33. 33) Jerry Hammmond
    July 6, 2014 at 9:32 pm


    Wonderful article. You should run for office!

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