Photoshop can be seen as either your best friend or your worst enemy, depending on whom you ask. Its use in the advertising and magazine industries, especially regarding fashion, has been heavily criticized on many occasions.

Now, Dr. Hany Farid, a professor at Dartmouth College, and Eric Kee, a Ph.D. student at Dartmouth, “are proposing a software tool for measuring how much fashion and beauty photos have been altered, a 1-to-5 scale that distinguishes the infinitesimal from the fantastic.” In a recent New York Times article Farid compares photoshopping a person’s image to making someone look as fake as Barbie. He has a point. Even if an image is photoshopped only a little here and there to give a person height, decrease his or her weight or even some other smaller alteration: it adds up.

Former talent agent and marketing executive Seth Matlins and his wife Eva believe Farid and Kee’s research has the potential to truly make a difference in the industry. The Matlins have proposed a change in legislation to “require photos that have been ‘meaningfully changed’ to be labeled”—calling the proposal “the Self-Esteem Act.” Based on previous research and interviews I conducted for an ethics paper, I’d say there are other experts who would agree.

The impact and execution of this scale have yet to be seen, but it is certainly a project to watch. For those who don’t know who Pascal Dangin is: Google him. He’s considered a master at his craft so it’d be interesting to know how accurately his work would be rated on Farid and Kee’s scale.

-Erin Elzo

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