Confessions of a Utah Yearbook Picture Photoshopper

Years ago I worked for a yearbook publishing company.  One day a picture came through for an elementary school yearbook that raised my eyebrows.  A fifth grade girl posing in her witch costume.  Sounds standard enough.  But the girl was sitting in a way that you could clearly see right up her skirt.  I didn’t want to publish it.

I took the picture to my manager and pointed out the problem.  She, in turn, called the school and asked what they would like done.  To change the picture would cause the school to incur an additional cost, so the school declined and said to run the picture as it was.  I asked my manager to allow me to fix it, but she forbade me.  The school wasn’t paying; it wasn’t our problem.

It made me angry.

How could they do that to this little girl?  I had visions in my head of the teasing that would occur — not just when the yearbook initially appeared, but on through junior high.  I remembered Mean Girls.

So I fixed it.

Late one night when I was alone I Photoshopped the picture.  I altered the girl’s skirt line to cover up her bright pink underoos.  I couldn’t bear not to.

No one ever said anything about it.  The girl will never know.  But I have always felt good and completely justified about my act of disobedience.yearbook-photos-retouched

This week, as the fiasco over bare shoulders has arisen at Wasatch High, I have wondered about my own act of Photoshopping modesty.

My gut says Wasatch High went too far.  Way too far.  But did I?  Where is the line?

Right now, we’re all jumping up and down to declare our outrage at a school that went overboard.  Things will soon simmer down.  But I hope one day we can have the conversation that I think is worth having: when do we know better, and when do we think we know better?

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