Does it pay to airbrush your holiday photos? «

    Does it pay to airbrush your holiday photos?

    One of this past year’s most often-overheard phrases “Don’t tag me in that photo!” (usually uttered by someone looking harried by a cellphone-weilding Facebook fanatic) may soon give way to something along the lines of “Don’t tag me — until you airbrush out my flaws.” Generation Facebook will always be forever young, thanks to a raft of new apps and built-in beauty filters on cameras that make the years melt away. Once reserved for celebrity magazine covers, airbrushing tools are of course now instantly available to everyone.

    Jeff Adelson

    Enlarge Image
    Jon-Marc McDonald’s before and after, from the Line Camera app. Adobe Photoshop once charged hundreds of dollars for its software; it now charges $9.99 per month — a special discount until Dec. 31. It must compete with a slew of new apps: Line Camera, which claims 60 million downloads on iTunes and Android, was launched last year. FaceTune ($2.99 for iPhone and $3.99 for iPad) for iOS, is currently ranked No. 2 on the iTunes Photo & Video charts, and has 1 million downloads since being launched in March 2013. FaceTune can erase pimples, blemishes and — for young people sending photos home to their parents — even remove face piercings. It also whitens teeth, reshape facial features, fill in bald spots and remove dark circles from underneath your eyes.

    Digital cameras are also competing with smartphone apps with increasingly sophisticated — and easy-to-use — airbrushing settings. The Olympus VG-160, launched last year, has a “soft focus” mode and a “beauty make-up” mode that adds eyeliner, eye shadow and blush to subjects. Similarly, the Nikon L620, released last August, and Casio Exilim and EX-TR10, which were also released in 2013, have a skin-softening beauty mode to magic away unwanted wrinkles and blemishes, and brighten up skin tone in orange or unflattering light.

    Jon-Marc McDonald, a New York publicist, used Line Camera for some holiday photos. “If only they had an app that could airbrush love handles, I’d be set,” he says. When he posted the before and after pictures on Facebook, one commenter remarked that he’d lost his laugh lines, but also his glow.

    Enlarge Image
    Quentin Fottrell’s before and after, from FaceTune. That said, a little light retouching can go a long way for some job-seekers. Bad skin, frown lines or dark circles under the eyes could give the impression of being tired or stressed out, experts say, so freshening up pictures could give the impression that you’re ready to hit the ground running — and give you an extra edge on the competition. “Everyone is able to use the same marketing techniques that the big ad agencies used for decades to sell products,” says Vicky Oliver, author of “The Millionaire’s Handbook,” a style and etiquette guidebook on how to mingle with millionaires and party with plutocrats. “Only in this case, they are selling themselves.”

    Smoothing out a few lines, while leaving your appearance broadly intact, might help older job hunters look energetic, says Dan Schawbel, author of “Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success” and founder of Millennial Branding, a management and consulting firm. Many people are still struggling to find work — at 40%, the labor force participation rate for older Americans remained unchanged between October and November 2013, according to AARP. LinkedIn career expert Nicole Williams says an “appealing” picture catches the eye of recruiters: “There’s no denying that attractiveness gives you an advantage over the competition.”

    Others advise app-happy consumers to dial back their enthusiasm. “There is an ethical issue when using an airbrushed photo on LinkedIn,” says personal branding consultant Nick Gilham. “When I see people who have photos that are many years old or don’t look anything like them, I think they are being dishonest about their appearance.” This makes him wonder what other lies they would be willing to tell. Would they lie about job accomplishments or titles? “I don’t have a problem with someone removing a pimple, but some of this software — which can give an instant tan, for instance — appears to change your complexion and significantly change your appearance.”

    Dating sites also pose more ethical issues than Facebook or Instagram. A photo on might result in more winks, Oliver says, but your date may feel deceived. One-third of photos on dating websites are inaccurate, according to an analysis of dating profiles by researchers at Cornell University.