Adobe's 'offensive' Photoshop Fix demo at the iPad Pro launch was inappropriate, not sexist

Image: Adobe

I'm not one for hot takes, hence this piece appearing a whole 24 hours after Adobe and Apple outraged some people by the former showing off a new app on the latter's new big tablet in a way that those observers considered sexist.

I missed the whole thing - I was at dinner for my stepdaughter's 16th birthday - but what the two companies did and some people's reaction to it have been much debated at in our offices today and divided opinion among our team members. So here's my cooler take on it.

In case you also missed it, Adobe demoed a new photo retouch app called Photoshop Fix for the iPad Pro by showing how you could adjust the corners of a female model's mouth to make her smile. It was kinda crude but little different - artistry aside - to what happens every day in photography and retouch studios around the world, as photographers and artists manipulate photos to bring them more in line with what their client/s' wishes, whether those clients are a marrying couple or advertising agency.

A lot of things happen in photo retouch studios that are sexist. Think of what they did to Oprah, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightly or hundreds highlight by Photoshop Disasters - and those were merely the ones someone noticed. But faking a smile - usually because you haven't got the right combination of pose, light, clothing and smile in a single shot - is fine because the whole thing is fake. You're not manipulating reality, you're modifying the look of a model who was art directed in the first place.

So why was it dumb? Because context matters.

If Adobe had done this demo at their Max conference next month, no one would have been bothered (except perhaps to say, it's nice to see Photoshop's Liquify tool being mixed with facial recognition tool on an iPad, can we have Photoshop's other 100 tools please too).

But this wasn't done to a room of creative industry types, it was done on stage to the wider public. With an app called Photoshop Fix.

And that's what seemed to get most people. That making the model smile was a 'fix' that made it a 'better' photo empirically, rather than a 'fix' that made it 'better' in the sense of 'more in line with some imaginary brief'.

If Photoshop Fix had been called Photoshop Retouch or One Or Maybe A Few Features From Photoshop Pulled Into A Single App, and Eric Snowden had used it to put a smile on his own LinkedIn photo, everyone would have just murmured 'that's nice' and forgotten about it.

Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn't affect our editorial independence. Learn more.

Elsewhere on IDG sites

Read Next...