No right-click allowed. © Mareike Keicher

Tag : image credibility


Image perception and mechanisms in advertising

“Our language culture is in a rapid transition to a visual culture”

(Franke, 1997, quoted in Gläßel, 2010, p. 17).
Considering the date of this quote – we actually live in a visual culture.

  • In which way do our brains process (ideal body) images?
  • Which tools and biologically preprogrammed patterns does advertising use to make the images more effective?

These questions will be discussed in the following sections.

Credibility of images

Besides the impressive effect of images, there’s another dimension — the credibility. From the beginning, photography awakens the impression to be objective and authentical; in other words, of grasping the real world (Schied, 2003, quoted in Gläßel, 2010, p. 18). This objectivity is associated with credibility.
Likewise, images, striking photographs are more credible than linguistic information (Weinbub, 2012, p. 47). However, they owe the effect of images not only to the promise of being authentic but also to the human perception system (Gläßel, 2010, p. 18), which will be discussed further in the following section.

Perceptual processes

Visual perception is most important to humans because it communicates about 90% of all sensory information (Mayer, Däumer & Rühle, 1982, quoted in Gläßel, 2010, p. 20). Visual perception is defined as a process that begins with the absorption and automatic selection of visual stimuli from the outside world of an individual. It also involves further processing and stimuli storage (Gläßel, 2010, p. 20). Why pictures are particularly suitable for commercial use and how the perception process can justify this is shown in the following section.


The continually increasing amount of information in today’s society, which is mediated by the media, already leads to a kind of efficiency increase when it comes to recording visual stimuli: the information offered is more superficially and selectively absorbed.
In this context, one also speaks of low-involvement situations. These are situations in which the recipients are not interested in advertising, they ignore them or perceive them only incidentally (Brosius & Fahr, 1998, RöU, 1995, quoted in Gläßel, 2010, P. 14).

This increases the competitive pressure and the pressure to use more and more intrusive forms for advertising purposes: those that stand out and that can be picked up and processed as quickly as possible (KroeberRiel, 1996, quoted in Weinbub, 2012, p. 35). Due to the short contact time between advertising and the recipients of 1.7 seconds (Dorer & Marschik, 2002, quoted in Gläßel, 2010, p. 14), a form of communication of the content must be used that works quickly.

Pictures can be processed with little cognitive involvement (Weinbub, 2012, p. 45). The process of viewing images is comparable to the usual visual consumption of communication content in our daily lives (Hunziker, 1996, quoted in Gläßel, 2010, p. 7). It only takes a few moments to understand the theme of an image. Average time of 1.5 to 2.5 seconds is needed to capture a picture of medium complexity so that it can be recognized later (KroeberRiel, 1990, quoted in Gläßel, 2010, p. 19). That’s the reason why it is not surprising that images are called “quick shots into the brain” (KroeberRiel, 1990, quoted in Gläßel, 2010, p. 19).

Hemisphere theory

The hemispheric theory describes that, for example, the brain halves have different tasks in the processing of text and image. Text is processed in the logical, analytical left brain half. The right brain half, on the other hand, processes pictures and emotional content unconsciously that means without mental control (KroeberRiel, 1996, cited from Weinbub, 2012, pp. 46-47).
If an advertisement with text and image is being viewed, the image has a longer attention time, due to the shorter processing time compared with the text part (KroeberRiel, 1993, cited from Gläßel, 2010, p. 20).
It can be assumed that female, retouched models are rated uncritically on advertising images due to the unconscious and uncontrolled perception due to this theory.

Image processing and evoked emotions

It can be derived that image processing and emotional processes are interrelated through processing in the same brain half (right brain half) (KroeberRiel, 1990, cited by Weinbub, 2012, pp. 46-47).
Advertising images often have a deliberate purpose of evoking emotions of the recipient. Particularly noteworthy: Faces. The larger the image of the face, the more directly the feelings of the observer are addressed (Doelker, 2002, quoted in Weinbub, 2012, p. 46).

Emotional trigger

Attractive images of women are particularly well-suited for emotional conditioning (Weinbub, 2012, p. 41). Likewise, erotic representations, family scenes, or children’s images as natural stimuli trigger specific emotional reactions (Weinbub, 2012, p. 41).


The basis for the rapid perception of images is, therefore, automatically occurring schematic image comparisons (Weinbub, 2012, p. 4748). If there are similarities between the images and the stored ideas, the pictures are schema-consistent and quickly recognized.
With a more significant deviation from a scheme, it takes more mental effort to classify the image (KroeberRiel, 1996, cited by Weinbub, 2012, p. 47). More accurate perception is the result, which is why the picture is better kept.

Scheme of eyes

The Scheme of eyes is innate and triggers emotions automatically. It is one of the strongest biological schemes which is based on the importance of communication. The eyes of the depicted model are the first focal point that attracts the attention of the recipient (Schweiger & Schrattenecker, 2005, quoted in Gläßel, 2010, p. 31).

Scheme of secondary sexual characteristics

In addition to the eye scheme, the schemes for the male or female sex, or to the secondary sexual characteristics are also relevant.
This scheme addresses the biologically innate sexual motives of humans and is also triggered involuntarily and automatically (see Brosius & Fahr, 1998, quoted in Gläßel, 2010, p.32).

For women, these are a slim waist, red cheeks and lips, the female breast, and the buttocks (Schweiger & Schrattenecker, 2005, quoted in Gläßel, 2010, p. 32).
Not only male recipients are not opposed to female sexiness on advertising images, but they also affect women. However, these prefer more subtle images (Gläßel, 2010, p. 32).

In advertising, it is a commonly used image scheme, while women are displayed much more often in this way. For example, Reichert & Carpenter (2004) assume that about half of all ads (Gläßel, 2010, p. 32) use this scheme, while Jäckel et al. (2009) already imply more than 70% of the cases in which female bodies are presented naked and uncovered (Jäckel et al., 2009, p. 38).

In addition to the emotional use of the scheme, such an advertising image should show how attractive, beautiful, and popular a woman can be if she carries/ uses/ owns the product (Moser, 1997, quoted in Gläßel, 2010, p. 32).

Image of people

People are the most important emotional key stimuli. The reason for this is the high importance of human communication, as it is a biologically prerequisite for survival (Weinbub, 2012, p. 50).

When ads with one or more products are combined with people, a common technique that uses the friend scheme becomes active (Gläßel, 2010, p. 31). The “friend” in the ad image is credited with more positive character traits and abilities than others. For example, “friends” may be parent-like individuals or sexually-attracting people. The “friend” is imitated and serves the observer to build up a sense of group affiliation (KroeberRiel, 1998, quoted in Gläßel, 2010, p. 31).

To be effective, however, specific laws of social interaction between people and their behavior must be taken into account, which is defined by social techniques (KroeberRiel, 1993, cited by Gläßel, 2010, p. 30). There are many perceptions of people in specialized brain areas. The “fusiform gyrus”, the facial area, always lights up as soon as we see faces, not only in the real context but also in advertising. This facial area is directly linked to the emotional centers (Scheier & Held, 2006, cited by Weinbub, 2012, p. 50).

Halo effect

Another effect from the attractiveness research is used subliminally in advertisements: The halo effect. This occurs as soon as above-average beautiful representations of women are seen (Klaus, 2005, quoted in Gläßel, 2010, p. 36).
The halo effect has the consequence that a depicted beautiful person is assessed in all respects more positively than comparatively unattractive people (EbnerGathmann & Wiedermann, 2002, quoted after Gläßel, 2010, p. 30; Davids 2007, cited after Weinbub, 2012, p. 23; Schemer, 2003, p. 525). They seem more sympathetic, intelligent, morally correct, and seem to be better acquainted with the advertised product (see Hanko, 2002, p. 145, quoted in Gläßel, 2010, p. 30). Their observers, with sufficient similarity, are more willing to imitate the behavior and to buy the product (BerglerPörzgen & Harich, 1992).

Since the model on the advertising image and the advertised product are side by side, the characteristics and emotions attributed to the model transfers to the product (Gläßel, 2010, p. 28) and is taken into consideration for the product evaluation. Even though both elements seem to have nothing to do with each other, the pattern of the spatial linkage gives rise to a transfer of objective or emotional qualities (Weinbub, 2012, pp. 49-50).

Advertising principle: Young age

The aesthetic ideal of our time and culture is characterized by a cult of youthfulness (Weinbub, 2012, p. 14). Independently of the media, young, sporty, and attractive people are portrayed and recruited. The aging human being, despite the demographic change, medially excluded. This confirms the advertising principle that advertising protagonists should, as a rule, be 15 years younger than the target audience mentioned since this corresponds to the approximate desired age (Kaupp, 1997, cited by Jäckel et al., 2009, p. 75).




  • Weinbub, A. (2012). Die Macht der Schönheit. Psychologische Auswirkungen von weiblicher Attraktivität in der Anzeigenwerbung auf jugendliche Rezipientinnen (Magisterarbeit). Universität Wien, Wien.

Do you have any suggestions, additions, is this post out of date, or have you found any mistakes? Then we look forward to your comment.
You are welcome to share this post. We are very grateful for every recommendation.

Magazine page (Fendi advertising) with retouching lable

Presence analysis of the retouching label “Photographie retouchée” 2019

MK Retouching investigated different Vogue Paris on retouching lables in 2019 after the first investigation in 2018. Here you can read about the latest developments and possible forecasts.

It is recommended to read the general legal context and the first study from 2018 to understand the overall meaning.

In the last study, it could be determined that the advertisements do not change depending on the magazine.
Therefore, this time only Vogue Paris was chosen as the magazine that had the most retouching lables in the past.

The following different Vogue Paris magazines were examined several times.

  • VOGUE Paris (Print), 994, February 2019
  • VOGUE Paris (Print), 996, April 2019
  • VOGUE Paris (Print), 997, Mai 2019
  • VOGUE Paris (Print), 998, June/July 2019

Amount of Retouching lables

A total of 38 retouching lables were found on advertisements from 18 brands in the 4 magazines mentioned above, with the words “Photographie retouchée”, “Photographie Retouchée”, “Photo retouchée” or “Photographies Retouchées”.

The average number of retouching lables per magazine has increased slightly. In order to make a valid statement, however, not only the quantitative increase must be considered, but also the relationship between images with retouching lable and images without retouching lable (percentage).


As already described, 18 different brands were identified that used a retouching lable. The ones with the highest amount of retouching lables in this study were Saint Laurent (5), FENDI (4), DIOR (4), Lancôme (4), Estee Lauder (3), and HERMES (3).
The two studies gave a good insight into the brand strategies. The following list gives an example of the biggest brands and their use of the retouching lable.

  1. Brands that always use retouching lable(s):
    Saint Laurent, Lancôme, HERMES
  2. Brands strictly without retouching lable(s):
    Gucci, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, MaxMara, Moschino, Chloé
  3. Brands with a reduced number of retouching instructions compared to last year:
    Prada, Louis Vuitton, Armani, MIU MIU , Dior

In comparison, there were also some brands that did less advertising and some that did more advertising than in the previous study.
Michael Kors did less advertising; therefore the number of retouching labels decreased as well. FENDI did more advertising; that’s the reason why FENDI had almost the most retouching labels in 2019.

Further findings

The monthly editions have a relatively constant amount of retouching lables (Figure 1). At first glance, one can assume that the advertisements are very well chosen to keep the number consistent. Compared with the previous study, however, this thesis can be refuted.

Figure 1: Amount of retouching labels in different editions of Vogue Paris

Placement on the magazine pages

Likewise, the placement of the retouching labels on the magazine pages was checked. As a reference point, the magazine page with the retouching label was used.

As shown in Figure 2, there is a strong preference for placement in the bottom left or top left, similar to 2018. Nevertheless, the number of retouching labels in the bottom left, middle left, top left decreased, and the lower right position is seen more often.
The consumer can’t focus on the left part of the ad or the left part of the magazine page anymore, the chance of finding the retouching label is almost equal on the left and the right side.

Figure 2: Placement of the retouching labels (magazine page as reference point)

Furthermore, the hint has less often been found near the fold. This is an overall improvement for recognizing the retouching label.

As in the previous year, it could be observed that the reference position was often placed as distanced as possible from the center or the model.
In Figure 3 and 4 you can see further examples of the model being located on the right page of the magazine and the retouching label on the left one.

Figure 3: Distance between model and retouching label (Vogue Paris, No. 996)

Figure 4: Distance between model and retouching label (Vogue Paris, No. 996)

Alignment on the magazine page

In this section, the orientation of the text is been discussed. It is much harder to read labels that are not aligned horizontally because they are contradicting the usual reading habits. Whether a retouching label should be placed vertically or horizontally is not clear from the corresponding legal text.

Since 2018 the amount of vertically placed labels raised from 54% up to 71.1%.
Similar to the previous study, retouching labels were surrounded by other information.
In 2018 87% of the retouching labels weren’t surrounded by additional information. In 2019 this amount decreased to 63%.

That means the retouching labels are harder to read and to find than in the previous study (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Example of vertically used retouching label surrounded by information (Vogue Paris, No. 996)

Average size

The printed retouching labels were measured. For vertical retouching labels, the longer side was defined as the width and the shorter side as the height to achieve a precise average.
The average retouching label in the investigated print magazines this year (2019) was:

  • width: 25.6 mm (2018: 26.1 mm)
  • height: 1.5 mm (2018: 1.7 mm)

The typography of the Retouching label

  • Typographically, three parameters were examined. As in the previous study, the majority of the retouching information in magazines consists of sans-serif fonts. Serif typefaces are still only used by a few brands such as Lancôme (and Jean Paul Gaultier).
  • Regarding the font set, the lowercase option “photographie retouchée” or “photo retouchée” almost disappeared (only one retouching label). Capital letters (31% ->42.1%) and the combination of the normal capital letter and lowercase letters (42.5% ->55.3$%) increased equally.
  • If we take a look at the font style of the retouching label, it is always used as a regular font. The only exception is still Lancôme (italic).

Contrast values

Another aspect of the investigation was the contrast values from text to the background. Similar to the previous year, there were some examples of insufficient contrast between background and text.
The following campaign by Saint Laurent (Figure 6, Figure 7) is an excellent example of a lack of contrast between background and font (dark gray on black, dark gray on light gray)

Figure 6: Example of bad contrast between background and text (Vogue Paris, No. 998)

Figure 7: Example of bad contrast between background and text (Vogue Paris, No. 998)

Recognition value

Overall, there is only a low recognition value, since the reference in the positioning and design differs depending on the brand. In some cases, there were even different versions within the brands (different campaign styles). Labels within a magazine are therefore different in its appearance and must first be searched for. The same ads in various magazines are identical.

In general, one can see that the visibility of the retouching label was not improved from 2018 until 2019. On the contrary, it has even gotten a little worse/invisible.

Effectiveness/Credibility of the labeling obligation

It is noticeable, the advertising campaigns, which contain several pictures (Figure 8, Figure 9) or many women at once (Figure 10), had only one retouching label (which used singular in wording, not “Photographies retouchées”). This raises the question of which and how many images of the campaign are affected by the change in body shape. Often, however, this is not noticeable in comparison. As a result, the following conclusions are drawn for the consumer:

a) The changes in image processing concerning the body are minimal when tagged images are not visibly different from unmarked ones. This means that the models are depicted almost with their natural body shape; the beauty ideal is getting strengthened again. The label loses its original purpose.

b) Every picture is doubted. Either not all changes made are marked by the label, or too many labels are used similar to general use of the label to avoid potential costs of not marking in principle.

Figure 8: Example of many campaign images but only one retouching label (Vogue Paris, No. 994)

Figure 9: Example of many campaign images but only one retouching label (Vogue Paris, No. 996)

Figure 10: Example of many models in one image but only one retouching label (singular) (Vogue Paris, No. 997)

To avoid unwanted conclusions from consumers, legislation should be more detailed about certain cases.

Also, an example of the wrong usage of the label was found. It is evident that a clear product image can not show changed body proportions of a woman.

Figure 11: Example of wrong retouching label usage (Vogue Paris, No. 997)

Are you a fan of Vogue? Those might be interesting for you:


Do you have any suggestions, additions, is this post out of date, or have you found any mistakes? Then we look forward to your comment.
You are welcome to share this post. We are very grateful for every recommendation.