The debate over airbrushing a profile picture

Megan Cloherty,

WASHINGTON – Those who subscribe to online dating know it can be a risk to date someone before seeing them in person. A new app is giving more reason for doubt.

They are taking a step past re-touching to giving users the ability to airbrush their photos to enhance their profiles on professional or dating sites.

While Magic Brush-Photo software will set you back $40, the Airbrush App is only 99 cents and suddenly makes a few touch-ups an option for smartphone users.

“Everyone is able to use the same marketing techniques that the big ad agencies used for decades to sell products,” Vicky Oliver, author of the Millionaire’s Handbook, told Smart Money. “Only in this case, they are selling themselves.”

The accuracy of online dating photos was called into question by researchers at Cornell University in 2009, who found that one-third of the photographs they studied were inaccurate.

Portrait Professional, which has more than 200,000 clients in the U.S., says it has analyzed thousands of photos to learn what makes people more attractive. It offers a video to instruct users about how to reduce double-chins, along with another 200 ways to manipulate a photo to improve appearance. The video already has 1.5 million hits on YouTube.

While some tweaks can be minor, personal branding consultant Nick Gilham tells Smart Money there are ethical issues to consider when making changes that would surprise prospective employers.

“This would make me wonder what other lies you would tell,” Gilham says. “Would you lie about your job accomplishments too?”

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