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HP Photosmart Cameras with Built-in Slimming Feature Are Big Sellers
Scripps Howard News Service

The camera does lie.

Or at least it compresses the truth, slimming down the I-wish-I-looked-thinner masses.

The relatively new HP Photosmart cameras with the built-in slimming feature have become big sellers partly because they take off 10 pounds without forcing you to gnaw on celery.

"Most of us don't have model training," said Linda Kennedy, digital camera category manager for Hewlett Packard. "We don't know how to pose in front of the camera."

The slimming cameras, which range in price from $149 to $350, remove the 10 pounds that the camera normally adds, according to Hewlett Packard.

But are these fat-busting cameras merely democratizing the tricks that fashion photographers have used for years?

Or are they one more sign of self-delusion in our image-obsessed society?

Kennedy thinks the slimming feature is more fun than anything else. With just a few clicks on the camera, it makes easy what is often complicated on a personal computer with special software.

"It is a very subtle change," she said. "It is cute and clever and fun at a party, maybe a photo of a group of girlfriends and they want to slim down. We are not seeing it as primary photography mode."

Lucy Fischer, director of film studies at the University of Pittsburgh, said, "I don't think it reflects positively on the state of humanity. It is one more tool of self-deception.

"But on the other hand," she says, letting out a laugh, "Can you get one for my Web site photo?"

The slimming feature , which was introduced last year but is so popular it is now on seven digital camera models, is equally popular with men and women users. It is one of 27 features in a design gallery that adds artistic borders or cartoon image and other effects.

Home snapshots taken on film used to be artifacts of your personal history, Fischer said. "They often mark the past and we don't always remember the past. They become the only thing you remember."

But in the no-negative doctored digital age, a scrapbook photo can be a warped memento of yourself, she said.

(The HP Photosmart cameras, though, show people the original and the slimmed-down photo and enable them to choose one.)

Terry Eiler, director of the school of visual communication at Ohio University, said digitally doctoring home snapshots democratizes what some glossy magazine photographers have done for years.

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