UPDATE (1/11/15, 5:16 p.m. ET): BreatheHeavy, the outlet that first published the "unretouched" Justin Bieber Calvin Klein ad, has since retracted their story.
If you've been on any kind of device with access to the internet in the past week, you've probably seen Justin Bieber's (very shirtless) campaign for Calvin Klein. It's sparked widespread conversation, from shrill, megawatt excitement from his Beliebers to the ultimate sign of pop culture ubiquity: It was MEMED. Of course, it was only a matter of time before the question "Was this photoshopped?" (and its usual follow-up: "How much?") started cropping up, putting the ad under fire.
Unfortunately, I'm a Bieber apologist and not a professional Photoshopper. I decided I needed a second opinion, so I asked a professional photo retoucher (one who works on a lot of major campaigns and would like to remain relatively anonymous, so we'll call the individual "KM") to weigh in on the ads.
KM believes the "unretouched" image that first surfaced on BreatheHeavy.com is not the raw image captured by the Calvin Klein photographer's camera. "What makes me think this," KM told MTV News, "is, (1) the underwear—wrinkles included—looks pretty identical to the 'retouched' version, and (2) the skin looks the same [in both images] and more flaws would be apparent (because there are always at least some cleanups, like reducing veins or skin blemishes, removing small hairs, etc.)."
KM said anecdotally that sometimes celebrities surprisingly don't need that much retouching, but that it's not uncommon for high profile advertisements, like this one for Calvin Klein, to have things cleaned up.
"It's for a huge brand campaign, so naturally, they are going to do some fixes here and there," KM said, "With celebrity photos, in the retouching world, you have to be very careful about how much you do because everyone knows what they look like, making it more susceptible to criticism. When I retouch, the more natural, the better; though, not every shop follows these standards. Retouching can get pushed in certain directions depending on what input the photographer has, the client has, and sometimes even what the celebrity in the shot wants."
With all the scrutiny on Bieber's *achem* crotch in particular, I couldn't let KM off the hook without shedding a little insight in that department. "I've worked on multiple ads for men's underwear," KM revealed candidly, "It's going to be retouched to make the product look good. An unretouched boxer brief image is NOT PRETTY." LOL, I mean, sure. I'll believe that.
"It usually needs at least some minor tweaking of filling the briefs to make the product appealing. That is always the main goal: Make the product look good," KM added, "With that said, I don't know how much retouching they did in that area. I can't say because I didn't work on it or see the original image."