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Picture-perfect altered reality

By Deng Zhangyu | China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-21 07:44

Like waving magic wands, young people apply photo-editing apps to get good or funny looks, to express their emotions and share them with friends on social-media networks.[Photo provided to China Daily]

A growing number of Chinese are using photo-editing apps to modify their photos and curate their images. Deng Zhangyu reports.

The photos were taken. But they weren't ready. Far from it.

Ye Qian and her friends had snapped shots of a group gathering. Then, they dropped their heads over their phones, backs hunched as they operated editing apps to ensure everyone's image was perfectly polished before posting them online.

"It's a common scene at gatherings of friends," Ye explains.

"You have to modify the photos before sharing them. Everyone does it. We want to alter the photos to look better, usually giving people slimmer faces, larger eyes, flawless skin and longer legs."

The 23-year-old postgraduate student at a university in Hubei's provincial capital, Wuhan, has 15 apps for modifying photos on her iPhone. Each has a specific function for a specific subject-some for selfies, some for landscapes, a few for pets.

Such photo modification is an open secret, Ye says. All her friends do it, men and women.

"It's completely accepted," she says.

"If I only edit my own image in a group photo, the others will hate me."

Consequently, such apps are flourishing in China.

About 332 million Chinese have downloaded photo-editing apps, according to a November report released by data-analysis company Jiguang.cn. Nearly half of Chinese with smartphones-mostly people younger than 30-use such apps, and the average user in the country has 2.4 per phone.

More than 3,400 such apps are in the market, the report says.

"Photo editing is a new tool for people to manage their online images, so these apps enable them to present themselves as they wish on the web," says Beijing Foreign Studies University internet culture expert Dong Chenyu.

Manipulating one's appearance in the real world is difficult due to body language, facial expressions and tone. But cyberspace enables one to not only control but also alter their presentations.

"These apps make people's obsession with perfection possible to actualize," he adds.

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