I have beef with Instagram because NO ONE WILL FOLLOW ME. But really its because Instagram has created these OUTRAGEOUS beauty standards that have led many people, especially women, to be insecure about their looks. Its not solely Instagram's fault, people suck too, and these methods existed in magazines first, but we used to know that magazine models were airbrushed and shopped to look like that. The problem with instagram is it leads you to believe that this is just what people look like naturally.
But, okay. I'm a professional Filmmaker, its kind of a given that I'm also a Pro Photographer. That's kind of like being a truck driver that can also drive a car, its pretty standard.
I've taken stills professionally for about ten years and I'll tell you exactly how Instagram is lying to you and making you feel like you're not good enough, you're inadequate, etc.
Granted, those girls are actually quite pretty to begin with, I'm sure you can guess that make-up helps them out a lot in more ways than you would expect. Posing is also a big part of it, the right angle goes a long way. For example, positioning your head just right can create the illusion of more definition in your neck and jawline, twisting your body can make your waist look thinner and your rear look bigger.
But this doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of how manipulated those images are.
See, there's this tool called "Liquify" in Photoshop, its probably not what you expect. Its used to distort the shape of the image, you can change a person's body shape, incredibly without distorting the background enough that its noticeable (Even if its a complex background, I do it all the time) as long as you're careful, its actually pretty easy to use with just a little practice. You could make a person's arms appear thinner or more muscular, give a person a more narrow waist, wider hips, whatever. I only use liquify if we're creating an effect that has changed their figure and I need to make them look more like themselves. An example of this, if we want to create a floating effect, and we have the subject sitting on a chair that we will later remove and create the illusion that they are floating, this could cause the shape of their body to look different and we might use liquify to make it appear the chair was never there.
Inside the lines of a person's figure, there are techniques to further augment a model's looks. Using shading, you can make someone's breasts appear larger, you can give them more definition under the jaw and chin. This can be accomplished with make-up, but you can also do it in post with the burn tool and dodge tool in Photoshop. All you really have to do is change shadows to create the illusion of the shape you want. Again, its not that hard, just a little trial and error.
I promise you're not the only one without flawless skin. Removing acne and blemishes in post is profoundly simple with the healing brush tool. With practice, you can remove acne in a matter of seconds. My rule is, I don't remove anything that will still be there years later unless requested. Freckles, scars, birth marks usually remain in my images; pimples, boils, cuts/scratches, stretch marks usually get removed unless the client wants to keep any of this. There are a lot of methods beyond removing blemishes to give a model "perfect" skin, a lot of blur/noise filters, color adjustments and luminance can improve smoothness and clarity in post, and also give a person a tan; but lighting is perhaps the greatest contributor, you're not always going to be in perfect, soft light, these models are.
I can whiten teeth, I use vibrance adjustment and a simple selection with the lasso tool. There are also brushes that some people prefer. I even once had a business headshot client with extremely jagged and some missing teeth, I was able to completely repair and replace his entire set of teeth and everyone thought he genuinely had his teeth fixed. I was once asked to remove braces, everyone thought she had her braces taken out. An untrained eye can't detect these things and will be fully convinced that this is how the model genuinely looks.
No, not everyone has these stunning eyes and yours are just meh. I can change unremarkable eyes to look like gorgeous, vibrant eyes that still seem believable. I do this using the dodge tool, hue/saturation and vibrance. Lighting helps a lot too. I've been known to fix people's uneven squinted eye, which happens to almost everyone when they smile. I've taken photos of hundreds of people, it's not just you. Sometimes I'll literally take their wider eye and basically copy/paste it (With a lot of other steps) onto the other side of their face for more face symmetry. I can also remove all the bloodshot red from the corners of the eye which everyone has naturally.
I can make hair look longer, softer, smoother, more vibrant, more volume, remove flyaways, even make it a completely different color. Clone stamp tool, luminance, hue/saturation, vibrance, lighting effects, dodge tool, other color adjustments in Camera Raw can all be used to achieve this.
Those perfectly toned abs? Fake. Thigh gap? Probably fake. Big full lips. Liquify tool and shading. Big eyes. Liquify. Perfectly fitting clothes. They used clothespins to pin the fabric back out of view of the camera, it could have even been in view of the camera and they painted them out in post then blended the crease away with the healing brush tool. Even those photos that appear to be cell phone selfies, a professional still probably drastically altered them.
So this is why I guess I have sort of a pissy attitude towards the Instagram model culture. If anyone posts photos of what they actually look like, then they won't be considered beautiful by those standards. And those standards are more than just ridiculous, they're impossible, its the same as shamelessly lying. I don't see it as an art form, I see it as a toxic culture for young women as well as men who may think they have to find a girl that looks like THAT when.. there are no girls that look like that. Its just irresponsible, so I don't do it, even though I could probably make more money that way. Everyone that it benefits just don't give a shit and keep using digital manipulation to make themselves look impossibly attractive at the expense of everyone it doesn't benefit.