I recall having found the initial installments of the Dove “real beauty” ad campaign to be mostly annoying, but this video of what goes into producing a billboard image (or, by implication, a magazine cover, etc.) is pretty sweet. This via Ezra who has some additional apposite thoughts.
Part of what’s interesting about this stuff is that photo manipulation and the like has the same basic structure as your standard optical illusions — knowledge and cognition has a very limited impact on perception. No matter how well you “understand” how the Rubin Vase works, you still fall prey to the illusion that the image is “changing” from faces to a vase. Similarly, even if you know the “right answer” to the T-Illusion game, the right solution still looks wrong. Just the same, no matter how well-aware I am that commercial images are heavily manipulated, they still appear authentic to me unless the manipulation is actually sloppily executed. The mere knowledge that manipulation is omnipresent in these contexts has very little impact on how I see them, and whenever I see something like that Dove video I find myself re-surprised by the scale of the manipulation even though I remember having seen these things before and know perfectly well how the world works.