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Watch Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Natalie Morales and Al Roker Get Photoshopped

Cosmopolitan Gives the 'Today' Hosts the Mild and 'Extreme' Treatment

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Credit: NBC

This morning the "Today" show took on one of the media world's recurring hot-button issues -- the Photoshopping of images in magazines -- by subjecting Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Natalie Morales and Al Roker to a little digital makeover courtesy of Cosmopolitan magazine. After the crew grinned their way through a studio shoot in a canned segment, Cosmo Editor-in-Chief Joanna Coles came on to discuss two Photoshopped images of the "Today" gang: One she felt was given appropriately minor "tidying up," and one she thought was overdone (shown here) and would never run in her magazine.

The overdone one prompted Morales to say: "Are my boobs bigger?" Coles confirmed that, yes, they were "much bigger."

In the end, though, everyone seemed to agree that having a little -- not too much -- digital work done is fine. Lauer, for one, said that as a 56-year-old who has been waking up at 4 in the morning for the past 30 years, he knows the circles under his eyes are going to show in a photo, and "I wouldn't mind if someone spruced it up a bit."

I should note here that I'm a former glossy editor -- I've worked at New York magazine, O: The Oprah Magazine, Seventeen, etc. -- so I've been complicit in the reality-distortion field of magazine photography.

In fact, back in 2007, I came to the defense of Redbook (a magazine that, for the record, I never worked for). At the time Redbook was under attack by Jezebel for Photoshopping a cover image of country star Faith Hill.

My professional experience is that the unnaturally bright lighting used in a lot of cover and fashion photography brings out details -- like, yes, under-eye circles and wrinkles -- that blend away under natural everyday lighting. Posing this way and that at the direction of a photographer can cause your limbs to appear weirdly malproportioned. Wearing unfamiliar clothing (frocks for women's magazine covers are inevitably loaned from fashion houses) can cause things to, well, bunch up in odd, unflattering and misleading ways.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Anybody who's ever been on a magazine cover shoot knows that, while a Photoshopped image may be a "lie," an unretouched image often is too.

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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