Reality Check: Pixilu and Guy 2.0
Pixilu Imaging Inc. provides professional retouching services as an online service. You upload digital photos and Pixilu’s graphic artists review each photo and perform color correction, acne removal, facial lines reduction, teeth whitening, and enhanced red-eye correction. The cost varies from $1.49 to $9.99 per photo.
I submitted my picture to the service, and this is the “after” picture from the $9.99-level process. You can see what the artist did at this mouseover page.
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Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design tool. Formerly, he was an advisor to the Motorola business unit of Google and chief evangelist of Apple. He is also the author of The Art of Social Media, The Art of the Start, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, Enchantment, and nine other books. Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College.
Looks good, but nothing that anyone with a little effort and knowledge couldn’t do themselves in something like
Elements or Photoshop.
The problem is, since you are still alive, is what happens when someone meets you and you look so much worse than your photo? How do you explain that you used a retouched photo?
From the mouseover, looks like you maybe have spent too much time in the sun. You should find a dermatologist and get some photofacial treatments. It should clear up most of those spots on your face. Use high SPF sunblock and try to stay out of the sun! It only creates more damage that will always make you look older than your years, at any age.
The point is to save time. If I took the time to buy and learn PhotoShop or Elements, I’m sure I could do it. Just like I could learn C++ and write my own word processor. :-)
The question is, How much is your time worth?
I don’t know, if I hire “touched up” Guy to speak at an event and “Natural” Guy shows up, do we get a refund?
I think I remember seeing this a couple years ago (or a similar site in the Bay Area) but they didn’t have the before/afters.
Can someone w/ photoshop do this on their own? Sure. But a lot of us entrepreneurs are busy with other things, and the price on this service is great compared to the time it would take fiddling around.
As to Jojo’s comment, I don’t think it would ever happen. Having a slightly retouched photo is not the same as the shock of meeting someone who’s using a 20 y/o photo, where there’s clearly an age difference.
I might have to check this out. Everytime I speak at a conference, people come up to me afterwards saying, “You look so much YOUNGER in person!” Something about my headshot is working against me. Maybe I need it retouched?
Guy – I agree time can be valuable. I just think I could do it quicker, than uploading the photo, adding instructions, paying the cc bill, etc. I guess if you had a lot of photos to do, maybe it would be worth with.
My problem with the time argument is that there are too many marginal web businesses that are based on the hope that everyone wants to save time. Most people and companies do not use time efficiently anyway. Saving a few minutes on an irregular task like this is meaningless to most people. Besides, you might learn something by doing this task. Certainly more than you will playing some game or living a “second live” online, both significant time wasters for a lot of people.
Now, there is a great Touring-test!
But seriously, for quick and uncomplicated jobs this seems to be very useful.
“We need to get a press kit ready! Yesterday!”
And the brave assistant points her browser to…
I am not sure about the target customer? Is it for small companies, retouching for quick jobs?
Or for private persons, looking to improve 3-5 holiday pictures?
Another thing I wonder: what is the acceptable quality of an original submission? Sure you can lighten up Guy’s brown eyes but overall, the picture was already of a high quality. A bad family snapshot remains a bad family snapshot. And a quick and dirty photo of a real estate will keep its bad angle and composition.
I understand the point of saving time, what I don’t get is why you’d want to retouch photos of yourself that aggressively. Adding highlights to the eyes, making your haircut a little neater, that I can understand. Even removing the odd wrinkle or so I get. There are all things that are subtle enough to explain away with good preparation and lighting.
But to change the shape of your teeth or the shade of your skin – that’ll just invite embarrassing moments when people realize you look different.
Na, I’d rather have photos of myself look like I really do.
beautiful white teeth!
Co-incidentally Guy, a few days ago, I wrote a blog article about how extreme this practice has become in all forms of media. Your picture improvement is nothing compared to what really goes on out there.
(or you can just click on my name to go directly there)
I would say what you have done takes about 10 years off your look. Sure, you look better… but it becomes a slippery slope when you want to make them for real (cosmetic surgery). I have done this myself to makeup for poor photography and lighting. I do thank you for being honest about it though, most people are not as open.
There are a number of services that do this kind of retouching. It’s interesting to see one of them targeting consumers. For professional-grade work, which includes tracing as well as cleaning (“retouching”), I’ve been very impressed with Passtori (http://www.passtori.com/home.htm, or click on my name).
Why would you want this, Guy? You spend $9.99 to end up with a photograph of your plastic alter-ego. What’s that all about? I much prefer the one with a bit of character than the smoothed out, un-natural image. Different if you had a big spot on the end of your nose that had flared up just for the day, fair enough you could be forgiven for erasing that temporary blemish but to whiten your teeth and remove permanent distinguishing features in the name of vanity isn’t a service that I’d be buying into.
In dealing with individual consumers who use our ZoomAlbum® products, we interact with a very large group of people who love pictures, but need help to make their photos “look a little better.” Most of these individuals do not even have Photoshop, and many can’t even do a simple red-eye reduction or enhancement. Pixilu is an ideal, cost-effective solution, and we recommend them because of their service and price. (we have no financial interest or revenue sharing relationship with them)
Good folks are behind it, and in my own experience, the way they removed the reflected flash from my wife’s eyeglasses in one of my all-time favorite photos of her was worth the few bucks it cost me.
The only problem I foresee here is that if you circulated the retouched pic as your headshot for speaking engagements, I’d think you had REALLY let yourself go or that you were dying of some ghastly disease if I met you face to face …
“To thine own self be true” …? Anyone? Anyone?
They did a very nice job on the retouch. though they might be the ice cutters of our time?
Photoediting has become so simple and almost automated (photoshop elements and the rest) that almost anyone can do it, so maybe they do well for a few years (older clients — not you though guy ;) but how long can their business model last. HP already has a consumer digi cam that makes you look 10 lbs thinner, how long before in camera “beautification” occurs?
If they want to be remarkable, they should take their photoediting skills and turn them into an online tool that automates the process and allows for batch processing. (teeth whiting, skin improvements, etc)that would be cool.
going back and forth with the two pictures were kindda terrifying!
but the new picture looks so much cleaner. thumbs up!
Makes you look great Guy, and well worth the $10, but I think your retouched pic lacks a certain “character” that the unretouched pic has… Go for authenticity every time!
I agree with a lot of the posters above that their work is a little too extreme. It’s high-quality and very nice. BUT the level of correction is more suited towards creating pro modelling shots than simply making people look more appealing and youthful.
The purpose of a profile photo is to show what YOU look like, not some idealised post-surgery or heavily-made-up version of you. Wrinkle-lightening, tooth-colour and hair-tidying are fine. Eliminating prominent “blemishes” (a.k.a. facial features) is going too far.
I totally agree. If someone doesn’t know or own photoshop, 9.99 is a cheap way to quickly get professional looking photos of your own without having to turn to say, a professional photographer. I’m pretty comfortable doing web design, but know nothing of photo-retouching and editing. That’s a whole different area of PhotoShop that I never touch so I would gladly pay that because I would spend way more than $9.99 worth of my time just trying to figure out what to do.
Here’s a very impressive Photo Retouching site. It’s probably for a different target audience and I have no idea how much it costs.
A good service for the novice digi-pic people of the world. The work 3-5 minutes, once you know how. A lucrative business, for sure!
This service is clearly aimed at anyone who isn’t willing to spend 5 minutes in Photoshop (or doesn’t own it or know how to use it). At $10 per picture, and the ability to do 10-12 per hour, you’re paying $100/hr for this service. Is it worth it? Probably, since I pay my mechanic at the dealer about $100/hr just to fix my car. (As a matter of fact, I know how to fix a photo and do not know how to fix my car).
The real question here is what will be the volume of work that they can get. If the volume is small, then it’ll be a boutique business. If it is large, then how will they handle the volume without the number of employees growing linearly with the workload.
In other words, can they create technology and subsequently leverage it to grow their revenues exponentially instead of requiring every picture to be handcrafted which will result in a linear revenue growth at best.
I have my doubts. First doubt is whether there is a large demand for this. Second doubt is whether technology can be created to automate the process. Sure some of the steps can clearly be automated, but teeth and eye whitening, blemish removal, etc. require real vision recognition, the kind only humans can currently do (without investing millions in research and development of new image recognition software).
Therefore, I would conclude that this service would be best suited as an adjunct to a larger business like Phanfare.
You are much less charming after retouching, Guy ;-)
The second thing I did after reading this post was to get out my credit card and send them the headshot I use for published articles and things of that sort. The first thing I did was ponder the effect of another “valuable skill” becoming a cheap commodity.
When I was just out of school, good soldering iron technique was a well-compensated in-demand skill. Now, most soldering technicians are paid $9.25 an hour and training is 15 minutes with someone who is making $10.50 an hour and has been soldering for a month.
It’s a bit of the “Wall Mart effect.” The service becomes accessible to many more people – good. But the folks providing that service will lose the ability to make a decent living while doing so – not so good.
I don’t know, somehow it takes your hard-earned character and becomes a little “boy band” for me. I am a fan of real, live, natural faces. My grandma and aunties have beautiful wrinkles, freckles and laugh lines. I think it takes a lot of hard work to earn our marks of nature.
The last thing I would want is Guy as Mickey Rourke. http://tinyurl.com/2frdyg
I get wanting to look better, and the service is pretty nifty for what seems like a resonable price.
But give me Guy unplugged anyday. More real.
Wow. Guy as hockey player and then Guy as boy-band.
Actually, I like this idea as a service. Lots of people can comment on being able to retouch photos, but that’s assuming you (a) have time (b) inclined to spend your time that way (c) have the software (legitmately) (d) know how to use the software (e) know what changes to make (f) know HOW to make the changes
For the amount of effort there, it’s probably easier to spend the ten bucks and have a service do it. Besides, I’d probably only want to touch up a photo a few times a year.
I think they did a good job, but it takes away from who you really are. Everyone should like their flaws. Plus it’s like a guy putting on makeup. That just isn’t right.
Your teeth have blinded me! Ouch.
I know photoshopping is absolutely routine in the magazine & advertising industry, so for models needing nice and affordable headshots, I’m sure this is a nice service.
For me however, I might feel morbidly depressed seeing what I could look like… without my flaws. I just might take to wearing a bag over my head.
I tend to think that the retouched photo looks great, but I don’t like where this is going. I’m already tired of the marketing industry on Madison Avenue telling the world that only young-looking white-teethed people with perfect hair and perfect complexion are worthwhile. By using this photo-retouching service, you’re helping to continue this meme.
I don’t think your “real” photo is ugly; anyone who thinks it is, and thinks their perspective on what’s worthwhile should be bowed to by everyone, is very ugly in my book.
The only problem is that people then meet you in person and think, “He is not as good lucking as I thought.”
You look better in the original picture. The lighting and stuff is obviously better in the retouched picture, but removing all the character from your face makes you look plastic and phony.
The most amazing part of this was the way he made your eyes sparkle. Wow – what an amazing difference in the total look and feel that your expression gives with a twinkle in your eye!
This is an awesome service. There’s another company that does this called Pictage that a bunch of wedding photographers use. I’m all for this service…love it!
Look at you, you’re downright pretty now! ;-)
Part of me wants to keep it real and put honest pictures of people up.
The other part says “SCORE! I can have clear skin and look 20 lbs thinner now!”
I try hard, but sometimes I just can’t help myself …
I can’t believe they scrapped your freckles! That’s crazy!
But I am impressed with the service. As an acne-prone, thirty-something with limited time for the nuances of photoshopping an image I could myself using this kind of service in the future.
A M A I Z I N G!!!
This is a great marketing campaign for Pixulu!
I agree with Jojo. It’s saving time. The work they did was great for what Guy needed done and he didn’t have to do it himself.
However, I object to the fact that they removed the moles or freckles. Not the big pores, the markings on your face that make you YOU! But I think that if Guy wanted them to stay, he would have told them that. He’s a big boy after all! :)
You just spent $10 to have someone remove the character from your face. They took away so many things that made you unique.
Adjusting color and removing acne is fine — taking beauty marks off…well, if you’re going for generic…
Very cool service. Sounds too good to be true. Well too cheap to be true.
Not only about saving time but mainly that this service will help a lot of people that has no clue about retouching their photos.
It seems that most people are not getting it ;-)
Fix My Photos – They Can Even Make a FuelDog Pretty
Read a great post from the entrepreneurial guru
Nice sample with your photo.
Cropping and gamma correction is easy, but dealing with pigmentation takes skill.
Innnneresting — very inexpensive service, but you get what you pay for. It looks like a Pixar Guy, very CG-looking.
Whould be impossible to sell. Users who understand what they are getting and willing to pay for it will more likely find some guy who will do the job for whole bunch of photos. Majority of users wont pay this kind of money for something they dont have a proof that work is not automated and done by human.
After I read about this 2 days ago, I had these guys do my CV pic. I sent a note with it saying what I wanted and didn’t want done. They not only followed it to the letter (so it probably wasn’t automated) but they delivered it in half the time promised! I couldn’t be happier with the results.
I’m sold on the concept.
Guy, that’s a nice facial and some teeth whitening job. Thanks for sharing this.
I agre with Andrew Barbaccia. They did too much to your photo. The work on your eyes, teeth and hair is great. The skin “wrinkle removal” is also good, but they went too far removing your “beauty marks” (are they called that on a guy, Guy?).
Having said all that, I’d use this service for bio photos and such.
The mouseover page almost made me laugh out loud with joy. It’s a sparkling, powerful meditation on so many things. The way it contrasts natural vs. artificial, actual vs. ideal, contented vs. ambitious, face vs. mask… it actually says something that cannot be mediated with words. I have a great temptation to have the same done with my own portrait just to have a handy questionmark over who I really am.
I agree with Andrew Barbaccia and Lyle Kantrovich. The teeth and eyes are great. Removing “beauty spots” removes the “realness” from your character. In the same way that actors don’t seem like “real” people. (But that’s they’re function: to act.)
The significance of this is that it’s great for ‘branding’. Think of something like Colonel Sanders or Elvis.
It’s ideal – cheap, time-saving and glamorous – if the people who see it will never meet you in person.
Think of the portraits of kings in the old days. Think of Oliver Cromwell, who asked the artist to portray him ‘warts and all’.
One surefire application would be to send cherished amateur photos in for a touchup. It seems perfect if your friend took a gorgeous picture at your wedding/graduation/promotion/baby shower etc and all it needs is a little brush up before you print it and stick it in a frame.
There’s no doubting their skill, but I think the case could be argued for a service that makes you look worse, so when people meet you they are pleasantly surprised.