I was surprised then to read DIY photography's defense of the topic (with a the perfect linkbait headline: How To Photoshop Women To Be Skinny And More Attractive) and find myself agreeing with it.
The entire article is worth reading, but this nugget seems to make a lot of sense:
Think about when you meet someone in person. You usually get a pretty good sense of their relative attractiveness instantly. Now, think about what you are basing that opinion on. Their visual appearance? Yes, of course. But, you’re also basing your opinion on how they smell, how they sound, how they act, how they treat you, how they treat others – there is a whole range of externalities that go into that split second opinion. Now think about how you judge the relative attractiveness of a person in a photograph. The visual is all you have to go on. What’s more, you only have a visual that is frozen in a split second of time. That little pucker of flab at the back of her dress – you would never have noticed it in real life, but it sticks out like a sore thumb in a photo. The hint of a beer belly under his t-shirt – wouldn’t have even been visible in real life, but with the lighting and the pose, it sure is distracting in a photo.
There's something to be said for this. If I've got a zit on my wedding day, why should that moment be frozen in time, when in reality that was poorly timed coincidence?
Of course, you can certainly take it too far.