Learn from Vanity Fair – proof your work

With a gorgeous setting, the legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz and thirteen of the biggest stars in Hollywood - all the ingredients were there for the ultimate photoshoot and an incredible Vanity Fair cover. So why was social media left howling with laughter when it was finally released?

It was all due to minor errors in Photoshop, wardrobe and lighting. The pictures show what appears to be: Zendaya with only one leg, Reese Witherspoon with three legs and Oprah Winfrey with three hands. The magazine later explained that Reese’s third leg was actually just her dress-lining, but no update on Oprah’s extra hand…

While the errors were minor, the results were notable. Rather than delivering an iconic and beloved cover, the Vanity Fair brand took an integrity hit. The public-figure subjects of the shoot treated the mistakes with an air of lightness and humour. But the reality is that without sufficient proofing; you’re risking the integrity of both yourself and your brand – not to mention facing a fairly stern talking to from your boss!

Taking the time to properly proof-check doesn’t just ensure high quality work, it strengthens your brand’s integrity. Regardless of the medium you’re communicating on, without a sufficient attention to detail, the perception of your brand (as a whole) suffers. It’s a fairly simple concept, but it’s often taken for granted.

So, what do you do? Here’s some tips for avoiding errors with the potential to damage your brand:

  1. Create a Project Timeline
    Allocating a time allowance to various stages of your project will help you to better monitor your deadlines and allow you to work with more discipline.
  2. Factor in Enough Time
    Factor in enough time for the proof check! The amount of time required to proof check really depends on the scale of the project, but the fact remains, never rush a proof check!
  3. Have Two Separate People Proof Check
    Sometimes you’re just a little too close to something. With fresh eyes from people removed from the project, you’re more likely to pick up on any of the things you’ve missed.
  4. Enlarge Images
    Enlarge images for easier checking. Print or view the images on your computer at a larger scale. You can even use a magnifying glass if it’s necessary. There are potential mistakes that are even more detrimental if they’re published on a larger scale (e.g. billboards) where everyone is more likely to notice it.
  5. Check Originals
    Always try to check against the original raw image. This will help identify exactly what has been changed (e.g. any additional hands or legs).
  6. Relearn Anatomy & Photoshop… just kidding.


Attention to detail is an important quality for any brand to have, so make sure you take the proof check aspect of your projects seriously. Check yourself…before you wreck yourself.


In case you missed Vanity Fair’s Photoshop fails – here they are again…






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