Sporting well-toned biceps and a six-pack, Bret Michaels' naked appearance on the cover of Billboard's Oct. 2 "Maximum Exposure" issue has been followed by claims from New York Magazine, D-Listed and other publications that the picture was heavily retouched.
Photographer Blair Bunting, who shot Michaels' cover, says he was not shocked by the accusations, but assures skeptics that the Poison singer's chiseled abs are wholly authentic.
"When he took off his shirt, I was like, 'This guy's in shape for 47!'" says Bunting, who made his Billboard cover debut with the photo. "It's always easy for someone to cry 'Photoshop,' so I wasn't too surprised by that...but he takes his shape seriously."
Michaels has said that working out while on tour last summer has kept him in great shape. Prior to the photo shoot, "I didn't eat for a day and I did about 2,000 sit-ups," the singer told E! Online.
According to Billboard photo editor Amelia Halverson, "a few versions of the cover" were initially made that Photoshopped Michaels' body too heavily. "They looked too unreal, mostly because there was so much detail due to the photographer's high-definition style of lighting," says Halverson. "The final cover version shows Bret's real muscles." In addition to making his abs appear symmetrical, Bunting bronzed Michaels' color and smoothed out his skin to eliminate a few of the singer's wrinkles.
"It was a pretty standard retouching for him compared to anybody else," says Bunting. "I just don't know if he's more controversial, or if it's just more of a shocker that he took everything off and happens to have a nice body."