Perfect people?

Pretty much everything I shoot has some element of retouching involved before the final image is delivered to my client. Often it’s just small things, removing the odd blemish on a product, for example. And sometimes it’s more fundamental, dropping in backgrounds, multi-layered composites, etc. All of this is just part of the process these days, and it’s a great facility to have.

However, when it comes to shooting people, particularly fashion and beauty, where do you draw the line? Do you just remove ‘blemishes’ as you would with a product? What would you describe as a ‘blemish’ anyway?

A spot on a model’s face would surely qualify as a blemish that’s legitimately retouched out. But what about a mole? What about smoothing the skin a little? Then there’s brightening the eyes, making the nose a little smaller or the lips a little fuller. Go all the way down the list and you’ll completely change the shape of the face you started out with. And that takes you into the territory of creating images that are impossibly perfect, adding to the pressures on young people who measure themselves against these images, thinking they’re ‘real’.

It’s easy to say that the answer is to opt out – to take a stand against this type of retouching. If only it was so easy! The problem is that as a commercial photographer, my images are compared to those of other commercial photographers. I can’t afford to produce images that are seen as less accomplished than my competitors. Also, it’s the standard to which clients and models have become accustomed. In fact we’ve all become accustomed to these retouched images, and anything else looks sub-standard.

As it is, I have my own personal ‘line-in-the-sand’, over which I try not to stray. This image of Alize is an example of what I regard as acceptable – removing a few skin blemishes and smoothing the skin a little.

(If you click on this post title to view it on its own, and not on the home page, there’s a cute little slider thingy which demonstrates the before and after better than these two pics separately).

One Response to “Perfect people?”

  1. Lorna says:

    Just a JSO and I love your work. Beautiful edit, she is gorgeous anyway and the simple retouch leaves her human looking but just a little better. Not like a plastic doll etc. I love it.

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