To Photoshop or Not?

When I am taking family portraits or corporate headshots, I am often asked “Can you Photoshop me?” or “Make me look a bit younger”.  The answer is that yes, of course I can – photoshop is a key part to being a professional photographer these days.  What is more important is to understand how and when it is appropriate to use it.  I regularly use Photoshop or Lightroom to enhance my images through adjustment of light levels, colour balance, creation of punchy black and white images or other colour effects.  I also use it to remove distractions in the background and for skin retouching – photographing young kids in a nursery after a chicken pox outbreak can mean a lot of work for me in removing small scars on little faces.

But what about the middle aged executive who just wants to look a little bit younger?  Well, yes, I can do that too.  My aim with skin retouching on a headshot is for the image to look as if it is the best version of you on a good day, but not for it to look as if it has been photoshopped or that you are ten years younger.  Often I do not feel any skin retouching is necessary ….. but it is available (up to a point) if requested.  In particular, I would remove any skin blemishes that will not be there in a month’s time – e.g. a scar, spot or abrasion.

We all know that the media manipulates and photoshops images in order to create the image that they feel is right for their product or branding, but for the uninitiated it is quite shocking to actually see the extent to which this is done.  The Dove Evolution video shows a normal looking woman transformed – initially by great hair and make up, but it is the second half of the video which is the most interesting, where the photoshop changes are shown – bigger eyes, longer neck etc.  Rest assured, this level of Photoshop is not applied to my imagery!

Similarly, the Body Evolution video below shows extreme changes being made to body shape.

It is interesting to see how some celebrities and models are reacting to the widespread and excessive use of Photoshop to manipulate … and distort …. images.  Kate Winslet in particular has spoken out several times and complained about the excessive use of Photoshop on her images, and in fact has a No Photoshop clause in her modelling contract with l’Oreal.

Kate Winslet’s Modeling Contract with L’Oréal Has a ‘No Photoshop’ Clause

As far as editing requirements are concerned in relation to my customers, I am always happy to discuss special requests, and Photoshop is a fantastic tool for the enhancement of images.  It is however important to appreciate how and when to use it.








Susan - -

Wow… that was an interesting clip in your blog. Yes, I would like to look younger, slimmer, fitter and oh yes… taller. But then what would people think when they met me.
I shall just have to stay as I am… what you see is what you get.

But if a bride has a pimple, or something temporary – I can see it would be great not to be stuck with photos she is embarrassed about.

I have learned some interesting stuff these past four weeks. Thank you for sharing.

jkaye - -

Thanks Valerie

Valerie - -

Goodness me! I never realised how much can be manipulated to look like a different person altogether. I have taken amateur photo’s of family and friends but never taken it any further. I see you take your work seriously. The portraits are wonderful.
I wish you much success.

jkaye - -

Yes, it’s a wonderful tool for correcting thing that will fade over time, but very easy to abuse. I usually apply the principle that if a mark will have disappeared in a few weeks time (like a scab or cut) then it is fine to edit it out, but if it will still be there (like a birthmark) then it stays. Wrinkles are more difficult! I usually just soften them a little.

It is incredible what is available now. I suspect that if we make ourselves a version of perfect through Photoshop manipulation then others will be surprised and disappointed with the real thing

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