99% of people who come into the studio ask me to make them thinner or take ten years off their age. 

With the technology and technique retouchers and photographers have today that is certainly possible. However, is it right?

I want to talk about responsible retouching. I have an obligation to create the best image of my client so that the end result is a true reflection of who they are and also makes them feel confident. No easy feat I can tell you. We are our own worst critics. Our hair is too flat or too wavy, our skin is breaking out, I am not as fit as I used to be, oh those love handles just won’t go and the list goes on. 

Clients ultimately ask for branding photos so they can build trust with their customers and engage in business across digital and print media.

Lets address a few areas:

Authenticity

Retouching can also be used to create images that are inauthentic, perpetuating unrealistic beauty standards and promoting an unattainable ideal of physical perfection. This can be especially damaging to the self-esteem of young people, who are already struggling with issues related to body image and self-worth. As photographers, we have a responsibility to create images that accurately reflect the diversity of the world around us, celebrating the uniqueness of each individual rather than promoting a narrow definition of beauty. By avoiding excessive retouching and embracing authenticity, we can help to create a more inclusive and accepting society.

Social Responsibility

We must recognize our social responsibility as photographers to promote positive messages and discourage negative ones. Quite often through posing, lighting and correct styling we are able to create flattering portraits without the need for figure altering techniques. By using retouching responsibly, we can help to promote a more positive self-image and promote self-love among young people. This means being aware of the potential harm that retouching can cause and using our skills to create images that are uplifting, inspiring, and empowering. By doing so, we can help to build a better, more accepting society where everyone feels valued and respected.

Undetected Finesse

Another important aspect to consider when it comes to responsible retouching is the technical execution of the process. It’s important that the viewer is not able to tell that there is retouching at all. This requires a great deal of skill and finesse on the part of the photographer or retoucher, as the goal is to create an image that appears natural and unaltered.

The best retouching work is often the work that is the least noticeable. This means that retouching should be done in a way that doesn’t draw attention to itself or look obviously manipulated. This level of subtlety is achieved through careful attention to detail and a deep understanding of how to make adjustments that look natural and seamless.

Our process

Lets use my own face as an example. Yep I am putting myself out there. You will note you can still see all my lines on my face, they are what creates my character. You can still see the texture of my skin. I did remove blemishes that are only temporary. I softened the discolouration of age spots (I’m not 21 any more) . I brightened my eyes and whitened the highlights to add a bit more sparkle. I evened out the colour tones in the skin to give the appearance of smoothness and finally I sharpened the eyelashes and eyebrows to create a bit more focus. It generally is a cleaner image. I am hoping if you were to see my final image on its own you would not be any wiser to the responsible retouching that has been done. 

When done responsibily, retouching can enhance the visual impact of an image without compromising its authenticity or undermining the trust between the photographer and the viewer. Ultimately, responsible retouching should be a tool that allows us to create images that are more engaging, powerful, and meaningful while staying true to our commitment to authenticity and social responsibility.

Scott Kelby an amazing photographer and teacher, has often spoken about this and actually its where I first heard the term ‘responsible retouching’ Here is a TED talk he did about 7 years ago talking about the impact retouchers have and how he wants to ensure that his daughter who was ten at the time did not think that because of all the pretty models on the magazines that she had to look like that. He wanted her to know that they are all fantasy…to look like that even the models had two hours of hair, two hours of makeup and then retouching…it is not real. Today we are searching for a way to be seen in an authentic way. Let’s honour ourselves and be a bit kinder to who we are.

I would love you to talk to us about your next lot of branding images and how we can create a gallery of images that you will love and truly feel that you are showing up in an authentic and confident manner.