How far is too far when it comes to slimming, smoothing, and altering your subjects in Photoshop? As photographers we decide how far to go every time we edit photos.
My personal Photoshop retouching philosophy is to edit temporary things if a customer wants, such as reducing acne and smoothing out skin, but to leave the permanent ones like freckles, scars, and overall appearance.
To me, liquifying a shirt where the fabric bulges or an arm where a wedding dress dents in because of the angle is acceptable. Changing a person’s facial structure or taking 50 pounds off a person by liquifying the weight into Photoshop oblivion is wrong — it indicates you feel they are imperfect and look better thinner or different. We should not make people look super human. Most of us are not cover models (and even most models get lots of editing help to look how they do on the cover of a magazine).
It is not our job to change people’s appearances. Everyone is beautiful in their own way. Scars, freckles, thin or thick hair, our curves and even our weight define our character. As photographers, we should aim to document life and preserve moments and memories. While we want people to look their best, we should not do it at the expense of their identity.
Here’s a short You Tube clip by BuzzFeed that really helps this hit home. Women were given physical and then digital makeovers. And in the end, they preferred their own imperfect realities (who they actually are) to the “perfect” versions that the photographers and editors created.
Remember this next time time you edit photos. What do you think?