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How much is too much?

Subtitle: To what extent can you retouch without offending someone or making them someone they are not?

No images for this one.

No one has perfect skin. No one is perfect. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. We are conditioned as to what is beautiful or attractive and what is not.


I was retouching images for an alternative model today. I normally don’t shoot them.

When I shoot, it is to a concept. Sometimes that concept involves near perfect skin (still believable, but as blemish free as I can get it). Most of the time, I would consider myself to be a “beauty” photographer, albeit with an editorial twist.

I generally don’t do much liquify to remake bodies (I do tuck in clothing here and there). I rely more on dodge and burn. I don’t really want to alter the body – just make it visually appealing (read: slimmer).

So today I’m somewhat uncomfortable. I am out of my comfort zone. Maybe that is good.

I debate what should I do? What does the model expect? I don’t know how to ask. I am striking a compromise between what I think looks good and what she might expect from images. I am trying to stay away from very heavy editing.

I have shot really beautiful women who have needed lots and lots of retouch because of what the final image is to be. Does the same standard apply here?

I have always felt that I should make my subject look as good as possible. Of course, this means as good as I think they should look. I solicit feedback: Is the processing what you expect? Do you have any suggestions? It is all non-specific.

In many ways I am a coward in this respect. Or I’m diplomatic. Or I’m sensitive to other people’s feelings. Or all of this. Or none of it.

I hide behind the it’s my art argument. It’s safe.

I want to represent them as they would want to be viewed. Do they have the guts to really tell me? I know when they generally like something (you get a good reaction – O I REALLY LIKE IT!). But what about the other stuff? The marginal images. Are they better off or worse off from having seen them?

It’s not my job to be a therapist, but part of the joy of photography for me is to make other people happy with the images I create. Sometimes that is very hard for me to figure out. In those cases, maybe I’m the one who needs the therapist.

It’s hard not to take this stuff personally sometimes.

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