The Pros and Cons of Photo Retouching

No matter how skilled a photographer is at capturing the perfect moment on film, he can never control the random things that might ruin his shot. A hideous background, unexpected rain, shadows or a last-minute cross flash from a competing smartphone camera can create the need for a little magic after the photo.

Enter the digital editor. This wonder tool is able to modify any unwanted faux pas from a photograph, trimming scenes, cropping, enhancing lighting and correcting errors. With digital editing, a professional photographer can realize his original intent and give the client the quality he expects.

Retouching, or manipulating photos to remove skin imperfections or alter a subject’s appearance, has not always kept a respectable reputation. In the world of fashion and modeling, the technique is controversial since it creates an illusion that fades when the public sees a model in person. Many people do not know, however, that there is more to retouching than meets the eye.

Pictures Taken Outdoors

What is a photographer decided to use natural daytime lighting during a photo shoot with a fashion model? The lighting levels are completely dependent on the position of the sun and subject to change continuously. This is an environmental factor beyond anyone’s control. Even if the photographer shifted the angle of the shoot to capture the best lighting or used the perfect scrim to diffuse the light, he may be limited in correcting shadows and other imperfections resulting from the moving sun.

Correcting Natural Light Errors for Clearer Photos

Even the harsh glints that bounce off of glass windows and show up in photos can be softened or removed with retouching. The ideal approach would be to lift the light levels and ensure the photo is more focused on the model rather than the imperfection. One way to achieve this effect is to apply a black and white layer, which adjusts the shot by adding softer light and balance to the photo. This will also alter the background and make it less prominent.

Enhancing the Model’s Appearance

There are things that can show up in a picture, no matter how many precautions you take to mask them. For example, any wrinkles, moles, freckles, birthmarks or other skin blemishes may not become invisible with makeup alone. High impact computerized graphics applications like Adobe Photoshop are reliable tools to correct these imperfections.

The software can also change the size and appearance of a model’s body, making the model appeal to targeted audiences or match the client’s marketing goals for a product. Photoshop can add distinguishing marks like tattoos and enhance skin tones, too.

Photo Enhancement Ethics

Despite the many tools available for altering photos, there is a huge degree of respect that comes with ensuring they are as true to life as possible. Sometimes, the photo can be altered so much that it no longer looks natural. This is an area of failure for retouching. It leaves an unfavorable mark on both the photo and the photographer.