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Do I smooth skin in my portrait photographs? ABSOLUTELY!

This is entry is going to be less of a how-to piece and more of a philosophical piece on retouching. I will start however, by giving a very brief explanation of what I do. I currently use the “high pass skin softening” method as discussed in Scott Kelby’s Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques for Photographers Using Photoshop. I am considering learning the frequency separation method, but it looks considerably harder and I am quite happy with the results I am currently getting.

Now on to the real subject here, the philosophy of it all.

To me it seems like there is a growing tide of people pushing for totally unaltered images. I would say that at the minimum, this is horribly misled. PHOTOGRAPHS ARE NOT OBJECTIVE TRUTH and they never have been. There are many parts of the photographic process that make it impossible for a photograph to be an objective recording of what we saw. Starting with the fact that a camera can only capture a limited view and the photographer determines what is capture within that frame. Secondly, sensors and film do not function the same as your retina and lack the interpretive power of your brain, which has an immense impact on what you see.

Now, I do have a problem with retouching that drastically alters how a model looks. If your finished image has the model looking 50lbs lighter than she does, you are being dishonest. However, downplaying how noticeable a wrinkle is or something of the like is totally acceptable in my view. In fact, I find that an image presented straight out of the camera actually exaggerates how noticeable wrinkles etc. are, so retouching will more closely match the experience of standing before the person.

Furthermore, when talking to some who want to see zero retouching, I get the feeling that they also cringe at us using a softbox to light our subject with pleasing light. Thus, in acknowledgment of the “give ‘em an inch, they’ll take a mile” phenomenon, this could get ridiculous.

I think we need photos that do not lie, but feel also that this does not mean that the only thing a photographer is allowed to do is push the button. In my estimation, some are beginning to push this issue too far.

Take a look at my people portfolio.