Typically on the weekends, I’ll share some Photoshop tutorial or another for more reasons than I will explain here. Some of which though happen to be that you, our charming and loyal audience, asks for it, and also I think the world would be a better place should retouching skills be brought up a notch. There are few things in photography quite as cringe worthy as poor Photoshopping, but that statement on its own is a loaded one; who is to say what is good or bad? On what criteria is that based?
As I see it, there are two cornerstones of judgement here: one is on technical execution, no matter what the execution is intended, and the second, based around how far we take it. The two often come together as it’s the idea of many that the technical execution is poor if the photo isn’t taken far enough. Or vice versa, of course. Smack in the middle of this question lies the debate on the purpose of Photoshop retouching, and the ethics of it.
There is no shortage of heated banter on either side, as either has legions of people with strong opinions. The prototypical argument against is often the precedent that very Photoshopped images set for our youth’s body image ideals – apparently we’re in a time where body dysmorphic disorder is rampant, and some would have you believe Photoshop is largely to blame.
Whatever side of the fence you’re on, you likely have strong opinions on the matter, especially if you have children, from what I’ve seen. Photographer Karl Taylor, has created a short video where he takes a model, naturally beautiful and in little need of enhancing, and shoots her in 4 different ways: natural window light no make-up, studio light no make-up, studio light with make-up, and then that image retouched. (Video below).
It’s interesting to see how Karl illustrates it all so simply, and to see the progression, if you can call it that, from natural to retouched. There’s an accompanying blog post to the video which you can find here, and is worth a look to see all the opinions of the commenters.
I personally think many aspects of Karl’s retouching went too far; I don’t like the reshaped lips (possibly contoured with light), the eyebrows I find are overly filled in, and mostly I feel the lack of shading around the mouth makes it appear as though the lips are just stuck on. I’ve seen Karl’s other work and he’s no stranger to more subtle retouching, and no doubt this was illustrative for argument’s sake also.
I don’t see the trouble in adjusting an image at all, to get rid of the imperfections we wouldn’t normally pick up and then some, especially given modern photo resolution. Just how far depends on the occasion. I also don’t feel it’s the job of marketers to entirely nurture the young and impressionable. That’s a harsh statement, but it’s my opinion. For centuries art has been painted, and sculpted, and photographed to an ‘ideal,’ with nothing poor to say for it, and people were left to use their own judgement.
What are your thoughts on the matter?