retouching | what is too much?

my earlier blog post regarding redbook's faith hill [2007] cover photo seems to have gotten quite a bit of attention -- both positive and negative.  while i really do appreciate all comments, i feel it necessary to clarify and expand upon a few things... first, my parenting was questioned in a comment. and while you can attack almost anything about me, please don't question my parenting abilities [or my children] because you don't know anything about either. no, i DON'T let my kids read redbook or any similar type of magazine; however, they DO see these types of magazines every time we go to the grocery store. or maybe they're on the table at a friend's house. magazine covers can be seen all over the place. and it doesn't take my 8-year-old very long to read the messages on those magazine covers. i work very hard to actively parent and educate my children -- to the best of my ability -- which happens to include such concepts as self-esteem, confidence, health, inner beauty, etc.

regarding retouching...i do touch up people. i push love handles. i slim women's arms. i soften wrinkles. i lessen double chins. i'm absolutely NOT against retouching. but i do so within limits. i do so within reason. and i think that's really my point with faith hill's cover photo -- they went to excess. they gave her the arm and waist of a 10-year-old. is it really necessary to go to those extremes? is it necessary to make jada P's skin lighter, as someone commented? i guess every artist [or editor] has their own take on what is considered within reason. and i guess ultimately, as a fellow artist, i should respect that. but it doesn't mean i can't be bummed out that so many of our magazines are showing women, whose bodies and looks are absolutely unattainable.

why am i so sensitive about all of this?  because i am a woman who has greatly struggled with self-esteem over the years, especially as a teenager. and so yes, maybe that makes me a bit more sensitive to the messages that our magazines are sending to women, to men, to our children.

as a teenager and young adult, i very secretly suffered from both bulemia and anorexia [at varying times]. i wanted to look like the women i saw in these magazines. i wanted a tiny waist and big boobs. i had photos plastered all over my closet door -- longing to be thin and beautiful and sexy, like the women i saw featured in these magazines over and over again.

i'm not sure where i'm really going with all of this. and i'm not saying my opinion is the right opinion. but i do feel that media impacts our society more than many even begin to realize.

curious as to what others think about how much retouching, tweaking, liquifying, etc. is too much, i decided to pose the question on facebook.  here's a few of the responses [selected at random]:

i try not to unless a client requests it. Sometimes there's just a little something that is distracting so i'll clean it up. or for Boudoir shots, I'll do more retouching. But if i have it my way, i do none to minimal. i don't have a problem with is a personal preference...but you can look at a photograph and see over-smoothed skin and over-processed eyes and it makes the person look all creepy..and i think most people, if they are being completely honest and objective, would agree that there is a 'too far' line and when it's crossed, it's really obvious.

I think that is the beauty of being an artist, deciding how you want to finish our canvas. For some the natural speaks to them and for others they love the heavy photo shopping. Clients are not forced to hire us, they hire us because they like our style. That's why it's great there is so much diversity so we can all choose what makes us happy. The second someone tells me what I should be doing, takes away the whole idea of being an artist!

I guess it's up to each of us as artists and to balance that with what our clients are expecting (if we're talking about portraits). But, my personal feeling is that I want to show true beauty and real folks in my work, not what I deem a 'perfected' version of them. I am not against PS for blemishes and such (things that aren't always there anyway), it's just not my thing to make people look different than they would in real life. But, to each their own...

Unless its a photo manipulation to create surreal things but with photography I do very little editing too unless you ask me to do a lot of editing but I like models to look natural if you use photoshop do use it to where you can't noticed its been use people over use the tools


such an interesting article, from 2008, on conscientious regarding what makes a great portrait? is it...

an intangible element luck and patience the graphic elements, framing, lines and light what is said about the image maker what is said about the subject images that make a statement vulnerability and awkwardness a feeling and reaction an insight into an inner universe an element of surprise insightful and engaging a meaningful connection an emotional exchange tension in the moment infused with believability mutual trust a raw and honest exchange the capturing of a state of grace something that rarely happens an unanswerable question

these were some of the thoughts (of photographers, bloggers, curators, editors and gallerists) shared on conscientious.

the article has me thinking (a lot) about the portraits i've taken. what i love. what i don't love. what i've been doing. what i haven't been doing. where i hope to go. it also has me thinking about how much growing i have yet to do. i try and remind myself often that it's only been six years and i still have so much to learn, expand upon and explore. and patience...i must simply have patience. and continue to study and work hard.

after i read the article, i spent some time with my accessible work | portraits.  here are some portraits i've taken over the past few years that strongly speak to me for one reason or another...

so, what do YOU think makes a great portrait?

i hope you'll not only take the time to read the article, but also sit with your own work and thoughts for a while.