I have many many times asked a photographer/editor/creative director/client to rethink what they are asking, usually simply worded as “Hmm… Really? Are you sure? I’m worried she/he/it will start to look too fake.” The most common answer is “Hmm, maybe you’re right but try it as an option and let’s see how it looks.” And usually, it’s the option that’s chosen. With some photographers, it’s never, or if you question it, they tend to agree. With commercial clients, it’s not as easy to question them but it does happen. There have been a couple of times when the owner or boss of the retouching company has called the client to say they think it looks/will look too far but that’s rare.
So why are there so many so-called photoshop disasters these days?
A big problem is when there are too many cooks in the kitchen. When you have the creative director, three art directors, the copy writer, the account manager, the production manager, the retouchers, the photographer, and the make-up/hair company each voicing their opinion on things that need to be tweaked (not to mention politics in getting a word in), then you have a recipe for The Perfect (Overretouched) Storm where every sign of imperfection is retouched.
But retouching is sometimes necessary. Because of the (eww) “eye gunk:”
Retouching is sometimes necessary. Today’s cameras are incredibly sharp and if you look at the raw files for up-close beauty images, you’d be shocked at the detail. Eye gunk, eye veins, peach fuzz, ingrown hairs, it’s basically taking one of those magnification mirrors to someone’s face. You wouldn’t normally see this stuff if you are standing two feet from someone. It’s when it goes too far that it’s a problem.
There are so many arguments that can be made for and against photoshopping: A fashion editorial is supposed to be artistic, so is a little photoshopping in of a special effect OK? The retoucher told us, “I feel like people know [retouching] exists but they also, unfortunately, secretly want the fantasy to exist, otherwise they’d have nothing to aspire to.” Which is where the beauty companies get into trouble–making us aspire to eyelashes that no mascara could ever provide.
There’s obviously no right answer, but it’s an important question to keep asking.