I recently stumbled upon the video above and felt inclined to give my humble opinion since it hits close to home; in my personal life and my photography business.
First of all, is not news that as women, in one way or the other, we tend to wish the body and image of a magazine cover model. This is subject of many, many articles, videos and even marketing (Dove, anyone?).
Well, here I am adding to the list. I agree. There's a reason why there are many before/after Photoshop retouching videos so that we get to see the reality of it. It is not real and therefore we shouldn't aim at it but all the contrary, be proud of what and who we are.
As a photographer I want to add though that is not always the photographer who makes these changes and therefore we should not be pointed at when talking about who sets beauty standards. To make it more clear, when we are hired as photographers for a magazine, depending on the magazine, we might or might not have to do the retouching. When left to the photographer, there's a high chance we won't "plastic surgery" you on Photoshop, though there's always the exception to the rule. We are all individuals and artists with different perceptions; you'll find all kinds of tastes and preferences, just like in everything else. But most of the time (in the case of magazine covers for famous magazines), photographers provide the images, the magazine orders the retouching through freelance or in-house retouchers and ta-da! Transformation complete.
That's why is so important and sensitive matter for me and my team to not over do it in our sessions. It's actually harder than you might think to be in that middle point. When you're constantly preparing people for photos and creating the images, is easy to take it that step further without noticing. Many times I've had to stop my editing, and step away from my computer to refresh my view and find that I'm removing too much or polishing too much, so I have to undo a couple of things.
My team might do too much contouring to the point the whole face structure seems to change (remember that infamous photo of Kim Kardashian with a lot of bronze and corrector on her face?), so they're careful about that as well but polish enough as to not assume I'll "fix it all" in Photoshop. Some things need to be done on-site, it saves time.
For us is about exalting the beauty we already see in you (inside) and on you (physical), not about changing you into someone you are not.
Here's a list of what I usually do on Photoshop:
- Create a "mood" (general colouring of the image)
- Color saturation
- Sharpen eyes, mouth and hair
- Apply highlights and shadows to the hair and cheeks (these last 3 bullets have to be done always since once the images are transferred from camera to computer, they lose certain properties that have to be restored).
- Fix skin (because I'm sure you wouldn't want that blemish there, would you? A blemish doesn't define who you are, is just temporary).
- Polish skin (yes, I do it very subtle, because sometimes the makeup applied for photography can make the skin look dry and older than it really is. I bring it back to real but not too much as to make it look porcelain; after all, we all do have pores and wrinkles, the contrary is unnatural).
- Sometimes I'll remove undesired objects from the background or change the background all together but this doesn't affect the subject.
I NEVER chop or add pounds to anyone or make them look younger or older, taller or shorter. That's non-negotiable for me.
I remember once a client said: "but you'll make me thinner on photoshop, right?". My answer was "Why would I want to give you a confirmation that something is wrong with your body when there's nothing wrong with it? You look beautiful, you ARE beautiful. Trust me, you'll be happy when you see the photos". And indeed, she was. But most importantly, she was happy with her own self.