Sarah McAffry | Voted Knoxville's Best Photographer | Family, Senior and Teen Photography in East Tennessee » Knoxville Family, Senior and Teen Photographer in East Tennessee

Photoshop: A Photographer’s Perspective

Today I had my own head shots done, and before I got started, somebody said, “Oh that’s awesome! Then you can photoshop yourself!”

It made me realize that most people assume we photoshop all of the pictures we take. I get it. We’re in the photography industry, and have all of the tricks of the trade right at our fingertips – but it’s absolutely not true.

While it is true that we edit all of our images, we do not “photoshop” them. This thing that used to be a noun, referring to the computer program Adobe Photoshop, is now so popular that it has become a verb in our common vocabulary.

In the photography industry, images are “photoshopped” for many reasons. Sometimes it’s to remove blemishes and stray hairs, but more often than not it’s to hide freckles, to blur wrinkles, and to give instant face lifts and tummy tucks.

If that’s specifically what our clients request, we are happy to do it. But you know what I’ve learned after 9 years in the industry? If I do my job well as a photographer, my client won’t need to request retouching because I’ve already done the work of finding the beauty within and pulling it out for display in their portraits.

I’ve also heard horror stories from people who had their photo taken only to find that the photographer smoothed out the freckles they were proud of or thinned out their arms, made strong from carrying babies for years.

Can you imagine having someone make assumptions about what should be changed in your appearance?

Imagine opening your eyes to see an image of yourself that has been so heavily retouched that it actually doesn’t look like you anymore. What does that do for your body image? Is the photographer saying that the you standing in front of their camera wasn’t good enough for the final image? It’s heartbreaking really.

There’s a fine line between professional retouching versus waving magic wand and changing someone’s entire appearance, but it’s my job as a photographer to find that line and not cross it.

At our photo reveals, our clients typically gush over their photos. They stop for a second because they feel awkward about loving a pictures of themselves. But that’s not even the best part.

The best part is getting to tell them that what they’re seeing in the photo is exactly who they are. That we didn’t take any liberties to change anything about their appearance just because we thought they might need it. The person in the picture is who they are in real life.

This excessive photoshopping is a cultural shift that is only continuing to grow with the appearance of retouching apps on our phones, but I caution whoever is reading this – whether you’re fellow photographers or mamas or teens – resist the urge to paint yourself to perfection.

The you that is reflected in the mirror is the you we should see in your pictures.

As the scripture on our studio walls proclaims, “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you. ” – Song of Solomon 4:7

P.S. The image above has absolutely been edited, with exposure and contrast being adjusted, but zero photoshopping or retouching occurred in the process. I’m making a stand and will not contribute to blurring the lines of reality when the lines are perfect as they are.