A Feminist’s Guide to Retouching

It’s the era of female empowerment, so why are we still being force fed images of reconstructed beauty? This could be an opinion piece and where I rant about things you may or may not agree with, but instead I’m going to walk through my process of how I retouch and maintain a clear conscious.

First up, the human body is utterly amazing. It’s completely fascinating to have the ability to take a close look at my subjects features and body shapes and become educated in what defines beauty. The human eye doesn’t always focus on what the camera can and therefore a lot of what I do is making that person look like themselves again. I’m not interested in moulding all of my subjects into one idea of beauty that happens to be trending. I’m all about bringing the best of each individual forward. 

I love my job. I love it so much that I spend more hours in photoshop then I do in daylight. Photoshop is used for so many things, not just making women skinner. You can learn that in about 2 minutes. If you’re a feeling conflicted about this part of the industry here is some insight from someone who not only retouches her own work, retouchers for other high-end fashion photographers. 

1. If you object to blemish removal you’re probably swimming in the deep end of feminism and you can sometimes lose sight of what you’re arguing about. Blemishes are temporary, not features. They come and go and should not be considered part of someone’s face. I love enhancing an image by taking away these temporary skin issues, but I wouldn’t be one to completely replace someone’s skin, I keep the colours and warmth to the face in my image.

2. Making models skinner is a controversial part of the job. There are some photographers/brands that simply don’t worry about the impact of making girls skinny in post-production. The conclusion I’ve come to is to first and foremost make the garment look well-fitting. I’ll tuck a dress in or remove bunched fabric if the model is posing in a way that makes it unflattering, but I won’t take weight off the model if it’s a matter of her size.

3. Most often we associate overly-photoshopped images with females, however men can be just as retouched if not more. It’s a different kind of human-ideal that male models are selling, but they don’t often get talked about. I once photoshopped abs onto a model, it’s not something I’d do again but the fact that the demand is there is a whole other conversation worth having.

Earlier in my career, I used to shoot a lot of teenage portraits. They would often come back to me and tell me that these were their favourite images they had of themselves. It wasn’t because they were heavily photoshopped or changed from their natural bodies, but because I only took out the simple, temporary things in each picture. I try to take that mentality with me whenever I shoot/retouch fashion too.

This is the process I use, feel free to use it too and comment below with your thoughts on retouching!

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