Disclaimer: Photoshop is used to describe both software and the action of retouching an image. I am using ‘photoshop’ to mean the retouching of an image. The actual software of Photoshop is used for far more than just retouching of skin and body size adjustments. I’m not 110% opposed to the use of Photoshop under any and all circumstances, nor am I completely opposed to all retouching. But, I will not alter my clients’ bodies or skin. This is why I say no to Photoshop.
They are questions that make me cringe.
“You’re gonna photoshop this, right?
“Oh, of course you’ll make my thighs/hips/waist thinner…?”
I wish I could just say a quick but heartfelt “Nope,” and move on with the session or conversation, but I’m often greeted by a perplexed, sometimes even irritated look.
Why I Say “No” to Photoshop
I politely stand my ground.
“No, I won’t photoshop your images.”
I won’t photoshop images because you, my dear client, are worth more than what culture says you are. You are wonderful, you are valued, and if I photoshop your images, thin your hips/thighs/waist, change your nose, remove your freckles, change your hair color, etc, I am continuing to unrealistic cultural expectations. Not only am I continuing but I am contributing to those expectations, essentially agreeing with you, encouraging comparison, and that hurts my heart.
You are valued.
You are beautiful.
Photoshop isn’t real. Photoshopping your body doesn’t value you.
This is real beauty.
Real Beauty IS…
- …HEALTH. Not the “healthy” we’re fed every day, but real health. Eating for what your body needs, not for what is currently deemed ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Balance and moderation in our ratio of exercise to rest, and the amount and types of foods we consume.
- …practicing balanced self-care.
- …appreciating our bodies for what they can DO, not for how they look.
- …accepting and coming to admire the parts of your body you may dislike.
- Real beauty is being able to look at an image of yourself and not picking yourself apart.
Real Beauty ISN’T…
- …dieting, restriction, under-eating, overexercise to alter one’s appearance to fit a specific description or picture of what you ‘should’ look like.
- …celebrating overeating or bingeing possibly with a lack of exercise in the name of body positivity when physical, mental and emotional health is compromised.
- …failing or refusing to address unhealthy behaviors surrounding food and exercise, then expecting the photographer to change your appearance.
- Real beauty isn’t comparison.
Why is a photographer talking about this?
Maybe that isn’t your question, and it’s obvious why a photographer would say “no” to photoshop. It’s a fair enough question, however, so let me explain.
To some extent, my work affects societal expectations of beauty. I’m not under any impression that my photography is the industry standard, but if I show images of humans perfectly photoshopped without a hair or freckle out of place, I am contributing to the idea that that is how we should all look. I can worsen that conversation, or I can add hope and truth to it, and that is what I aim to do with my work.
As an artist, I pray my clients will look at my work and see the beauty and power of their everyday moments. I hope they will realize those moments matter, that we are beautiful just as we are, and we need to stand up to cultural ideals of what is beautiful and perfect and worthy. There aren’t words to explain the immense joy in my heart when a client sees their images and tells me that for the first time ever, they can see their beauty. THAT is why I do this. THAT is why a photographer is talking about this.
What will I do in editing?
Saying “no” to photoshop doesn’t mean I won’t do any editing of any kind, it just means I won’t drastically alter your body. Just to clarify, here is what I will do in editing:
- Cull images to remove unflattering moments or facial expressions, poor lighting, etc.
- Retouch skin for acne, and provide teeth whitening. (I want you to like your images, and sometimes these things are influenced by lighting.)
- Adjust exposure, dodge and burn.
- Color correction.
I completely get that there are images we may find less than flattering of ourselves, and there are often physical things we wish were different. But, I didn’t become a photographer to make my clients come out looking like Barbie & Ken. I became a photographer to show your real life, to show the laughter, the tears, the messy, the perfectly imperfect. I became a photographer because I know what it is like to detest your appearance and yourself, and I know what it is like to turn that around and learn to love yourself. And I hope you see your incredible beauty when you look at your images.