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When Retouching Isn’t Ethical

July 15, 2010

There are a few occasions when it isn’t kosher to retouch an image. It should go without saying within the realm of scientific, reportage, and editorial work but in the world of commercial photography it is an everyday occurrence and in most cases it as an absolute requirement of the job. This is an exception. Alli is a makeup artist and when she does her own makeup for a headshot that will be used for promotional purposes the image becomes more than a portrait. It is a representation of her work as well. Therefore it would be quite unethical to do any retouching that would alter her skin in any way. At that point promotional use of the image on her part would be a case of false advertisement.

For me, that caveat adds an extra element of criticality to the shoot. Not having the crutch of being able to fix things later in Photoshop means that the lighting, focus, and color rendition need to be on the money when the button gets pressed on the camera. That certainly slows down a session because it means I am shooting tethered to my laptop so that instead of trying to check the images on the little screen in the back of the camera I can see them on the big screen as I shoot in real time.  Well, almost real time. There is a delay of a couple of seconds as the image file is transported from the camera to the computer over the USB cable and then processed to generate the screen preview. It also means that in addition to the usual in-camera exposure adjustments, I also do a custom white balance setting in the camera and use a color calibration target to generate a correction profile every time a different light source is used.

All that up front work is actually not a bad thing when considering how much work is saved on the back end. From that perspective a shot that I won’t be retouching is a very beautiful thing.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 15, 2010 3:47 pm

    Beautiful portrait, Jim, and very interesting information. That’s something I never thought of, although, I’ve never photographed an MUA. That doesn’t mean I never will if I got the chance. It helps knowing that I now have this information in case I ever do. Thanks!

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