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  • Writer's pictureEmma Cabielles

When To Stop Photoshop?

In my eyes people are perfect.

Yes I know it sounds really cheesy, and admittedly there are times I struggle to see it too. It's definitely much easier to do when your kids have left home and your divorce was ages ago.

But when you stop and think about what we all struggle with and how amazing the good stuff that we manage to do despite our struggles, all the imperfections don't seem to matter really. Being human is perfect surely. It's about supporting each other through the stormy days and celebrating each other in the sunshine. Life is how you see it.

I love to take pictures of people. New ones, old ones, short ones, tall ones, anyone! Telling their own story, unique and beautiful.

And that includes showing them at their best, in an image that will be recorded digitally forever (potentially). So that they can see their own beauty as well as others.

If within the bucket-full of photos I take in a shoot, there are some that are unflattering or unfortunate, I delete them immediately, just like the person would want me to if they knew. I imagine and want to delete their embarrassment. And when I get a great shot I really want them to see their beauty in it (not the spot or wrinkle or hair out of place).

My mission, absolute mission in life, is to celebrate other people in the ways I am able/trained to do (primarily photographing them, coaching them, and using design to celebrate their work) and I want to do this in an honest, real, true way. But kind and supportive and positive too (the harsh truth about how we look is taken care of by the bathroom mirror first thing in the morning).

In fact I take this really seriously!

So, given everything I have just said about people being perfect, imperfections and all... how come I still like to use a little spot healing and possibly even a few brushes (for us that don't like the reality of getting older)? Even babies, perfect tiny new people, totally unspoilt by anything, have scratches and white spots and peeling fingernails that don't look so great in a gorgeous newborn shot. Honestly editing a newborn shoot takes forever.

When I worked doing photography and design in a secondary school, I actually (weirdly maybe) took on a responsibility to those students who's portraits were going to be blown up into huge proportions and put on a wall for all their mates to see,(and the mates they might have fallen out with the day before) or in the prospectus for everyone else to see, to make sure that any spot that had appeared that morning, was magically erased before anyone could remind them about it. After all, it would have probably disappeared by the weekend anyway.

But all us photographers know that to erase moles or permanent 'imperfections' that are actually beautiful features of an individual would be incredibly rude. We have probably all found ourselves zoomed in on photoshop trying to work out if that little darker patch is a temporary mark or part of our subjects wonderfully individual features. As much as we might not like an aspect of our features ourselves, how devastating would it feel to have a photographer get rid of it and change you to something you are not, that is in their eyes, more perfect? What if your skin was made to look like a peachy babies bottom, or you suddenly were made to look 2 stones lighter? How more un-perfect would it make you feel? Unless of course, you asked for that and are using it to see if plastic surgery is worth it - in which case come over for some life coaching first!

It was really brought home to me the other day, when I needed to take some pictures of my son in a hurry - he just needed some mug shots against a white background. Simple. But it was the last hour before he was rushing back to university, and he was stressed, tired and, quite frankly, it showed.

He said to me as I was assuring him that I would get them to him by the weekend, 'you'll perfect me, yeh?'

I was really taken aback... in my eyes he is already perfect! He doesn't need perfecting! (Of course, all our kids are to us mums!). But thinking about it I realised, of course I was going to photoshop out all the spots that he'd made worse by scratching, and the sore patch on his lip after playing hockey in the cold etc etc. I always do that!

When I look at the photos now I think I should have done more to make him look like he looks on his best days. But at the time I had thought I had done enough spot removal and the like (as I said, it wasn't a good day!).

So my question is... when should we stop!

At what point is the right point to stop photoshoping when it comes to people and perfecting them? (products is a whole other conversation!) Which is more real - how they looked on that day no matter what, or how they look at their best?

How far should we go? What do you think?

I would love to know your thoughts... either as a photographer or a model or as an editor. Please do comment...

Take care lovely people. And embrace your imperfections!

#portraits #photoshopspothealing #perfectionorimperfection

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