Saturday, 29 September 2012

The Power of Photoshop

There's not a day when I don't hear about photoshop abuse so I thought I’d add my two pence.

So here it is:

Photos are retouched. All published photos are retouched.  Oh and in case you thought paparazzi photos are not retouched – think again. Retouching has been going on for like, ever! Films (moving picture) are retouched too.

Now we established this, let me explain why.

Long time ago, must be over ten years ago (and it feels like a century technology-wise) we used to shoot film and not digital. There was something magical about film. You’d shoot polariods first to check the light, then once the photographer was happy with his light composition, we’d shoot film. There was no instant gratification of today, the film was processed in a lab, we’d get it the next day or so and then we’d sit at the light box and pick the best images.

When shooting beauty campaigns we’d of course, pick the models with perfect skin, I’d spend hours in make up using all tricks of the trade (that may or may not be including the product that was advertised), the model’s face would be lit well. When shot in film, some detail would be lost, so inevitably some imperfections would be lost, but there would still be things that needed to be “erased”. Some photographers used a fine set of brushes and paint and they would finely paint the imperfections away. This was done like this for decades.

With computers came Adobe Photoshop. Photos and film were scanned and then retouched. Photoshop allowed for more manipulation in post-production. Suddenly the lighting/make up/models on shoot didn’t have to be so perfect or precise as the tweaking could be done later. I'm not just talking about removing a spot or straightening model's teeth, there's flyaway hair, virtual ironing of the creases in the clothes to mixing up the parts of the model's body made up from different shots. 

I'm as guilty as anyone in the business, I admit. I sat there with retouchers asking them to change things as well. It's never about retouching make up (hell to the no), instead I'd ask them to straighten the model's nose, make it smaller or narrower, erase the spots, get rid of a hairy top lip (oh yeah it happens), to make the model's eyes the same size (even Christy Turlington had one eye bigger than the other), fix anything that would take the attention away from make up (in a beauty shoot, of course).

Then came digital photography. The instant pictures. Taking photos seemed easy that photographers were popping up like mushrooms after rain. It seems like as long as you could find your way round photoshop you could be a photographer.

I’m getting to the point, bear with me…  

Digital photos do not discriminate and they pick up ALL the detail.  Good and bad. The first time I did a beauty shoot on digital camera I freaked out as the detail not visible by the naked eye was captured and magnified 20 times and staring at me on the screen.

Being able to see instantly what you were getting was great in a way that it saved on time in the studio as studio time is expensive and it’s cheaper to pay someone to retouch photos than to book another day of shooting. These days retoucher can be on the other side of the world earning peanuts compared what you’d have to pay someone here in UK.

Of course, the less time and money is spent on the day of the shoot, more time is spent in post-production.

Photoshop gave us the freedom to experiment with light and special effects, but at the same time, people got carried away and realised they could make the models skinnier, taller, younger and Kate Moss could look 25 forever.

So what’s the alternative, to abandon photoshop completely? Nope, not going to happen. People are just too vain to let it happen. Plus all “imperfections” the would attract wrong kind of attention from what is meant to be advertised. For example, there is a reason fashion models are skinny with no boobs – boobs and curves make girls look sexy, sexy girls sell sex and not clothes.

What I’m saying is that you should take for granted that photos are retouched and that supposed perfection shown in the photos doesn’t exist. As long as people and especially impressionable young girls, are aware of that then there should be no confusion or idealisation of unattainable physical perfection.

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