I am frequently asked if I can make someone look good when I take their photograph. My default answer is ‘you look great, relax and we’ll create some great photos.’ I have had a few Photoshop savvy individuals ask if I could ‘liquify’ them to remove wrinkles, rolls, chins, etc. My standard answer there is ‘no.’ Here’s why.
Photoshop and tools like Portrait Pro and Portrait Pro Body can reshape elements of a photograph. They can select a part of an image, say a person’s arm, and change it to make it longer, thinner, thicker and so on. During the “developing” process I will touch up blemishes, tweak skin tones, and smooth areas that need smoothing, but I won’t digitally alter an image to make someone look 10 years younger or 20lbs lighter. One reason I won’t do it is that often the final image is not a good representation of the person. Another reason is connected to my personal aesthetic. I want to produce images that present my subject the best way possible. I do that through posing, lighting, exposure, and minimal post processing. To dramatically alter an image goes against my aesthetic as an artist.
A professional photographer will possess the skills and experience needed to produce a near perfect image in camera. There is always a little work to be done in the developing process, but if I got everything right before clicking the shutter, I won’t need to do much. On the other side of the lens, a relaxed client, in a comfortable atmosphere, who is well posed and properly lighted will feel confident about their appearance and really like the result.
I wonder if Annie Leibovitz ever gets asked to liquify someone?