Anti Retouching?

Lara - 2018

Lara - 2018

For quite some time now I’ve been an advocate for more natural photography, I think specialising in beauty for a long period made me eventually go in the complete opposite direction but am I (as some think) actually totally anti retouching? The quick answer is “no” but there is far more to it than that.

I still retouch but I’m very subtle, sometimes I literally don’t retouch a thing, it’s very much governed by personal taste, client requirements, the nature of the image and wether it’s actually needed. Take the image here of Lara we shot last summer, natural light, no make up and my edit was always intended to be very film like but when I originally worked on this shoot I retouched out certain so called ‘flaws’ and evened out the skin tones, when I came to pull these shots up again recently to add to the new website I realised that the retouching had actually destroyed the whole feel of this shoot because it was too polished. It was meant to be a very natural look and I’d made it look very digital and far less organic than the raw files with the colour edit that I’d originally done, so it’s now on my to do list for a complete revamp because I love this shoot. This shot is the first test edit with different colour toning and yes it is retouched but can you see that it is? All that I’ve done is edit out a few spots and the tiniest bit of dodge and burn on the skin and I mean tiniest, to me now this is so much better than what I did when I originally shot it. Digital can be too sharp and sterile but the edit has pulled away from that.

The thing is Photoshop is a powerful tool but it’s so easy to go too perfect with a retouch, I’ve done it many times, after a while I check back at the unretouched image and I know it’s gone too far, the trick is knowing how far to go to improve it but in a subtle way! With some photographers that’s their style and that’s fine, we all have our personal preference. Some of my fashion work for clients needs that extra polish and it suits what we are trying to convey but I still try and keep it within the realms of being natural.

Thankfully alot of editorials now are far more natural, photographers are leaving little so called imperfections like scars in the shot and they don’t look retouched the way they used to but the beauty industry has a long way to go, there’s still this absolutely flawless, unattainable beauty that’s being sold. We are not perfect and we need to accept and embrace that I think. The pressure on youngsters to look like these models in ads is so negative for them. I’ve had so many models and actors come to me this year because they want to look like the person they see in the mirror, not some photographer’s perceived idea of how they should look. I really hope this is going to continue and more women embrace how they are because it’s mentally healthier.

Not retouching has almost becoming a marketing tool in itself, which yes it’s a bit bullshitty but if it helps the industry to reign in overly retouched imagery then at least there’s a positive to it.

So there’s my view on the subject, I prefer not to be able to see that something has been retouched and there’s a skill in achieving that but if I don’t think a shot needs retouching then I won’t retouch just because there’s an expectation that everything has to be.