The Natural and the Not So Natural

I've heard it a million times before. "Ooh I like this picture because it's natural." "I don't like those fake photos."

Generally, this refers to the kind of airbrushed pieces of fakery that you see on the front pages of beauty magazines. There's plenty of examples out there, but I find this video is a good snapshot of how extreme it gets.

In this situation, honestly? I totally agree with the sentiment. It doesn't do anyone any good to present that sort of image to the world. It creates an unattainable standard that both women and men will strive to achieve and harm themselves over. If you asked me to do it, I would refuse outright.

This doesn't mean that my fellow photographers and I would not do any sort of editing to a picture. There has to be a fine line drawn somewhere so you know when you're going too far. An easy way to figure out is to ask yourself a simple question:

If I change this, will people notice?

I'll give you an example. A few years ago when I was first starting out, I was asked to do some photos for a friend's birthday party. Unfortunately, when the night of the party arrived, we discovered a slight problem; her boyfriend had a massive attack of impetigo on his face. There was this huge red swollen yellow crusty blob right underneath his nose, and understandably he wasn't too happy about it.

So after the party when I was sifting through all the photos to see which ones were useable, I decided to photoshop the sore out of every single shot of him. It took hours, but the results meant that if you hadn't been there, you'd never have guessed he'd had it.

On the flipside, had it been a mole or a birthmark? It would have stayed there. Photoshopping temporary things like spots or cuts or dirt marks out of a portrait is fine; I do that all the time! Even touching up wrinkles that makeup didn't quite get is acceptable. When it comes to your body size, or the fact that you have wrinkles at all, or a balding head? These define you whether you like it or not. To change them would be to pretend that you're something that you are not.

The worst thing is that it looks so obvious! I've seen people photoshop someone who is aging gracefully into someone who has the facial skin of a baby. It just looks wrong, especially if it's someone that you know!

Exactly where the line between "true to life" and "faked" will always be a massive arguing point in this profession. Some photographers argue that using any sort of post-processing technique at all is removing the authenticity of the piece. Personally, I think these people are nuts, but each to their own! 

Cameras don't work the same way as our eyes do, we just don't have the technology to replicate something so complex, so to create an image that matches up to how we remember it, there has to be at least some modification. Even something as simple as adjusting the colour balance or stitching several composite images together so that the exposure is balanced. 

It's fake, but it's faked to look natural. Does that make sense?

What do you peeps think? Leave your answer on a card and post it up the chimney! 

Or write it in a comment, that'd probably be easier. ;)