Over the years since Photoshopping images has become the accepted norm I’ve noticed a lot of people / clients asking for services above and beyond straight photography.  Where does a photographer draw the line between telling the truth with their camera ie capturing someone how they really are or faking the truth?

Take for example the older man who’s hair is receeding.  He came to me for a portrait to give to a family member for her birthday.  Once we’d taken the shots and processed the images he demanded his hair be restored in the image.  I had to clone in his hair quite significantly.  Was it right of me to do this?  Sure it made him happy but I was messing with reality.  Should he have asked me to go that far?  I also touched up his wrinkles while I was at it.  Didn’t take too long for just one portrait but what about when it extends to every photo taken?  I’ve had bride’s Mum’s ask for every wrinkle in every photo they appear in to be magically taken off their face.  Is this unreasonable?   It’s not truth and really it’s a self esteem issue.  They want to look as good as their daughter’s on the big day but shouldn’t they just accept themselves as they are, grow old gracefully and respect the fact that the photographer’s job in this particular case (covering a wedding) is to make the daughter look good not the mother or other family members as well by altering reality later.  If they want to pay for a specialized glamour shoot, sure they can expect all the wrinkles to be removed in post production but not at a wedding.

I’ve also noticed a lot of people moving towards the ridiculous in expecting photographers to just magically fix everything in Photoshop.  A bride who went out in the sun the day before wearing a v neck t shirt and ended up with a bad tan which showed up in her strapless wedding gown.  She wanted her skin fixed in every photo.  I hope her photographer charged her for these post production services as fixing skin tones like that in every photo is a huge ask.  It’s different if you wake up with a giant angry pimple on your nose on your wedding day, or a sticky fingered child at a wedding hugs the bride accidentally leaving a trail of mess on her dress,  but not if you do something stupid and just expect your photographer to perform miracles for you.

There’s those that went shopping and could only find a blue scarf but really want it to be pink in all the photos from the portrait session you’ve just shot with them, so can you please fix that Magic Photographer? There’s the women who go to their portrait sessions with bad roots showing through their hair dye job and expect the photographer to fix it in every photo.  This could be as many as 120 photos taken during a family portrait session or more.  Shouldn’t they have scheduled time to go to the hairdresser beforehand not expect the photographer to fix their issues?  Or postponed their portrait session until they had fixed the situation? Or the young man who turned up to his family portrait session with loose pants on and no ahem… undies on to speak off.  In certain positions it was quite obvious.  Should a photographer be expected to Photoshop all these images too?

Take the person who wants 10 kgs removed from their body magically.  It’s not reality.  That’s what diets, gym memberships or personal trainers are for.  People should fix themselves or learn to love themselves as they are, or at least expect to pay for such retouching as I believe the odd bit is okay but not when you are talking about every photo from a wedding or portrait session.  There’s a line that needs to be drawn.

On a similar note, if someone can’t attend their booked portrait session or wedding, (a family member is missing) I feel it’s unreasonable to ask them to be magically Photoshopped into your images especially if they provide you with a blurry, grainy small mobile phone photo of the person to put into your photos.  The lighting and quality of the file provided will be different and probably look really bad.  The pose might be off too and doesn’t work well. There are experts who could do some magic but it’s not me unfortunately.  I’m a photographer, first and foremost.

On the flip side in the past,  I’ve had clients cancel because their toddler had an accident and has a bad bruise or cut on their face.  They called to postpone the session sensibly until the child had healed rather than expecting Photoshop to fix everything.  These are great considerate clients.

So I’d like to urge people to be sensible.  If you are counting down to your big day or having a portrait session or business session done with a photographer, take all the necessary precautions you can.  Look to see if you need to go shopping, demand your teenage boy finds some undies, visit the hairdresser and take care of your skin.  It makes it a lot better in the long run because some things just don’t look right when they have been manipulated in post production not to mention how time consuming it is for the photographer or retoucher.