While a fully retouched glamour photograph may be a thing of beauty indeed, it is a frozen two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional person, who in reality lives a life flowing through time.
The point is, a photograph is not a person.
While a photo may or may not look like the person being photographed, most people, when viewed by loved ones, are beheld as beautiful.
Why is this so?
Because this is how our eyes and minds work.
The way we look at a loved one is we focus on how lovely their eyes are sparkling when they look at us. Or we focus on the curl and movement of their sensuous lips while laughing.
We largely overlook freckles, bumps and lumps.
When we view lovers up close, such as while making love, or kissing, we see painfully intense beauty.
When we look at a photo, which never is the person, we get to study the photo for long periods.
We can examine photos under magnification.
We see a photo in a static view. We gaze at the photo for as long as we care to keep looking. We can look till we find flaws to distract us from the rest of the photo’s beauty.
People, we view dynamically. We view people as they move. An instant at a time, then on to the next instant.
The only way we get to see a fleeting smile on a live person is fleetingly, as part of what comes before and after the smile.
We as photographers must do our level best to bring out personality in our subjects and models. Often this means trying to capture images of what is most memorable about our beautiful model. Maybe this is the smile held just long enough for us to catch a piece of its warmth with our cameras.
Emotion. The photo, standing alone, in time, for years, will tell its frozen instant in time story… standing alone. It often does this best portraying a story or emotion.
A photo is not a person who can tell, and retell. Do and redo. Move and even remove herself from view.
The photograph must stand on its own.
We as photographers must help our subjects to pose, then capture and enhance our photo, so it can tell a beautiful truth on its own.
We must get our subjects to portray their best for our cameras.
Through use of lighting, camera angles, props, the whole gamut, we must capture the very best image we can.
Then we must retouch blemishes in the photograph.
Blemishes, like moles, which are permanent, we might ask our clients if they feel they are part of their character and wish to retain these as badges of honor. Others blemishes, like wrinkles, can go either way. Then there are the temporary blemishes, like zits, stray hairs and lint which we tidy away.
Again, a wrinkle seen dynamically may be accompanied by a warming laugh and be charming. Seen statically, in a two-dimensional photo, a wrinkle may just look old, or… it may add character. We as artists must decide and add and enhance accordingly.
In any event, retouching does not make a photograph into a lie.
Rather, retouching helps bring a breath of truth of the beauty and character of the model into the photo.
Retouching removes distractions.
The photograph, any photograph, itself is a lie, in that it is not the wonderous being who is the subject of the photo.
That is, a photo can never be so wonderful as the person being photographed.
A photo can however be enhanced and retouched.
Retouching when done in a subtile way, one is never quite sure if the photo was retouched. Retouching helps maintain the illusion of having come straight from the camera. Even as the retouching changes lighting, backgrounds, and lint always present in real life.
As if what comes from the camera is really the person. It is not.
In real life, much lint and wrinkles too go usually unseen.
In retouching, it is our job to put these elements in their perspective place.
Our photographs are well done when they are retouched in ways allowing the emotion in face, pose and setting to tell their stories unobstructed by stray elements human eyes and minds usually tune out in real life dynamic settings.
A photograph we have retouched well may focus our attention on the beautiful, expressive and interesting representation of the model, which it rightly is.
Regardless, a photograph can never be so divinely beautiful as the person photographed.
Don’t believe me? While you may love a photo, a photo can never love you.
The model, in being photographed, may be modeling love. She may be feeling love to portray love seen by the camera.
The camera may see and freeze this love in a photograph. Retouching may enhance this sense of love when viewing the photo.
Still, the photo will never love.
The model may love, and love is beauty beyond words. This is licence and responsiblity to use all our skills, so long as we do our best to leave no readily visible tracks, to make our photographs as beautiful as we can, using all tools available, with heads held high, knowing our craft is noble.
To learn how to retouch with a firm yet gentle touch, try a free tour of Lynda Photoshop instructional videos, by either clicking one of the Lynda banners on this blog’s pages or use this link for a 7-day free trial to lynda.com.