Retouching has come under serious scrutiny lately. Advances in digital photography have made it so easy to manipulate photographs that cover models and celebrities appearing in magazines don’t even look like themselves anymore. In many cases, they don’t even look human.
Photo credit: dl Q Retouch
Critics are saying that even if most of us are aware that the photos are manipulated, we don’t realize how extreme the manipulation is, and so the “perfect” ideal that those photos create is damaging to women and creates body image issues, because it sets impossible beauty standards.
Whether the backlash against extreme retouching in magazines is justified or not, my real-life friend Jan Miller argues in this post that gentle photo retouching of our loved ones can actually be an act of kindness.
I rarely retouch individuals in photographs, but I do have a few exceptions.
One major exception is mothers! I have retouched images of my mother and of my mother-in-law without telling them about it.
Recently, I retouched this picture of my mother-in-law and her husband:
This photo was taken after a short walk on a hot day. I had not planned on retouching the photo before I sent it to my mother-in-law, but I could not stop myself.
What would it hurt to fix her hair, straighten her necklace, fix her makeup, lose a few wrinkles and pounds—she was thinner a few months earlier!
Also, why not have her husband sit up a little straighter? He would have, if he had not just walked five blocks.
Oh dear, before I knew it, I had made quite a few changes. What can I say? My policy on mother photographs is “Don’t ask, don’t tell!”
This was the last picture that we took of my mother in law and her husband, who died shortly after the picture was taken. There was no chance of getting a more “flattering photo.” Because all the changes were subtle, no one in the family realized that anything was altered. They just looked a little more “rested!”
What do you think? Is retouching OK under these circumstances? Would you have done the same? And, if subtle retouching of family photos is OK, is it OK to retouch fashion and celebrity photos too, as long as the retouching is not extreme?