Headshots – retouching

Zits, eye bags, pimples and late nights. I’m sure many an actor has fretted the morning of a headshot session, wishing they could peel their face off and start over. That huge whitehead, veneered with a trowl-like application of off-colour coverup has served only to crack and take on the appearance of a topographical image of a mountain on the surface of Mars. How many restful nights would be gained if these poor souls were to learn that it’s nothing to worry about.

A headshot session is something that must occur  as time and availability permits. This means we have to take what we can get on the day, and I suppose, in that instance, we need to hope for the best. Much like a picnic in July, when you know there’s every chance it’s going to piss down.

A headshot is supposed to be an accurate reflection of you at your best, but a snapshot of you at the exact time the headshot was taken. For that reason, a photographer will work to remove any elements of a photograph that might not have been present the day before, or wouldn’t necessarily be still there a week after the headshot was taken. This is done during a process called ‘retouching’.

Retouching is getting a bit of a bad press at the moment, and for good reason. Cosmetic companies are getting their wrists slapped for making aged celebrities look positively foetal, and less-than-able photographers are taking techniques too far and creating monstrous images of people with over-smooth skin to the point where it has no texture at all. This has led to a demonising of what is an incredibly intricate and necessary step in the digital photographic process.


The Problem with A Photograph

Trouble is, with these high-end digital images, is that they pick up too much information. You’ve got a 20 million pixel image that can pick up the shadows being cast by the depth of your pores. Think about that for a second. When was the last time you really noticed anyone’s pores when you were having a conversation with them, or when someone was sitting across the room? You didn’t, because there’s too much other information going on at the time for you to notice something as insignificant as a person’s skin texture.

However, take a photograph of a persons face, from 6 inches away, and there’s nothing you fail to notice. When you freeze a person’s face in time, and you do it with a high-end camera, you record absolutely every single atom in that shot. With nothing else but the image to look at, things you don’t notice during daily life will suddenly jump out at you like little explosions on the screen. Facial pores, nostril hair, dark eyes, blood-shot veins in the sclera of the eyes, pockmarks, dimples, and everything else you don’t see while talking to someone at a distance.

Is that fair? Is that an accurate representation of someone’s face? I say no.

At London Headshots, the purpose of retouching is not to make people look better, or younger, not even by one day. I use photoshop to remove all the elements of a shot that either won’t be there when a casting comes round, such as spots, or things you wouldn’t notice when you were talking to them, such as tiny stray nostril hairs.

Do not worry about any of the little temporary imperfections that crop up during the week running up to the headshot session. These are not things to concern yourselves with, because they won’t be visible in the final shots, just like they won’t be visible when you go for your next casting!

Now you can relax!

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