Michael Broyles Photography fields many questions from clients, but one of the most frequently asked questions has to be “will you be retouching my photos”? And I am not alone. Many professional photographers have come to expect this question from clients and feel obligated to retouch photos, whether asked to or not.


Altering images is not new. Once upon a time, photo editing was an art practiced by photographers in a darkroom. Now, with software like Photoshop, even amateur photographers can retouch their photos on their phones or computers to remove unwanted features and accentuate others. This is driven in part by a desire to present the best versions of ourselves, especially for special occasion photographs, such as wedding portraits and senior photos. However, this need to look “perfect” has filtered down into our everyday shots. After all, what can be wrong with a little retouching here and there if it only makes the photo better?


But, when can editing a photo be too much?


The rise of digital photography has seen a shift in how we store and share images, from shoeboxes and wallets to zip drives and the cloud. Photographs are shared widely across social network platforms, providing the perfect venue for people to critique and judge. Because of this, many people, especially women, are taking photos and editing them with an eye toward how they will look on their Facebook or Instagram pages. This has led to some extreme cases of photoshopping to create an “ideal body image.”


In an independent nation-wide survey of 1000 women conducted by Glamour magazine, approximately 60% of respondents reported it was okay to tweak personal photos; of these respondents, 23% were women aged 25-29 and 41% were women aged 18-24. Many respondents reported feeling compelled to fix imperfections.


As a professional photographer, there is a time and a place to retouch a photo (more on that in a minute). However, editing a photograph so that the person (or people) in it are unrecognizable is not okay. There is no “ideal body image” and extreme make-overs, courtesy of Photoshop and other editing software, can only promote unhealthy behaviors to achieve an unrealistic beauty ideal.


That said, there is a time and a place for retouching a portrait, especially one taken by a professional photographer. Some of this retouching is advantageous to achieve a balanced portrait and make up for less than ideal photo shoot conditions. This can involve making adjustments to correct the brightness, color, and contrast of a portrait. In addition, some slight retouching of the portrait’s subject(s) can further enhance an image, including:

  • Lightening undereye circles
  • Fixing discolored or damaged teeth
  • Minimizing acne, eczema, scars, and blemishes
  • Softening baggy eyes and wrinkles
  • Removing distractions from the foreground or background


Regardless, a client should always consult with his or her photographer before their photo shoot to ensure they are on the same page regarding any retouches that are to be made.


Have a special occasion on the horizon or looking to refresh your family portrait? Give Michael Broyles Photography call today to schedule a consultation and learn more about special promotions that we are running in August.