Makeup and cosmetic retouching are issues which can often lead to heated debate in photographic discussion forums. Some see portrait photos as documentary images, designed to portray the person exactly as he or she is now. Others create pictures where the models appear with skin as sleek and smooth as silk. What is beautiful to one person can be repulsive to another.
I think it’s important to form your own opinion on these issues, an opinion you can personally stand for. My own views are quite clear:
In traditional portrait photography I obviously do not decide what people have already done to their faces. If their appearance is normal, that’s obviously how they want to be photographed. Or perhaps they would like to give the portraits a little extra glamour and have given their face the film star treatment. That‘s their own personal decision. Unless they wish otherwise, I am content merely to reduce any negative effects of the studio lighting, with for example a little face powder to remove the glare from oily skin or hide spots.
As regards retouching portraits I make a clear distinction: Transient flaws are removed. This includes for example sores, bruises and obvious pimples. Permanent features such as moles, scars and birthmarks are not removed. The latter may well be disguised a little, especially when high-contrast black and white images would make them more prominent than they really are. Teeth normally need a little whitening in the retouching, since studio lights and especially bright backgrounds can make teeth appear more yellow than normal. People don’t necessarily want to look like the Queen on their portrait, when that is not exactly what they see in the bathroom mirror. Finally, the eyes usually get some extra clarity, where details of the iris are highlighted and reflections from the studio lighting heightened, while the whites of the eyes are lightened slightly.
With model pictures the situation regarding cosmetic retouching is quite different. Model pictures are depictions of beauty, and products that I sell on to a third party. And buyers demand perfection. For model pictures all cosmetic defects are removed, permanent or otherwise, unless the flaw is a part of the design. Teeth are whitened to the limit, and if necessary the skin is smoothed out slightly and eyebrows adjusted.
I ensure that my models know that this should not be taken personally. That, even though I correct some blemishes, they still have far fewer than many others. Don’t go getting any complexes that I adjust them a little on the final pictures.
With child models I use no makeup – except of course where makeup is used for effect or to tell the story. Neither with those a little older where I do little more than apply a powder puff to dampen any glare from oily skin, and only very rarely foundation. The use of skin retouching plugins and other miscellaneous silky techniques in Photoshop is total anathema in my studio!