Journal

Photography, photoshop, and the philosophy of taking pictures by photographer Bill Wadman, co-host of On Taking Pictures.

Retouching Way Overcooked

Look I'm not going to lie, I do a lot of post production to my images and I think retouching has it's place. Nowadays as a commercial photographer, you almost have to to make pictures look the way people expect them to look.  We've become inundated with perfection in advertising and movies. And I'm ok with all of that. I know it's an illusion and I expect that most other people do too. I expect it from cosmetic and beauty ads, or fashion shoots, but when TV and Movie actors start looking like plastic mannequins, you've gone too far. Recently there was a poster for the Little Fockers movie with Ben Stiller and De Niro.  Stiller is 45 and De Niro is almost 70, but on the poster, I swear to God, they looked 25 and 40 respectfully.  It was retouching run amuck and you know the guys who work on movie posters are pros as well as my heroes so I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and blame it on their clients.  This was totally some exec or producer who kept coming in and saying, "You've got to make them look younger" and the retoucher said, "But sir, it's going to start looking really stupid soon because it looks a little stupid already".  But of course the money talks and you end up not with a couple of good looking hollywood men with some make-up on and their skin cleaned up for zits, but rather something much close to a photo illustration than a photograph.

Here's another one.

Look at Kevin James'  neck, and don't get me started on either of their foreheads.  Are these guys supposed to be in college? You know they don't look like this in the movie, so why not make them look like well groomed actors, which I'm sure they are.  Do a little work to clean it up, but don't sandblast them.

Speaking of sandblasting, take a look at this poster for the new season of White Collar.

I watch this show, so I know what this guy really looks like.  And you know what?  He's one of the better looking people I've ever seen.  He doesn't need the help guys, and he certainly doesn't need to look like this. This is such awful retouching that it's a bit embarrassing. Back when you don't know what you're doing so you just create a new layer, blur the shit out of it and then paint it in with a mask, THAT is what this looks like. It looks like what I would do if I only had 15 seconds before the bomb went off.  I hope that I speak for all of us when I say that we'd much rather see the real person.

I guess the main point is that ideally, pictures shouldn't LOOK like they've been retouched.  The best people's work, and the goal that I aspire to, doesn't look like it was touched at all. I'm ok with idealizing reality in photographs. Just don't make it look unreal or it looks incredibly stupid.  The pendulum as swung way too far in the other direction and the people who make decisions really need to know when to stop because they're overcooking stuff way too much.  Ok rant over, you can all go back to your lives. Thanks.