I once read an interview with one of my favorite photographers – Peter Lindbergh – who said that “By the time [a lot of mainstream photographers] are done [editing], the models don’t have any trace of themselves left. This thing about looking young with no wrinkles or expression is all so boring really.” It got me re-evaluating what I do and take another look at my own retouched portraits. To be honest, I’m embarrassed about most images I retouched back when I first started. I utilized Portrait Pro heavily and people pretty much looked plasticky and awful by the time I was done.
I have now mostly moved away from using any kind of filters or presets and I think I understand Photoshop to some degree. The thing is, retouching portraits and have them still look natural is ridiculously hard. For some reason, especially with portraits in the sadly uncontrollable natural light, people tend to get many extra wrinkles that I normally do not see on them, and in the editing process I have to try to figure out which wrinkles to leave and which to eliminate while still keeping the person’s expression natural and not have them look too much younger or older than they do in reality. It’s amazing how eliminating one “wrong” wrinkle can change an individual’s expression to something really odd and forgetting to dodge certain areas in the the face can add years to their looks. Anyway, I am clearly still trying to perfect my editing skills and it’s a continuing learning process, but at least I feel like I’m improving, although at this point it takes me hours and hours of minuscule detail editing before I’m ok with the result.
The below portrait of my sister is by no means a masterpiece, but I do really like it. I think she looks more or less like her natural beautiful self. Or should I say that this is how I see her, which is a little bit different than how my camera saw her that day. I do hope that nobody who knows her would guess that I spent about three hours last night perfecting the photograph millimeter by millimeter taking care not to change or take away anything that makes her face hers.
(100mm, ISO 100, f/3.2, 1/250 sec)