How much touch up is too much

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by pezdaddy, Jun 12, 2014.

  1. pezdaddy, Jun 12, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2014

    pezdaddy macrumors member

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    #1
    I was recently asked to take some photo of my brother and sister in law at the park. As I was going through the pictures, I noticed that my sister-in-law had acne around her chin. So, using spot removal I edited it all out as well as softened her skin in the close ups.

    My wife says I shouldn't have done that since that's "not how she looks". My counter argument was it's still her, just without acne.

    I think I was on the right track but welcome feedback. How much touch up is too much?
     
  2. nburwell macrumors 68040

    nburwell

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    #2
    I think you're okay in doing what you did. Even though I really don't photograph people, the few times that I have done so, I have removed minor flaws suchs as pimples or acne. I believe it's when photographers smooth out skin a little too much that the subject looks "plastic" and make people thinner than they really are is when they go overboard.
     
  3. VI™ macrumors 6502a

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    #3
    It really depends on the purpose of a photo. I have one I'm working on of a model I did at a casual shoot the other night. So far I've removed blemishes and most all moles that are visible. Then I'm going to hit it with a bit of skin smoothing, but nothing overkill. I'll sharpen the other features a little bit and make the eyes pop and do maybe a few other things. It may sound like a lot but for a basic model shoot, it's not.

    I'm going to be shooting a pin-up calendar over the course of the summer. Those girls are going to get the works and have nearly perfect Barbie skin. It's the style that we're going for and it will definitely be over the top.

    When I shoot portraits of people that are more family oriented and not model shoots, I at least remove the blemishes and acne if it's visible. I don't go too overboard with those though.
     
  4. Small White Car macrumors G4

    Small White Car

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    #4
    Yeah.

    If you're working for a newspaper doing that would get you fired.

    If you're a wedding photographer not doing it would get you fired.

    But obviously you're neither so I'd say ask the subject what she wants.



    For what it's worth, when I have to deal with bad acne I tend to erase about 1/3 of the pimples. I feel this still shows the subject somewhat realistically, but in a softened way. I like the general concept of realism but I also carry a flash with me. Nothing "real" about that, is there?

    Remember, photography is never reality. Simply by choosing a lens you've already decided to alter how the viewer sees the subject. That's just the first step in dozens of choices you'll make for just a single photo. Hell, I can make a beautiful woman look worse just by lowering the camera 18 inches so her jawline dominates the shot. People dump on Photoshop a lot but it's really just one more tool on top of the hundreds photographers already had to choose from.
     
  5. pezdaddy thread starter macrumors member

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    #5
    Thank's for the feedback. That's where I'm at. Remove the obvious. On any other day, the acne probably wouldn't be there, so why keep it in a permanent picture, right? My goal is to not make it obvious I did something. So, minor blemishes are fair game if they improve the overall look of the photo.

    On skin softening you can definitely go "too soft" and get the plastic look.
     
  6. Small White Car macrumors G4

    Small White Car

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    #6
    This is an excellent point. Although I would erase acne I would never ever touch a mole or birth mark.

    Hadn't really thought about it in words, but you've explained why perfectly.
     
  7. pezdaddy thread starter macrumors member

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    #7
    Good points to remember. I like how you put it about photography is never reality.
     
  8. themumu macrumors 6502a

    themumu

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    #8
    In case of face and skin touch ups, there is a blurry line where if you retouch too much or improperly, the person starts looking like a doll or CGI character rather than a human. If you don't cross that line, and don't make any dramatic changes, I suppose it's fair game.

    For example, as far as acne is concerned, consider the fact that acne is not a permanent feature on someone's face. It will pass. But if you were to remove a birthmark, or change the shape of the chin, or ears, nose, eyes - that perhaps is okay if you are doing some fashion photography and don't care about the model personally, but I doubt many would want that in their family album.
     
  9. Apple fanboy macrumors Core

    Apple fanboy

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    #9
    Like most photography, the answer is subjective. It depends on the photographer, the model and the intended use of the picture.
    Do you have a before and after shot to post?
     
  10. pezdaddy thread starter macrumors member

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    #10
    I can later tonight. Actually it will be good for me for critique too. My brother in law called me about 2 hours before they wanted the photos taken, and it was an extremely hot day at 5:30 in the afternoon. Light was terrible, heat was terrible, and being a complete amateur (I warned him!), I gave it a go. Could hardly see the LCD screen the sun was so bright so I know my compositions were off in a lot of them. I'm a beginner and even I could tell conditions sucked for great photos.

    Anyway, I'll get up some before and after(s) tonight.
     
  11. Apple fanboy macrumors Core

    Apple fanboy

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    #11
    Okay. I'll keep an eye out after the footie.
     
  12. swordio777 macrumors 6502

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    #12
    You've summed it up perfectly with this line. If it's going to be there when I next meet them then leave it alone. Things like freckles, moles, birth marks, scars all have to stay. They're part of who that person is.

    Other things like pimples, small cuts, shaving rash, and any distracting stray hairs can all be fixed.

    But to answer your original question of "how much is too much", basically if you can tell it's been retouched then it's too much.
    By far the biggest giveaways are skin smoothing, eye whitening, teeth whitening, and skin cloning. With all of these a little goes a long way - it's very easy to overcook it so always err on the side of caution.

    Also, I'd add NEVER to make anyone thinner. You're guaranteed to upset the subject.

    As others have said, it would be helpful to see a before & after.

    Cheers!
     
  13. themumu macrumors 6502a

    themumu

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    #13
    On the same subject, I stumbled into wavelet decomposition / frequency separation as a way to selectively retouch skin imperfections while retaining the desired skin texture intact. This one is a GIMP plugin: http://registry.gimp.org/node/11742 but there are also ways to follow the same process in Photoshop.

    I have actually formally studied some of the mathematical concepts involved in performing image manipulations like this, and it continues to amaze me how complex math can sometimes be used to achieve such fine results that look so "natural" to a human eye. Math is not hard, math is fun!
     
  14. Meister Suspended

    Meister

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    #14
    Removing acne from the face in a portrait is expected imo.
    Never met anyone who wanted his acne to be visible.
     
  15. pezdaddy thread starter macrumors member

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    #15
    Here is one before and after. As mentioned earlier, I'm very new to the DSLR. I've only had it since Christmas, so about 6 months. Canon SL1, kit lens. These particular photos were edited in Lightroom. I had been using Aperture since getting the DSLR but recently wanted to try Lightroom. Trying to get better, so I welcome any critiques, please. You won't hurt my feelings - I need the feedback.

    Should have added, this was shot in RAW, in case anybody is wondering. One more thing, is there a tutorial on positing from flickr? Not sure I did it right. I've noticed that other photos that people post have the name below them usually, like the title of the photo for example.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  16. snberk103 macrumors 603

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    #16
    In terms of the acne and cleaning up her face, I think you're find. As others have said.. it also depends on 'why' you are taking the photo. This isn't for the papers, so you have some room here.

    Lots of good advice above. I will just add that viewers tend to look at a photo of a face differently than looking at the face in reality. Once you get old enough you aren't looking for reasons to bully or tease someone, you generally tend to ignore the minor facial blemishes when looking at someone. It's a brain thing. But when you look at a photograph you aren't looking at a face, you are looking at a piece of paper and you notice things … everything. We look at a piece of paper/photograph much more carefully than we look at a face.

    The trick is to clean up a photograph so that it resembles what we think we saw when we looked at a face. Photographers of course tend to be the exception to the rule because we train ourselves to look at our subject critically.

    Of course the most critical observer is the subject themselves. One of the tricks of the trade is to present them with their photograph with their friends/family around. Often your subject will initially look for - and find - the flaws in their face that they already know are there from looking in the mirror. Their friends/family will then point out all the other good things about the photograph that are there.
     
  17. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

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    #17
    If it is just acne, the question is - are there days where she doesn't have acne. If that exists, then nothing wrong with making her look her "natural best." On the other hand, if she has scarring and pock marks, I personally would do nothing more than softening it a bit so it is not as distracting but is accurate none the less.

    Family photos are a tough one to do without getting some people fretting. I also do similar for bags under the eyes - if the person always has bags, then just softening them a bit is fine but removal is very unnatural. If the person usually doesn't have bags, then removal is not as serious a "photo crime" as some might suggest.
     
  18. Apple fanboy macrumors Core

    Apple fanboy

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    #18
    From a editing point of view, I don't think you have gone to far. She doesn't look unnatural or fake.

    From a critique point of view I would ask your subject to remove their glasses as neither of the people are making eye contact with the camera. The eyes are what make or break a picture IMO. I also think you have tweaked the exposure a little too high. The highlights on her shoulder etc are a little blown.
     
  19. pezdaddy thread starter macrumors member

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    #19
    Thank you! Didn't pick up on that, but see it now. Appreciate the critique. Composition wise, how is that? Not totally blaming the sun, but it was a hard day to see all my shots clearly, so I know some of these (like this one, perhaps) could have been better.
     
  20. simsaladimbamba

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    #20
    Sometimes people attach photos to their post, as MR Forums allows that via uploading the image or photo to one of their gazillions of servers, and in that case, you see what you have seen.

     
  21. The Bad Guy macrumors 6502a

    The Bad Guy

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  22. The Bad Guy macrumors 6502a

    The Bad Guy

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  23. Arran macrumors 68040

    Arran

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    #23
    Depends on whether you wanted something highly stylized or not.

    For a graduation picture, it's way too much. For a CD cover, it's brilliant. Give it more!
     
  24. The Bad Guy macrumors 6502a

    The Bad Guy

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    #24
    That's my point. There is no correct answer to this question.

    For what it's worth…she's a long way away from graduation and not going to be on a CD cover any time soon. :p
     
  25. themumu macrumors 6502a

    themumu

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    #25
    The processed hair looks like it's made out of sticky caramel :p
     

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