Saturday, August 20, 2011

Photos Not Re-Touched

“Is that really you?”

No, it’s a pixelated image of me.

Recently, I was thinking about how I need to do another photo shoot since the pictures I’m using are way past the one year mark. (It’s been one and a half years to be exact.) That brought to mind an exchange that took place when I had the old ones taken. I’d decided (during a brief period of insanity) to reenter the online dating arena and, having been dissatisfied with my earlier makeup-less pics taken with my point-and-click digital camera, wanted something more professional looking.

I scheduled an appointment with a local photographer (who has a great report with his clients, btw), and let his stylist do whatever with my face. Looking back, I know I should’ve spent more time prepping (primping). And something appears to have gone wrong the either the makeup or the lighting. But all in all, the results were satisfactory. I was happy with photos, and everyone I showed them too loved them.

That said, I was still advised to have them re-touched. As I sat at a computer looking at the dozen or so photographs, the retoucher guy was telling me about all the changes “we” should make. I was a bit taken back by this. It wasn’t as though the idea was new to me. I’d “photoshopped” an image or two to because of red-eye or poor lighting. But manipulating a photo to hide physical blemishes and imperfections seemed like overkill.

I’m not a professional model whose only purpose is to sell something. I’m a real person who’s keenly aware of what goes on on dating sites. Everyone has a tale about meeting someone who didn’t look like his or her picture, either because it was an old one or a fraud. Maybe I was paranoid, but it seemed dishonest to paint myself a flat tummy when I not motivated enough to make it a reality.

Twelve years ago, I sat in a class on the history of jazz music. The professor talked about the one-shot recordings. In the 1920s, bands like Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five didn’t have the luxury of cutting and pasting their six best takes, and rerecording was expensive. So the listener is treated to what amounts to a live performance, flaws and all. But we tend to love the genuineness of those early recording…sort of like the old movie swordfights: real skill, no special effects to make people look cooler than they really are.

But wait! Don’t makeup, hair dye, and undergarments of steel create an ideal that will never materialize? Can’t clothing, lighting, and well-selected camera angles hide flaws anyway? Where do we draw the line? It’s impossible to second guess anyone browsing your profile. Who knows what will offend someone.

On the other hand, do guys ever even notice?


  1. I'll retouch images, especially portraits, but the degree to which blemishes, etc., are removed is probably subjective. I suppose the end application also dictates how much retouching is done. Retouching for a dating site? Hmmm, that does seem to be contrary to the idea of presenting yourself as you are.

    Interesting connection to the one-shot recordings. In general, I think that much of pop music has gone the "retouching" route. Many of the early rock bands were, essentially, garage bands and learned how to play "one-shot".

  2. Rusty: Maybe it wouldn't matter since it seems like everyone now assumes that everyone else is lying on their profile. Really, I'm not surprised that matchmakers and other human services have experienced a boom in business over the recent years.

  3. I think removing blemishes might cross the line because one can't hide their face forever from their spouse. I guess makeup does hide blemishes but at least he k nows you're wearing makeup lol..the retouching part, not really. I hope online dating works out for you :)

  4. LOL Nope, it didn't work out the third time around either...I've given it up completely.

  5. third time do you mean the online dating? i thought you were trying to re-enter the scene :)

  6. Sorry, it wasn't clear. I entered it a third time about a year and a half ago. That's when I got the pictures taken. It was unfruitful. Right now, I'm thinking about getting a new set of pictures, but not for online dating. Just to have an updated profile picture for Facebook, etc.

  7. [At least some] guys definitely notice, but blemish touch-up in photos is totally fine. If a picture is you, it's you, and photo touch-up just says (to me and a lot of other people) that you care about your appearance and that's a good thing for most guys. That's different from the famous LOL pictures taken very carefully to completely defraud the viewer. E.g., don't swap faces with someone else. :)

    Just my .02

  8. I'm not sure where I'd lean on the issue now, but then I was just taken back by the suggestion.

  9. Yikesy. What's to retouch? You're gorgeous.

  10. Aww...Thanks. Apparently, the retouch guy thought there was more than a hundred dollars worth needed. I'm reminded of a line in The September Issue that Vogue's Creative Director Grace Coddington says in protest to Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour's order that the photographed cameraman's belly should be edited out of a really cute picture: "It's enough that the models are perfect."

  11. I think guys do not notice blemishes on photos on internet dating at all...
    I would love to see you do a post on your cousin and link it to Pondering with a Purpose!

  12. Oh, thanks. I'll probably post something when the baby's born.


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