When it comes to portraits and headshots, post-processing and retouching are often hotly debated topics. Some prefer their portraits straight out of camera with little to no retouching or post-processing while others retouch extensively. We have all seen those before and after post where a number of people will state that they like the before photo better. Often this is a result of over-processing and giving the model a plastic or unrealistic look.
So the question is just how much retouching and post-processing should we do? Personally I am not sure there is a simple answer to this question. I think it all depends on artistic purpose and artistic vision. What as a photographer am I trying to accomplish? Do I want a historically accurate, documentary depiction of the person with all their flaws and blemishes? Well if this is the case then there will be very little post processing except for some minor adjustments to the RAW file for exposure and maybe contrast. And of course there is the middle ground where I am just going to remove that unsightly pimple, the cold sore on the lip, or the odd fly away hair. But on the other hand what if I want to accentuate the person’s personality by highlighting those flaws and blemishes by adding clarity, and sharpness to the image? What if I want to suggest in the image the hard life that they have experienced? I might add graininess and convert to black and white to highlight the worn texture of their faces. Now we are not just taking photographs, we are making photographs!
I think part of it is a matter of style. What type of style do I want for my portraits and headshots? Am I taking headshots for corporate purposes or am I trying to create a fine art portrait that hopefully will reflect the client’s personality and reveal to the viewer who that person is? I want people to come to me for portraits because they like the style of my photographs. This can be lighting style, or post-processing and retouching style. I want people to recognize my style. So what is style in portraiture? That will be the topic of my next post.