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Retouching, Do You Do it? Should You Do it? And When Does it Go to Far?



L ast week over my morning coffee on a leisurely day off from work I was watching CNN and they were speaking about the controversy around Jane Fonda’s W cover and the obvious retouching that had been done to the photo. The news anchor commented that Jane Fonda looked like she was 35 in the cover photo, well I do not think she looks like she is thirty five in the photo, but she also does not look like she is seventy seven either. Kudus to her for getting this cover and looking amazing but it does raise the question of when retouching can go to far. And it may be noted that this is not quite what Jane Fonda looks like in life either regardless of what age she appears to be, anyone who watches Grace & Frankie  knows this. So, when exactly does retouching go to far? And is there a difference between applying an Instagram filter and professionally retouching a photo?

I personally do not have a problem with basic retouching, I do not have a problem with polishing up a photo and making an image more presentable: removing a blemish, brightening up under the eyes, removing redness around the nose or softening veins and basic things like that. After all isn’t wearing makeup more or less doing the same thing? I also do not have a problem with plastic surgery as long as it is done correctly, and if the person having it done can afford it, and it makes them feel better about themselves and it is not extreme then why not? Also it should be noted that am image captured by a camera is technically not real. The human eye is much more sophisticated then even the most advanced cameras at registering light. The human was designed to “see” images in 3-D in real time, a camera “captures” an image to save it in a 2-D environment. [blockquote]After all isn’t wearing makeup more or less doing the same thing? Allie of ALLIE NYC[/blockquote]Because the camera must compensate for it’s much less efficient ability to capture light,  it is forced to find a middle ground to correctly “expose” the image. This is why so many people look older in photographs. Because the camera is finding this middle ground, shadows are often more extreme looking in a photo then what the human eye will see when looking at an actual face in person.  So of course the area under the eyes, and any lines or indentations in the face will read as more extreme. So the question begs what reality is the camera really capturing? I remember when I was working at bridal magazine and I was doing a layout of some professionally shot photos of our IT mangers wedding photos. I noticed that his wife looked a bit older then he did. Well a number of months later she stopped by the office and I was so surprised at how much younger and prettier she looked in person. She just looked very different in her photos—her face looked longer and she looked about a decade older then she did in person. So again, which is the reality?

But retouching an image to the point that the person looks three decades younger or like a completely different person is another story. And it may be noted that this issue always seems to revolve around women. How come we never speak about the controversy of a retouched photo of a man? In this photo from the website Howtobearedhead.com a young women with freckles was shot by photographer Shelby Tsuji in which she had half her face heavily made up and the other half left with out makeup. The model in the photo spoke about how she felt growing up as a redhead with freckles and how she felt less beautiful. So is this when retouching goes to far? When people feel that they have to look a certain way? And the funny thing is, this photo was not even about retouching but the use of makeup or the covering up of perceived flaws . So what do you think? How far is too far? And if everyone wants to look their best is a little filtering or retouching OK?


  1. I do not have a problem with retouching a few items to make the images stand out like acne a scar or dark circle like you said but I agree when retouching an older woman to look extremely young when she is not or having stars look so fit and in real life they not is ridiculous. Is like saying real people are not accepted in this world great post. Happy Memorial

  2. Hi Allie, this a beautiful picture, I believe that some retouching is ok, but not looking three decades younger not even 5 years younger, I like Jane fonda, and she does look fabulous for her age.
    This was a very interesting post! xx
    Glamoury Armory Blog

  3. I think it’s okay to retouching some imperfections , for example red spots, but it is too much to retouch everything or make you a compley different person. 🙂


  4. I don’t actually know how to get rid of acne and scars in photos, so I just do my best with makeup (which, in a way, is a sort of re-touching). I also use image editing for lighting, but nothing that changes the way my face looks.

  5. I have nothing against retouching a picture to make it look more polished, I personally don’t do it much because I don’t like it and you’ll see my less than perfect skin in some of my pictures but I also understand some people prefer not to show blemishes and stuff. It doesn’t bother me. The only touch up I do is lightening and a touch of contrast due to bad lighting.

    I am however against retouching a picture to the point it’s different; the looks and colours are different and the shapes have changed. For me that’s trickery and a veil of lies which I am not fan of. I have quit following a few blogs due to this too. The lipstick shades or blushers look completely different from the real products and that’s just a step too far and it confuses readers.

    Shireen | Reflection of Sanity

  6. I used to oversee retouching for advertising in my last job and not going overboard was key. I’m okay with basic fixes but once you start changing what the person looks like, it’s just not cool. Don’t even get me started on normal sized bloggers who habitually photoshop themselves to anorexia like We Wore What. I don’t get the point of that.

  7. I think basic retouching is fine, but when you alter the person so much that they no longer look like themselves, I think the picture has no value. Jane Fonda is the oldest woman on the cover of W, but whatever point they were trying to make about age was lost when she was retouched to look so much younger.

  8. Retouching to me only poses a problem when consumers (women and young girls) feel they have hold themselves to impossible standards of beauty because they really think that models, actresses and singers look as perfect as they do on magazine colors and pictures in real life. Everything is touched up in pictures these days even to the point where people are made to look thinner then they really are. That’s when I have a problem with it. Great post girl! Happy Memorial Day!

    www. dressed2dnines.com

  9. I feel like a little touch up is okay for things like a spot but not when it comes to changing how you look.

  10. Nice post.


  11. I agree with you, I usually only touch up on a few things like scars and red spots. But yea, it’s too far when the person looks completely different like in the photo you showed! So crazy what Photoshop can do!


  12. It’s so crazy but I do understand why they do it in the magazines. It’s perfection but perfection doesn’t excist in real life right..


  13. It’s ok to do some edits but not to show a person completely different in my opinion.
    Stella from a A Shiny Place

  14. Totally agree- a little retouching is okay, but dramatically changing the way a person looks (altering features, shaving decades off, etc.) is too much. 🙂 Great post, girlfriend!

    Le Stylo Rouge

  15. I do not have a problem with a slight retouch, it’s when you start to look slightly angelic from obsessive blurring.
    We all want to be beautiful, we all want to be liked (see: Instagram), but I think it’s refreshing when you truly see somebody happy in their own skin. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure if I’m 100% there… yet.
    Great post, Allie!

  16. I think a little retouching is ok. Jane Fonda looks great but she doesn’t look 35 maybe 55.

  17. I think we’re all a little guilty of our own Instagram retouching, but I agree, once the shot is looking like an entirely different person it’s gone too far!
    xo Annie
    New England Romance

  18. I don’t have a problem with polishing a photo either, but you’re right sometimes they go to far. When you look unrecognizable, then you need to start over. I’ve seen plenty of magazine covers with faces that look unrecognizable at times and then find out it’s one of the stars I like lol. It’s sad and it has gone to far. Great post Allie.

    Kia / House of KTS (formerly known as Pure & Complex)

  19. I do retouch some of my pictures. I usually try to get rid of redness on my face, and what not. But that’s probably because I don’t usually end up wearing makeup when I’m being photographed.

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