We all want to look good, and that's not a crime. It is this desire that has promoted Photo Editing or Post Processing of photographs as a separate genre of business in the fraternity. And that also emerged a fresh category of composite images. For a creative presentation, it is indeed quite powerful. But when it comes to a human portrait, that’s the point where this debate starts.
Before we start, let's not focus on the following topics:
The software in use. That can be anything.
The skillset of the editor. Let us presume, the best in town.
The makeup artist.
The lighting setup.
The camera gadgets used
The location of the shoot
The sole thing of our discussion is a Human Facial Portrait, which is getting edited. Portrait editing is a known practice, and every fashion photography adopts it. Even after make-up is done, there at times are few elements of disturbance like a small pimple on the face, which may pull down the essence of the photo in comparison to the expected glamour capability of that image. This is often termed as touch up, just like what a make-up artist does.
Removal of spots/pimples
Flatten the eye bags
Enriching the skin tone/texture
Facial hair removal
Few good photo editors actually do the task with utmost efficiency that even tends to push your present-day portrait look a few years younger from actual. But the point is, many of the photo editors suffer from a brake failure in this journey, and goes much beyond to this. The editing tends to change things like
Reducing facial/body plump
In short, an absolute cosmetic surgery on a digital platform, this changes entire identity. Such images when seen for the first time, near and dear ones even pause for a few moments to relate to the actual person they know. Something of this sort...
Are these two images of the same person? With great difficulty and regret, the answer is yes. We pray that such right side images are not used for any online dating app or matrimony site. So, this approach of photo editing gave shape to the act of Morph. We see a lot of funny memes where two celebrity facials are merged to form one; it’s fun to see them. But I am sure, anyone realizing the above image in real will not feel that fun.
Lately, we have been reading and listening to a lot about body shaming. It’s the act of expressing humiliation about another individual's body shape or size. Then, if you start morphing your portrait, indirectly, are you doing a Body-Shaming to yourself?
Let us draw the reference of two plus-size bloggers, Callie Thorpe and Diana Sirokai who shared their experience about how deceiving extreme editing can be with insane photos.
Click on the image to watch their video.
“There is nothing wrong with reality, and all women no matter what their size…it's part of life and we shouldn’t be ashamed of it.”-Callie Thorpe
We urged our friends and members of the VIBGYOR family to share their views on how many edits will they personally agree upon to their images. We collated some wonderful answers.
Abhay Kasture, Mumbai: Portraits are what you are. The image reflects your personality. It can be a mirror image or it should reflect your character. If I hire a photographer, I will let him do his job, will give him all the freedom of creativity and liberty to edits, after all, I am paying for it.
Nikhil Kumar Tulsani, Hyderabad: Don't want to portray me fake with too much editing.
Rupesh C, Mumbai: For me, a little bit of touch up would suffice. Let the camera and photographer do the hard work.
Samrat Biswas, Kolkata: I will prefer only basic Editing. I am okay if those who know me can recognize me and as long as it's not a photo as seen in EPIC or Aadhar card.
Abhijit Sen, Kolkata: Keep it simple with minimum possible retouching. No change of skin blemishes no change of skin color and rest as per minimum possible aesthetics in commensuration with light and background he decided upon.
Srividya R, Kolkata: I will only let the photo editor to the basic editing (no skin retouching or no transforming into celebrity). I want the portrait to reflect the real me with maybe good lights and backgrounds.
Deepak Patel, Mumbai: I am asking him to click what I am, not what I want to be and any photographer should understand this he is supposed to show how I look better (by setting the pov, some makeup, lights or some other way), not modify my look altogether by post-processing.
Joy Banerjee, Kolkata: as far as the edit is concerned I shall see whether it is constructive or destructive first. It’s all about aesthetically pleasing me.
Jayesh O Bhanushali, Mumbai: Mein mein hoon aur koi nahi… should be clear in the mind of the photographer. Strictly no to the transformation. I would allow PP for technical correction (like tilt, exposure, lights, etc) after clicking and for minor corrections to enhance the beauty of photography and me.
Asit Kumar Ghatak, Bally: I can allow him just to enhance the portrait picture by editing as what I am and my personality is, up to that, in any aspect.
Arvind Ahir, Mumbai: PP a bit is ok but in no way would I like to transform my image, coz I am a creation by the creator and would love to be the same.
Krishnendu Sarkar, Kolkata: I'd like him to keep it as original as possible with basic skin retouching, color correction to make it more visually appealing.
Ramesh Balu Salunke, Mumbai: Will stop him only at that point the editing is trying to overlap my identity or my self-image, natural look. Whatever editing has to be done but it has to be me
Suman Roy, Bengaluru: Portrait is a reflection or portrays of my personality which includes my eye and jawline expression with a perfect face angle to take out an inner story. If it will be made for specific occasions (marriage/bday/Exercise advertise etc) then the Attire, Lighting with Mood (Funfilled / serious) must play the game. I can allow edit for lighting correction only.
Giri Sonty, Hyderabad: I would want some corrections to light and exposure but not much more than that. Well if someone wants to look like a celebrity or someone looking for a career in modeling, I'm sure they would want many enhancements. I think it depends on the situation and a need. Is it ethical to do it?
That's...the most important aspect- IS IT ETHICAL?
We have been seeing a lot of unethical photography acts, and this adds up to that vast debate as well. But, its good to see most of our members today feel it's unethical. Bing a narcissist is good, and to be that, love the way you are.
Shall we avoid Post Processing?
Well, we never said that. what we found out, there are layers and variations and extents of it. Post-processing or editing may be broadly classified into the following categories:
1. Re-touching: Enhancing an image by keeping its originality and rectifying a few elementary corrections to aesthetically upgrade the visual impact without distorting the identity. Subhaashini Ghosh from Mumbai shares a good example of this act, where the enhancement has been pushed far beyond to create a drama, but her identity was not hampered. This image was shot at 5 AM, and then the edit was made harsh just to change the timing, to look like a dark night. However, she still looks the same. Her identity is not compromised. Courtesy: Vinay Tripathi
2. Composite/stacking: Joy Banerjee from Kolkata shares one such example, where his portrait is stacked with some tree and birds, and then some artistic filters are applied to form an artistic impression. However, He didn't 't intend to transform his chubby cheeks to a broken jawline.
Composites are a mandate for star trails and other astrophotography genres. There are few competitions in global platform for composite images as well. However, incorporating the technique in other genres of photography is not yet a clean chit acceptance.
3. Morphing: Absolutely a new identity of the same person. Sharing this image across social media will definitely get you innumerable likes and comments overnight. But beware, you are actually making fun of yourself in the backyard.
Adobe Photoshop has released their latest 21.2 version on 16th June 2020, with more enhanced features. That opens up further rooms for enhancing editing acts. But, this is a sincere request to all the photographers and photo editors, not to promote such identity transformation across images, unless its created for a joke and not to be taken seriously. One day digital special feelings may cost this person a lifetime depression in real. Love yourself the way you are, you are beautiful. Let's promote that ideology.
Please write in the comment section, what you have to say in this regard. If you have found any of your known person taking up such an act, share with us, what was your actual reaction seeing that image, and later on after you found that was just edited.
About the author - Indranil Mukherjee
Indranil has always been inclined towards art since childhood. He has learned digital photography from Ram Krishna Mission Vidyamandira, Belur, Howrah. He is one of the proud Founder-member of VIBGYOR, and loves to connect to all like-minded passionates across digital and personal communications, to formulate better promotions and practice of Art. By profession, he is working in an Engineering Company in Mumbai.