How extensively are professional magazine photos retouched?
November 22, 2006 12:33 PM   Subscribe

How extensively are professional modeling photos retouched (i.e., those in Vogue and similar publications)? I've heard that this is a common practice, but I'm curious as to how much the photos are altered from the original image. Was this possible before the advent of Photoshop?
posted by zembla3 to Computers & Internet (23 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite



posted by kensanway at 12:39 PM on November 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure if this is indicative of every photograph, necessarily, but it is an interesting clip of Photoshopping: YouTube Dove commercial.
posted by theredpen at 12:40 PM on November 22, 2006

This territory is well worn. The short answer is that they are extensively retouched (you can walk through retouching of a number of photos here. And yes, they did it before the advent of photo shop using airbrushes & more.
posted by Good Brain at 12:42 PM on November 22, 2006

I once saw an item on TV about the photoshopping which goes on in magazines.

An eating-disorder clinic took anorexic and bulemic young women on a tour of the magazine's production office and had a guy explain to them that yes, every single image they see has been altered.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 12:44 PM on November 22, 2006

I have a great youtube video for you to watch: Dove's Evolution.

The answer, is a lot. I don't have exact numbers. Probably even most of the time.

The Katie Couric photo re-touch was a good example, because she didn't even know it was going to be done.

And fluideffect's webpage is definitely worth checking out. Click on "Portfolio," then click "accept" then click on "before/after," then follow the instructions.
posted by Amizu at 12:47 PM on November 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

There's a really interesting flash animation that takes you step by step through the whole process of retouching. The differences are dramatic.
posted by DrSkrud at 1:09 PM on November 22, 2006

Not only are photos for magazines and adverts extensively retouched, but movies and even TV is retouched too. I have seen the showreel of a Henry operator (its like photoshop but for moving images), and they retouch an incredible amount of stuff. In music videos, singers will have their face and skin retouched, plus waist/hips shrunk and boobs inflated. On TV, female presenters will sometimes get the same treatment (especially anything music industry related). In movies, extreme close-up shots of famous actresses routinely get their skin smoothed out, made more luminescent etc. Women get made to look younger, thinner and prettier as a matter of course. Its really everywhere, the camera does lie!
posted by Joh at 1:11 PM on November 22, 2006

I'd say "always." I personally have cleaned up bikini lines, altered breast sizes, skin tone and nose curvature, and done a lot of other similar work. I don't think I've ever released a photo of a human being that hasn't been retouched.

There were ways of doing it before Macs became the powerhouses they are now, usually involving an airbrush or a stripper (not that kind) who was a genius with visualizing final product by looking at four process color negatives.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 1:13 PM on November 22, 2006

If you don't have any need to sleep tonight, check out Becky Carter's site of pageant little girls.
posted by loiseau at 2:25 PM on November 22, 2006

Apparently fashion magazines are not the only ones who use photo retouching.

posted by suki at 2:26 PM on November 22, 2006

Why stars really hate the paparazzi
posted by rob511 at 2:29 PM on November 22, 2006

loiseau - Wow. That was...chilling.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 2:31 PM on November 22, 2006

Check out this one. That's a different child altogether, the "artist" even replaced the girl's mouth (thus removing the cutest and most unique thing about the kid).
posted by arcticwoman at 4:48 PM on November 22, 2006

How does one find someone who will do this via email, and what would they normally charge?

Also, Jamie Lee curtis has an example of this online somewhere, and youtube has a spot called something like "dove real beauty" that is pretty impressive.
posted by mecran01 at 5:02 PM on November 22, 2006

Yikes! If I were this "photographer" or "retouch artist" or whatever, I'd be bloody embarrassed. I'd certainly not have a web page showcasing my inept, dubious achievements.

The above needs an exorcism. I'm scared.
posted by Savannah at 8:05 PM on November 22, 2006

A lot of the time, if you know what can be done, it's possible to see the Photoshopping. And if five ads out of ten have retouched models, the other five have to retouch as well.

mecran01, I'm not sure you're going to find a professional willing to do this by e-mail. Professional Photoshoppers get paid a lot, and usually don't need to go looking for side jobs. You might find a full-time freelancer, but what most people want -- old family photos unscratched/despeckled, for example, or a pimple taken off a prom photo -- can be handled with no problem by a student (like me, cough cough).
posted by booksandlibretti at 8:32 PM on November 22, 2006

The artist here will do it for $40-$60 a photo. Whether or not you would call it professional work though, is questionable.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:39 PM on November 22, 2006

The addition of "Doll Eyes" to the pageant photos scares the living bejeezus out of me. seriously.
posted by spinturtle at 9:11 PM on November 22, 2006

Agreed, those doll eyes are simply chilling. I've never seen those before, if they're de rigeur on the child-pageant circuit, then we should all be very, very afraid.

I'm not sure that they are very good examples of the retoucher's art though, because they're so obvious. The more interesting retouching jobs are the ones -- like most swimsuit models -- that look plausible enough that people don't notice that they've been retouched, or don't think about it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:42 PM on November 22, 2006

i'm a full time retoucher. not for movie stars or beautiful people, i work for a real estate magazine. Every agent mugshot that has enough pixels to work with [we get a lot of 100 pixel wide images sent in] gets touched up, but it is for more practical purposes like getting it to print correctly.

(the pictures of houses get touched up as well, power lines look bad in print)

Most of the time it is just a matter of repairing the damage done by whomever took the picture so the agent looks human. Normal magazine retouching is many times more intensive...look closely at magazines and catalogs and you can find cloned backgrounds, replaced body parts, all sorts of stuff.
posted by th3ph17 at 10:35 PM on November 22, 2006

Was this possible before the advent of Photoshop?

Of course it was. In fact many of the Photoshop widgets (e.g. dodge and burn) were named after and designed to mimic the darkroom techniques that were in widespread use before computers even existed.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:05 PM on November 22, 2006

Back in this thread, Effigy2000 posted a link to this before-and after picture of Nikki Webster. I think that's as good an example as I've ever seen of the sheer amount of work that gets done.
posted by Pinback at 11:19 PM on November 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

being an advertising art director, I can assure you that no shoot "is just good enough" coming out of the camera. we always retouch, fixing colors, perspective, proportions and whatnot else.

I personally refuse to work on make-up accounts because clients make you go through retouching hell. they will spot every single color and you will spend six months matching and altering a damn lipstick print ad. (well, actually the retouchers do. an art director supervises the process.) it's pure torture and no matter what people working on it get paid, they should get double. or half, depending on your point of view.

retouching is frowned upon in photo journalism - at least when it involves altering situations. anything else you should expect little to no resemblance to reality.
posted by krautland at 11:21 PM on November 22, 2006

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