Electronic photo retouching is an ever-expanding field. Wherever you look you can see the evidence of this craft. Most of us are familiar to some extend with Adobe Photoshop in some form; as there are many variations of this program available on different platforms. 

The above image was created for one of our client’s fashion website. Rollover the image to see the “before” image.

Before computers and Photoshop, photo-enhancement was done by retouching the actual photograph with ink or paint. Other technique involves in-camera double-exposure, or working with negatives in the darkroom. Do you remember Polaroids? Scratching the surface of Polaroids used to be very popular.

Airbrushes were also used, whence the term “airbrushing” for manipulation. Darkroom manipulations are regarded as traditional art rather than job related skill.

One of the most famous cases of photo tinkering is a photo of Abraham Lincoln from 1860s. It was altered using the picture of the body from a portrait of John C. Calhoun, and the head of Lincoln from a famous seated portrait by Mathew Brady. – wikipedia.org

The photo manipulation industry has often been accused of promoting distorted and unrealistic image of self, most specifically in younger people. The fashion photography is one specific industry, which has been heavily involved with the use of photo manipulation — this is obviously a concern as many people look up to celebrities in search of embodying the ‘ideal figure’.

Everyday you can find extreme cases of photo retouching in any fashion magazine. The ongoing question is: What is too much? If the hair colour is altered, to match the mood of the photograph, that’s one thing. But what if a female body is made much thinner with unrealistically longer legs, to promote a certain type of a body image, is that ethical? Generally we have accepted this practice; but it doesn’t make it right.

But photo retouching is used every day for restoring old photos, removing scratches and dust specs from scans, and also adding saturation to our vacation photos to make the sea and the sky even punchier on our Facebook page.

Adobe Photoshop comes with a large selection of filters and plug-ins to help with such tasks as noise elimination, sharpness, colour saturation, image distortion, and many more. Some cameras also come with several build-in editing tools.

In our business, the graphic design and marketing industry, Photoshop is used daily to edit unwanted elements from a photo or enhance the image in some way. (see the image in this post) One time we did a photo-shoot for our client that involved photography of men in hard hats. The hats had a company logo, but by the time the photos were being used, the company branding has hanged. We had to digitally alter the helmets with the new branding.