Photographers don’t see real skin

 In For Photographers

Clients’ real skin is something photographers are not used to seeing any longer. Many of us believes that the real skin is the post processed one, the one that is free from imperfections. Alas, that is not the real skin. Real skin is not the one we see in magazine and adverts, and we should publicly do some “mea culpa” for fostering this deception of real skin.
In a previous post we wrote about The Curse of Photoshop, and the more we have the possibility to speak to our peers, the more we realise that photographers don’t see real skin. They photograph with retouching in mind. I say “they“, as we are trying our best to focus on what is real.
We are writing this blog post today to challenge your sense of art. We are writing to give you some insight on providing your clients realistic photographs, fulfilling realising expectations.

Plastic Fantastic is Cheap (but not real skin)

The easiest and fastest way of retouching skin, is to make it look plasticky. We call it “plastic fantastic” and there is nothing further from real skin than that. Blurring, capturing details that ought to remain sharp in the whole, and making it look with a glowing halo is not real skin, is just bad retouching.
The more you spend in post production, the better result you can get; however, you won’t produce real skin. You will produce well retouched photographs, but not real skin.

Post production and real skin

Is there good post production and bad post production while discussing real skin? Well, that’s hard to say. In theory no, there is not, there is real skin or there is retouched skin. I still think that there is a good middle way in things, and that generalising is never the best way to go. Real skin may contain some temporary imperfections which are not feature of the person we are photographing. Shall we divide a pimple popped up the morning of the session from a mole? Is a permanent scar any different from a scratch?
The answer is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This post is about the inability of some photographers to see what’s real, not questioning their sense of style.

Can you see real skin any longer?

I am very much curious to understand if the photography world is able to see this dichotomy between what we see and what we produce. My point is that very few photographers, without keeping photojournalists into account, are nowadays able to see real skin in their work. They all try to create the best final results any longer.
We are so engrossed in the perfect skin, that we have lost the reference of what real skin is. Few weeks ago I noticed a detail in an unretouched image I thought was “not perfect“. The reality is that the real dichotomy is not the real skin/fake skin but it is photographers’ perception/clients’ perception of reality.
Have you ever felt under the spotlight as you thought one of your images showed an imperfection in the skin, while your client did not even noticed it?

Makeup and real skin

Something that one of our readers brought up few weeks ago during some comments, was that makeup and skin retouching are in the same group of “altering the real skin“. I am not so documentarist to say that life should always be captured without help. As much as we are using the light to better shape the bodies in front of us, makeup help clients’ skin to show in two dimensions the depth they have in three dimensions.
Would I photograph people without makeup? For certain project yes, I would, for some other no, I would not. I also keep into account the fact that makeup is not just about real skin. It is about that very important time clients can spend with a member of the team before being actually in front of a camera.

Are we part of the “bad industry”

More and more I believe that some photographer are part of that “bad beauty industry” that undermine women’s confidence. Looking at what we do, or how we do things, I am not sure we are doing enough for being “the good guys“.
Our determination for showing our clients a true, beautiful self passes through various level of acceptance. It is not simple and “real skin” is something that is not universally accepted. Yes, certain women wants to see perfect skin and not real skin.
This subject is very complex, both in terms of photographers as well as subjects. What we (photographers) should always remember, is that we should do our best to capture real skin at its most beautiful. We should never mistake real skin for retouched skin. This should teach us to be better photographers, not better retouchers.

We should reset our minds, and in order to do so, re-learn how to appreciate unretouched images, where real skin, with its imperfections, is still beautiful, being unapologetic for its imperfect beauty.

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Showing 3 comments
  • maleghast

    I completely understand where you are coming from about this, my friend. I have an ongoing policy of not “cleaning up” skin imperfections in the work I do for myself, for my own creativity, and I think that’s something that I will continue sticking to.

  • maleghast

    By the way, the images that you posted with this piece are spectacular – bravo!

    • Carlo Nicora

      Thanks a lot (for both comments).
      The person in these photos was photographed “as is” and no retouching was used in any way! :)

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