Retouching Gone Wild
Photoshop gets a bad rap among the general population because of magazine editors who take their enhancements to the extreme. It's true that you CAN use it to alter body shapes, enlarge or shrink features, remove imperfections, and much more. In my opinion, that's pretty messed up. Isn't the point of a photograph to capture realistic, natural insight to a person, place, thing, or experience? If that image is altered to an extreme, it's no longer genuine. You may as well have a painting; it is crafted, not captured. Now, if the intent of the shoot is a conceptual piece, something that's not intended to represent reality, Photoshop is an incredible and almost limitless tool for artists that allows them to create work to stretch the imagination to gorgeous new places. This is not the intent, however, with portrait photography, especially for a market of everyday people to display in their homes.
So here's what may or may not be a shocker considering my previously expressed ideas- I still use Photoshop techniques to enhance every one of my images for a client gallery. There is such a thing as middle ground when it comes to retouching! I believe it's what can take a good photo and make it stunning. It's part of the difference between snapping a photo with a nice point-and-shoot camera and your professional photo session. It's the extra mile that your photographer takes to take your images to the next level while still maintaining the personal nuances that give us character and make us real! It's what allows you to celebrate the image itself and the emotion within it, rather than focusing on those stray hairs or a stubborn zit. It can be as simple as adding a color effect or changing the hue of the lighting.
When it comes to photoshopping, a little can go a long way to making your images pop. It certainly takes skill to manipulate entire images, bodies, backgrounds, and props, but it takes a different kind of skill to recognize the line and make subtle, natural adjustments to delight clients without altering (too much) of reality.