Please note: I’ll be saying some things about how people use Photoshop (or other tools like it) to change how someone looks. If you’re a digital artist, I’m not talking about you. If you read carefully I hope you notice I’m talking about making people look like unachievable beings, I’m not having a go at your art!

Easy when you work with such beautiful models

I hear that a lot: “oh it’s so easy you work with such beautiful models”. Well let me tell you, you don’t know them. Yes you are right, they ARE beautiful, but you don’t know what they go through in their heads. Well, I don’t know either. But I can assure most of them don’t think they are beautiful.

And that’s what this post is about.

I believe this one is more for all women out there than it is for photographers, but I do believe everyone should think about these things.

This is also the post where I finally catch up with where I am now. And helping women realise they are beautiful just the way they are is something I care about very much so brace yourself for a very long post.

If you would like to support me while I take the time to write this story and other types of blog posts, please consider purchasing my LR Presets, C1 Styles or PS Actions, following the links below:

Photographers are learning everything wrong

Model: Bec CookPhotographer: Bruno DominguesHMUA: K:atrina BurgessAssistant: Lesley Spinks

You get yourself an entry level camera and MAYBE (if you did some research) a nifty fifty. You go to YouTube to watch some of the endless free photography channels out there. And now you are a photographer.

Don’t try to kill me just yet! I’m not criticising you, I did that myself! That’s how I started.

I was lucky though that I realised early enough that it wasn’t really working. Yes I was taking some pretty pictures outdoors with even light and pretty people. Then coming home to download the photos and edit the hell out of them.

See, I learned how to retouch before I ever photographed a human.

Ok but why is it so bad to learn from free YouTube videos? Well, if you don’t have a good base first, you don’t know how to filter the information you are receiving. Yes of course there are some great educational videos for free on YouTube, but there are also the bad ones, and because they usually say the same thing, if you don’t know the basics, you’ll take that as the right way to do things. So many videos saying the same thing can’t be wrong, right??

They are though. They are teaching you the easy way.

And I will just list the ONE example that everyone will understand: overcast days are best.

If you haven’t heard that one, maybe skip to the next bit!

Of course you can shoot on a overcast day and get great results, but what they are teaching out there is that when it’s cloudy, the light is soft and easier to shoot with! But what I see this creating is boring or bad light. Yes it is soft and even light, but you can go around your model 360 degrees and the light doesn’t change. Also, because most of the light is coming from above, it’s not pleasing, until you learn how to control that boring light.

The photo on the left was taken when I was explaining this exact thing to Jess (sorry Jess!!). It was an overcast day and that shot was taken out in the open. The photo on the right was taken 2 minutes before, but under a tree so I could direct the light better.

Those bags under her eyes on the first photo are MY FAULT (well it would be if it was an actual shot of our shoot, but it was just me proving a point).

Ok but what does all this gotta do with real beauty? Well, if you get a photo like that, with those terrible dark bags under the eyes of someone like Jess, who has no bags under her eyes… you’ll have to “fix” it. Even her tiny pimples – which with good lighting wouldn’t really show – just pop, hey!

I don’t know about you, but if I have to take an image to Photoshop to fix something, no matter how small, I’ll then go through my whole retouching workflow, since I’m already there and my file has been converted to PSD or TIFF or whatever format you prefer. So then there’s a lot of Dodging & Burning, Frequency Separation and so on.

And if I go through my whole workflow, I might over retouch. And then I’m part of the problem.

We’re not our pimples

Model: Isobella McShane

Of course going there and removing a pimple or a fly from an image is not wrong!

The problem is the over use of the tools, not the tools themselves!

Models – and everyone really – will have skin breakouts the night before a shoot, it’s normal. Removing a pimple is one thing, making someone look like plastic is another. Don’t even get me started on changing people’s body shapes!

Using the tools to remove unwanted things from a photo is perfectly fine, dodging & burning to resolve little lighting issues, it’s all good! But unfortunately what are seeing is unachievable ideas of how women should look like!

You’ve been lied to

Model: Ali Gordon HMUA: Meisha Demears Assistant: Morgan Carew

Have you seriously met anyone with skin like that? I shot this with some friends but the retouching is not mine. I was already starting to refuse to retouch like that. I understand when shooting this kind of stuff, that’s the way to go, but it’s not a market I’m aiming at and the time it takes to get an image looking like that…

But yes, that’s what we’re used to see. It was first in advertising and now, EVERYWHERE. It’s so easy to do that to your own face with phone apps now it became norm. You would never take a selfie and post it online without taking the photo through Facetune or whatever app is the hit at the moment.

So before it was brands lying to you, not it’s everyone, including yourself.

A BTS shot of the image above, can you see the difference?

Photographing real everyday people

Tahlea E, Actress, Agency888

The beautiful woman in the photo above is Tahlea, she’s an actress with Agency888. I’ll not tell you her age (a gentleman never asks – but I know because it’s information I need when shooting actors headshots).

Now look at that photo! Why would I bring this image to Photoshop???

Part of what I learned when studying actors headshots online with free tutorials was retouching: smooth the skin out a bit, liquify this or that, make the eyes pop a bit more, and so one. It wasn’t until I actually started shooting actors headshots for a living that I realised how wrong I was.

Imagine you’re a casting director looking for an actor. You see someone’s headshot and like what you see. You ask that actor to come for an audition and when he/she arrives, he/she looks completely different from the photo you saw and liked.

I’ve been with Agency888 and Movie Extras Club since September 2017 and their actors and extras have been on set more than they used to be! That’s because the casting directors now know the photos they see are a real representation of that person, not an over edited version of someone.

I rest my case.

The truth shall make you free

Model: Belinda Morgan Client: Active Truth

Heartless retouching should not be the chosen tool to represent women in the beginning of this century. – PETER LINDBERGH

One thing I’ve been looking for is to have brands hire me for their e-commerce and lifestyle shoots. It’s not something easy to find these days.

Active Truth, an awesome brand from Brisbane, makes activewear for women of all shapes and sizes. So of course they don’t want their photos retouched!

One of the co-founders happens to get her hair done by my amazing friend Candace, and when she mentioned to Candace they were looking for a photographer that wouldn’t retouch their photos, Candace referred them to me and now I shoot for them!

Model: Candace Shafell

So yes, I got my interview with Active Truth because I am getting known as someone who’s trying to show the truth through my photos!

A photographer’s responsibility

If photographers are responsible for creating or reflecting an image of women in society, then, I must say, there is only one way for the future, and this is to define women as strong and independent. This should be the responsibility of photographers today: to free women, and finally everyone, from the terror of youth and perfection. – Peter Lindbergh

Every time you overdo the makeup for a shoot; every time you go to Photoshop and make someone’s skin look perfect; every time you you go to Photoshop and make someone looks slimmer…

I’m not saying I don’t do it some times. I’m a full time photographer, I’ll do what my clients pay me to do! But to be completely honest, when a client asks me to “Photoshop” this, “Photoshop” that, even though I charge extra for that and it means I would be making more money, I try to talk them out of it.

A big part of my job when doing photoshoots for women who want to feel good about themselves, it’s to make them feel about themselves THE WAY THEY ARE, not a fake version of them.

We all need to stand for something and pick our fights, and I do understand it’s too early in my career to be picking THIS PARTICULAR fight. But if I go follow the easy path, I’ll just be the same as everyone else and, I believe, part of the problem!

You ARE beautiful

Model: Ally J Wilkinson, natural light, absolutely no makeup and no “Photoshop”

No, I’m not asking you to stop wearing makeup and feeling good about yourself or anything like that. All I want is for everyone to understand that everything we see now is not real. We follow people on Instagram with perfect lives, but they’re not real. We see all these people that look so perfect, but they don’t.

Just remember you are beautiful the way you are. You are you because of your flaws, small or big.

And for all the photographers out there, please remember all these things when you’re editing your photos. Don’t be part of the problem just because it’s what everyone else is doing!

A gallery for you

I’ll leave you with a gallery with a few 100% Photoshop free photos.