Celebrating Beauty versus Objectifying

by Blake Robinson

December 17th, 2013    1 Comment     Add Comment
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Perhaps too much has been said already about over-retouching of images of women in advertising and in the media in general today. But, I wanted to put my two cents into the mix. This video presents the conventional wisdom on the topic pretty well. Please watch it – then come back here!


As a photographer, I agree with a lot of what is said in the video. But, here’s what I’d add:

1) Not All Photoshopping is Bad. We often hear – “Oh, that picture was Photoshopped!” What that really should mean is – “That was Photoshopped to the extreme.” – or “That was Photoshopped to the point where the woman look plastic or unreal.”  – or – worst of all – “That image objectifies women.” All these things are indeed bad in my view. But careful and subtle retouching of an image can add impact and present the woman in a flattering but still realistic way.

In my work, I spend a lot of time editing images in Adobe Lightroom and also Photoshop. With a headshot or portrait of a girl or a woman, I can easily spend an hour or more. The changes are all small and subtle. The goal is to create an image where the client or anyone else viewing it says, “That’s a great portrait!” or even “That’s a beautiful woman!” I’ve failed if I hear “That’s a great Photoshop job.”  (Fortunately, I haven’t heard that one yet!) If the editing and retouching is done right, a viewer isn’t aware of it.

2) Our Perception is different looking at someone in real life versus their photograph. I’ve been doing portraits and fashion photography of women for over six years. Over this time, I’ve come to realize how our perception changes as we go from “live view” to a still image. Let’s say a woman (it could be a man, too, of course!)  has a small blemish on her forehead. We might know this woman well – she’s beautiful and full of life, and has a great smile and engaging personality. It’s likely we’ve never noticed the blemish. It’s just not in our perception when we talk to the woman in real life. Our perception is influenced by her voice, how she moves, her facial expressions, and lots of other things. We’re not likely to notice that small blemish. Now – take a high resolution photograph of her under studio lights, in sharp focus. The blemish may well jump out at you and become distracting. We miss seeing the real woman in the image.

So, I’ll likely take the blemish out. Is this cheating – is it distorting reality? I don’t think so. If fact, I’d argue just the opposite. By taking the blemish out, the photograph will more closely resemble how we would actually perceive the woman in real life. It’s actually a better representation of who she is.

It’s not just how we perceive other people – it’s how we perceive ourselves. When I shoot a woman in the studio, we’ll go over all the images together at the end of the shoot to pick out the best ones to be edited. It often happens that the woman (or man) will say – “I never noticed that – could you fix it?” The answer is invariably: “Yes, absolutely.”

3) The camera adds a few pounds. This is indeed true, for some technical reasons. So, sometimes a very gentle nudge in Photoshop – on a cheek that appears a little too full, for example – is helping to bring the portrait back to a more realistic representation of the person. Not cheating, in my book!

4) Let’s Not Forget to Celebrate Beauty!  In the backlash of the hue and cry against Photoshop, we’re seeing more and more photographs of women that are hyper-realistic, harshly lit, warts-and-all pictures. This is not for me.

I want to celebrate the inner and outer beauty of the women I photograph. I want to use hair styling, makeup, flattering lighting, good posing and expression, attractive wardrobe, and great colors to create images that are beautiful, that reveal character and personality and that say something positive about the human spirit.

Please have a look on my website of the portfolio pictures of women and also the gallery of models and actors. I’d love to hear what you think.

Working both in the studio and on location, photographer Blake Robinson serves the Connecticut communities of Darien, New Canaan, Stamford, Norwalk, Westport and Greenwich.

“Individual, Indelible, Iconic Images”

One Response

  1. Michael Ehringhaus says:

    Well said.

Comment to Michael Ehringhaus

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