Posts Tagged ‘Photo Editing’

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”

“Oil Painting” in Photoshop


I’m fascinated by the intersection of artistic painting and photography, especially in portraits. Much of my work is informed by paintings. See, for example my recent blog post, Inspired by a Painting.

Here’s a short TED video about an amazing artist who does full body painting of her subjects, then photographs them:

When Painting Comes to Life.

In my own work, I’ve begun to experiment with using a filter in Photoshop called Oil Painting. Pictured above is an image of Elena, an aspiring model. And below, the same portrait with the oil painting effect applied.


This may look strange, unflattering, weird – or perhaps engaging is some way. Well, let me know what you DO think about it. I purposely laid the effect on pretty thick (no pun intended) so you could see clearly how it looks.

Below is a detail of the “painted” version.  I’ll be doing more of this work along the way. Stay tuned!

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”





Test Shoot of Portrait Lighting

Recently I did a studio photoshoot with Hanna, an experienced model. I was experimenting with a number of lighting setups. In the first image, above, Hanna was fairly close to a large softbox to camera left, and we had a light on an umbrella behind her as well.

Hanna six

In this image, we use two lights as well, but they are set at a wider angle to the camera sightline, so that, with the black background, there is a contrasty, dramatic feel to the image. With all of these pictures, we are photographing Hanna with bare shoulders, for a classic look that is not dated by any particular clothes.

Hanna five

This is a more traditional lighting setup, with just one light. We used a “beauty dish,” above the camera aiming down at about a 45 degree angle to Hanna. A white foamcore board was under her chin, just out of sight, to bounce a bit of light back into her face. This is a soft, flattering look.

Hanna four

Back to just one light in this picture, at camera left. After converting the image to black and white, I added a very slight blue tint to the photograph.

Hanna four Props can add interest to a portrait. The parasol is a new toy in the studio and frames Hanna’s face. The blue color contrasts nicely with her skintones.

The last image, below, uses a ringlight, a circular, donut-shaped light, with the camera shooting right through the center. Notice the circular catchlights.

Thanks, Hanna, for a great shoot! These test shoots help me to develop my skills and explore new ways to light and pose portraits.

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”



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