Tough Love Tuesday | Can Authenticity and Photoshop Co-Exist?
How can you be authentically you when you are changing who you are? As a photographer, I’ve come across so many people wanting to hide or change parts of themselves. Mostly, it is minimizing their bodies or photoshopping out parts of themselves. I will absolutely touch up people's skin and remove blemishes, but I will never change parts of someone's body and make it not reflect what they look like in real life. I remember someone calling it editing out the temporary parts of you. The zit on your cheek is temporary. A mole on your chin is not (unless you get it surgically removed, and I'm not telling anyone to go under the knife).
I’ve felt uncomfortable with some of the requests that I’ve gotten on photoshopping. Sometimes it was said as a joke, but I know these words are coming from a place of insecurity. Sometimes they are dead serious, and I've flat out told people that I refuse to change their body shape. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, ethically that’s not something I want to be a part of. Secondly, when someone sees you in person, they’re going to see immediately that you do not look like the person in the photo. That's akin to catfishing, which is mostly attributed to people on dating websites but it’s the same thing in any situation. If you’re altering your photos to the point of non-recognition, how are you being authentic?
Now I’m not saying carelessly post an unedited photo because I always edit my images before I send them to clients. I make sure that the exposure and white balance are correct. I touch up the skin if necessary. I will color correct the image. There is a lot that happens before a client will see the photos. The one thing I won't do is change how your body is shaped or edit your face beyond recognition. When you do that, the potential clients or collaborators who meet you in person will question who they were following online this whole time. How are you going to build trust when you essentially have been lying about who you are?
f you’ve read some of my past blog posts, you know that I dictate my blog posts into the notes app onto my phone or computer. That’s currently happening right now while I am editing photos from an event that I photographed last week. I’m going to use a plug-in that brightens up people's skin. I have no problem admitting that. I want people to be shown in their best light. That doesn’t mean that I am changing how they look. I know that sometimes shadows fall on faces in a funny way, and can make you look like you have bags under your eyes when you don't. It's my job to show people in their best light, and editing photos is a part of that.
As someone who hates getting their photo taken, I want people to feel great about themselves when they see their pictures. But, I also want them to say, "Wow, that looks just like me, and I look great." One of the best compliments I’ve received is from artist Jenny Brown. She said "Brittanny could not have been easier or more delightful to work with, and took pictures that actually look and feel like me (and let’s face it, there is nothing weirder than seeing professional pictures of someone you know, and wondering who they are because they look so different or uncomfortable from how they usually are IRL!)." I edited Jenny's photos, but she looks just like her. If you ran into her on the street, you would see the exact same smiling beautiful face looking back at you.
I want people to feel great about the way that they look. That’s the number one reason why I am a photographer. I want people to feel confident representing themselves through photos because when they see how great they look, they show up differently in person. They carried themselves a bit taller. They smile a little bit brighter. I question how you can learn to feel confident in yourself when you are excessively altering your image in photos. We already have such a hard time liking ourselves at all. I challenge you not to ask your photographers or your friend who’s really good at using FaceTune to change the way that you look in photos. I challenge you to catch yourself when you say you say that you want to change how you look. I challenge you to sit with yourself and ask yourself some questions on why you feel the way that you do. I think that to show up as yourself authentically, you should show up as your best self and not the version of yourself that you created in an app.