Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Dickens of a Dilemma - The Liquify Tool

So, if you read this blog or know me, you probably have heard or see by my recent posts that I'm trying to do more portraits and people photos. While pelicans in flight are still near and dear to my heart, it's time to branch out into the world of lighting and models. With that comes the pretty ominous task of facial retouching and postprocessing, or more specifically how much is acceptable? I posted the photo above left about two weeks ago --- a perfectly lovely young girl who Larry and I photographed at Dickens on the Strand. The photo on the right? Well, there's this tool in Photoshop called the Liquify tool, and it's not one that I use too often on pelicans. Literally, with a couple of clicks of the mouse you can take 15 pounds off the subject. Now, I ask: is it practical for the portrait photographer to do this to every shot? Would it increase your business if you were making a living from this or would it just increase your workload with no real payback? Would subjects be so thrilled, would you get more business? Anyway, I'd love to hear your opinions about this dilemma, and if you're a portrait photographer how you handle this. Please click to see the full size version, and feel free to comment...


  1. Amazing transformation Steve! I think you definitely improved the portriat in a way that would be appreciated by the subject!

    Well done!

  2. I find your question to be a very interesting one; and, one that has many ramifications--do you retouch, how much do you retouch and do you do "Photoshop" plastic surgery (practicing medicine without a license can be risky)? Very good questions, but no definitive answers.

    I think you need to determine what your client's expectation is and what they intend to use the photograph for. If it is a glamour shot--then go for it; if it is a business head shot, then back off the drastic changes.

    Finally, I do not think that I always think about how the selections (choice of lens, lighting and angle of shot) that I make when I take a portrait will affect the "look" that I will get. I think most people want a portrait that brings forward their best aspect; and, I think that I should try my best to do that. For 2009, I intend to get a better understanding of how my choices affect the final look and then work to use these choices so that I can produce the result that the client wants.

    Hope that the ramblings of a crazy old man have been helpful and will start a debate with your visitors!

  3. From photographing my two daughters (both in their 20's), I can tell you from experience to show the photograph to your clients and let them make the decision. I have retouched without permission only to get raised eyebrows and exclamation points at the end of sentences. I have not retouched and have been asked to lose the double chin or make my thighs thinner. You have to let them decide!!...then work your magic!! me how you did that with liquify....i use cloning and it takes forever!!