Headshot photos, do they need retouching?

7 April 2020

In this short post I will be looking at headshot photos and the big debate as to whether they need retouching.

Firstly I would like to define what photo retouching is. As soon as somebody hears the words: “retouching a photo”, they automatically think it will end up being a heavily airbrushed photo, nothing like the original. This is not always the case.

Retouching a photo can simply mean adjusting the exposure and colour balance. I shoot my headshot photos using a format called Raw instead of the usual JPEG format.

Most of my headshot photographer clients like Vincenzo Photography, a London based photographer, also send me the Raw files to edit. Using Raw I have a far superior tonal flexibility than JPEG, and this really comes into use when I retouch the photo.

I can really dig into low light details to bring them up and get my highlights in the photo spot on. This gives you the client a far better quality headshot photo!

Most professional digital cameras can also sometimes be prone to having a tiny bit of dust on the sensor. This happens when I am changing lenses.

Even in my sparkling clean studio environment, tiny bits of dust might get trapped on the sensor. That can leave a tiny smudge on the plain parts of the image like the background.

These tiny spots of dust need to be photoshopped out of the photo. This would be classified as basic retouching.

Headshot Photos

Even the most carefully planned shoots can go awry. You could wake up on the morning of your photo shoot to find you have a few acne spots.  Or even worse you could have a slightly bloodshot eye from a bout of spring hay fever.

Obviously you have the option of postponing the headshot photo shoot, but with your agent needing new photos like yesterday, your only option is to go ahead.

It could also be something as simple as a wardrobe malfunction, a button that did not close properly or a bit of dirt on an item of clothing that wasn’t noticed.

Retouching these blemishes do not change you or your appearance. I would say they are more of a tidy up of your photos.

As a photographer I always retouch my own photos, this way I keep control over the quality and authenticity of the images I send to my clients and their agents. I am also aware of how important the privacy of the client is, and the photos are never shared or talked about on social media.

Here is an example of  headshot photos (kindly supplied to me by Vincenzo); before and after they have been retouched. If you look carefully, the glasses pick up a slight reflection from the studio lighting, which I have subtly removed.

This gives the the best possible view of the face without any distractions when looking at the eyes.

headshot photos

Before and after headshot photo retouching

As you can see the only retouching that has been done on the headshot photos is a basic colour adjustment, removal of some unwanted stray hairs and as mentioned the reflection on the glasses removed.

Below is the photo that which has been heavily airbrushed. Obviously this is a completely unrealistic impression of the subject and it would be unacceptable to use as a serious headshot photo.

headshot photo editing

A heavily airbrushed headshot photo

So when you book your appointment to have your headshot taken by me, or you send me your photos to be edited, you can feel reassured that you will get the best possible quality retouched headshots done!

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