To edit or not to edit your headshot?
In our Phoenix headshot photography studios, we are often asked about the need and or desirability of editing headshots.
Much passion and opinion surrounds this topic of editing photographs, portraits and headshots.
Also referred to as enhancing, post processing, editing, Photoshop and other similar terms, there is a great deal of conjecture and misunderstanding surrounding this topic.
Perhaps this stems from the power of images in the form of photographs. We have all heard for example that ‘a picture is worth a 1000 words.’ This suggests significant power in a photograph. Too much power for us to invest in something not real?
Many of us, regardless of how often our eyes have fooled us in the past, as in when we view a magician’s trick seeing something we know cannot be so, say and even believe in our core that ‘seeing is believing.’
Add to this the feeling among many that somehow a photograph is itself a truth and somehow that ‘the camera does not lie.’ This saying has been around as early as 1859, just 20 years after photography’s invention.
The truth is, every photograph is itself a ‘truth’ which by its very nature is a lie.
The true part is that every photographic recording device operates on a set of physical principles.
However, every camera also operates a bit differently than every other camera. So, two cameras taking a photo of the same event at the same time will produce two different results.
So, this ‘truth’ a camera produces is clearly not an absolute truth, yes?
As an example, look at the photographic example shown here. Neither the photo on the left, nor the photo on the right is actually the girl in question. The blue in the background for example is from a blue wig, not her hair and not the background. The makeup is not the girls skin but applied to her skin. The device you are viewing this image on will make it appear different than if you view it on another device. And, the girl will not in voodoo fashion feel a thing were you to destroy or abuse either the image on the left or the right. That is, the photo itself is very clearly not the girl…
But maybe that was too obtuse…
If the photo had been taken with a different camera, the colors would have been different. If the photo had been taken with a different lens, the image would be entirely different. If the shutter speed were slower or faster, the photo would have been markedly different.
Each camera, sensor and lens combination record different intensities of light, color, contrast, distortion, and the list goes on.
In short, no photograph is a 100% identical representation of the person or thing being photographed, ever.
So what does editing do for your headshot?
Well, editing can do a great many things to your headshot, depending on what is desired artistically, graphically, and practically. That is, editing done well enhances the effectiveness of your portraits and photographs, making them in effect, ‘more real’.
How can editing make a photography more real?
This seems counter intuitive and yet it is often, in the case of many headshots, a case where we make the headshot look more like the actual person we are photographing.
In the case of a glamour photo as here, we enhance the glamour of the photo. While you may look at the unretouched image for a second or two, normally, and the edited one say for 3-6 seconds… what we have done is increase your engagement with the photo which has been edited.
If the photo had been the actual girl, you would have given this lovely lady a few minutes or several seconds of look, given the opportunity, yes?
We make the photo behave more like the person, while controlling the message.
What is this controlling the message?
Here the message was beauty of the girl, her glamour and the talent of the makeup stylist. So we enhanced that message both compositionally and editorially, to lead the eyes where we desire they flow in the headshot and to control the feel. Thus, we have delivered the message more powerfully. This is a photo of a beautiful girl with glamorous makeup. Bam.
Should you edit your headshot?
It’s a personal choice and with professional photographers is usually included as an add on package or service. Editing dose take time and add expense to your headshot portrait.
Editing can almost always improve the overall impact of your headshot portrait. If you can afford it in your budget and you value your image, a professionally, artfully, and mindfully edited portrait will be more effective than one which is unedited. Hands down, almost every time in most circumstances. See also Should Headshots be edited using Photoshop?
The one instance where editing can hurt a headshot is where the editor is not skillful and experienced enough to edit your portrait, without over editing or poorly editing. As with anything, something can be done poorly.
While price isn’t always an indication of quality, low price almost always indicates corners being cut. The best way to know if a photographer is capable is too look at the quality of their work with a critical eye when selecting your headshot photographer. Then, if you can afford it, or have a career where your personal brand and image are important, go for world class editing and photography, you’ll be glad you did.
Okay, so you’ve followed along… and maybe still skeptical about the truth of edited photos… Notice the edited version of the photo here? Look closely at the nose, see the fine blonde baby hair along the nose? Editing here allows you to more clearly see the fine baby hairs… thus a feature of ‘more real’. Just an example, that editing is not necessarily about misleading. To view edited version of portrait larger, click here.
People are so much more interesting than their portraits. Editing, done well, helps make the portraits a touch more interesting. More like an aspect of the real you.