Ok so let’s get started here. I’m writing this for those nay saying skeptics that look at an image and say “that has be touched up” or “her face was air brushed.” So when do you and why do you retouch an image?
First: what is retouching? It is the manipulation of a photo in hopes of a better outcome. Or at least that is my answer. I say the hopes of a better outcome because as a photographer and retoucher you start to look at every single magazine cover you can find just to see if “you” can see what was done. And some are horrible, in the sense they take it too far. You can see skin that looks like glass or plastic, an unrealistic look to say the least. To me if the photo has that unrealistic look the photo it is now an illustration and not a photograph (not always a bad thing for illustrations).
So when & why? Well in the photo industry it has become standard to do some sort of retouching to remove blemishes, pimples or stray hair across the face and other little abnormalities. But you can dive in a little deeper and repair a chipped or uneven tooth and just really fix some small thing that just did not need to be there. But that is the beginning of the journey. If your image is going to be in a position where your livelihood depends upon it, well you are going to need some sort of retouching. You must know that there is not a single person in Hollywood or for that matter the entertainment industry as a whole that lets a photo be released without retouching. And their retouching is super high end work costing a lot of $$$. So that, then sets a standard that trickles down to everybody else and dictates that the local business man needs to have his headshot retouched for his billboard advertisement and the like. Hilary Clinton’s yellow teeth are edited all the time. Nothing against Mrs. Clinton, but she does look better with white teeth, as we all.
Now retouching can also mean other things such as, removal of items or adding in items that were not there at the start. Just recently there was the photoshopping of four congress women into a photo because they were late and missed the photo shoot. In my landscape photography I remove electric lines and road signs most all of the time. NASA will Photoshop images to enhance detail that can sometimes not be seen by the human eye. And of course there is that plethora of photoshopped images that find their way into social media, such as smiling cats, dogs shooting guns, fat people, skinny people, three headed people and the list goes on. There are also those images that rip our hearts out of burnt, injured, crippled or deformed people and animals that are used to play on our emotions. Animal rights activists are one of the biggest culprits of photoshopping an image to play on our hearts.
So in the end the when and why more so depends on what kind of photos and what they are used for.