I have a question? How do you edit your photographs of children? Do you touch up faces? If so, how much? Sometimes I edit without thinking. In this case, I had edited a picture of a child where I removed all blemishes from their face. To me, a blemish is equivalent to food crumbs, dirt, bruises or cuts/scrapes which I’d also remove assuming it didn’t fit into the picture. In other words, if I caught a picture of a child eating birthday cake and then removed all evidence of food from their mouth, it wouldn’t be quite as interesting. Another example would be if I caught a picture of child crying who fell down and was lifting their pant leg up to see their boo boo but then I removed all evidence of the cut/scrape, it wouldn’t really make any sense now would it? It’s like I’m removing half the story. In this particular case, however, this child was posing for me. It was a close-up of their face with no real story behind it other than “I’m so freakin’ cute with my BIG brown eyes”! Blemishes in this case were distracting. It takes someone like my husband to say “do you think the parents would be offended” to make me stop, think, and realize, “I’m yeah, they might find it insulting”! Crap! What to do, what to do?
So I decided to email the mother of the child I took pictures of this past weekend to ask her if it she wanted me to remove blemishes from their child’s face. I thought asking the question at all was insulting but I know it was the right thing to do. Yes, I would have preferred to speak with her in person but I didn’t know her well enough as she was a friend of a friend. I made every effort to word my email carefully reading it over and over again before I hit that send button. Yeah, you can say I obsessed over it quite a bit! The last thing I would ever want to do was hurt someone’s feelings. Anyhow, I pretty much just let the mom know that I do a bit of editing to all of my photos such as color adjusting, contrast boosts, exposure tweaks, and in some cases (like with children) spot removal on their faces. I made sure to mention that I do NOT, however, remove birth/beauty marks, freckles, or anything that child was born with. I also do not use skin smoothing and softening tools as I believe it removes the details that make the child unique and beautiful. I try to keep my photographs as real as possible and true to what my eye sees through the camera lens. I even used the following example with my own child to give her a fresh perspective:
Aliva has an eye that deviates outward (her left eye). She has Intermittent Exotropia that we are currently treating. If someone were taking her picture and caught a really good shot of her but her eye was deviating outward and they fixed it, would I be offended? Personally I wouldn't be but only because 90% of the time her eye is working properly so I know this is how she usually looks.
In the end I got permission to remove the blemishes and, lucky for me, the mom was very understanding and casual about the whole thing. It was a BIG load off. I’d like to think the next time I am presented with similar sensitive subjects it will be easier but I’m not entirely convinced.
If you are doing similar edits to your photos of children, how are you going about getting permission from the parents? Is there a better/easier way or will this always be an uncomfortable discussion? I’d love to hear from you!
On a final note, I’m linking up the shot below to the following photo challenges. It’s my best friend, Nancy, with my little one! I’m absolutely in love with it!