It’s happened to all of us in the photography industry.
You’re shooting something – could be a kiddo, a couple, a family … and someone notices something amiss or starts making fun of themselves about something.
And then they laugh and say, “oh, you can just photoshop that, right?”
Did you cringe? I just cringed.
We should ALL be cringing.
I’ll go right ahead and say it: Photoshop is pretty much the bane of my experience as a photo editor.
Magazines, advertisements, TV and movies, awards shows … basically everything pop culture tells us we aren’t good enough as we are; that we need a little nip, a little tuck and gods forbid you have laugh lines.
I just want to raise my hands and yell as loudly as I can: come on guys, you’re beautiful the way you are.
We’re Going To Spill A Little Secret Here
Here’s the deal, friends. You don’t have to photoshop anything you don’t absolutely want to, even if a client requests it. You don’t have to feed into their insecurities by agreeing to thin out their already-stick-thin arms and you don’t have to remove double chins.
There’s a LOT you can do to never get asked to photoshop something … and here’s the secret: it’s all done BEFORE you even take a single photo!!!
Before the Shoot
Give your clients a style guide on what to wear. You know what they say when you ‘assume’ right? Never ever assume that your clients are going to magically just know what to wear! Create a Pinterest board filled with your favorite outfit suggestions – just like we did! – and include outfits that flatter different body shapes.
Reschedule if someone doesn’t feel well. No one photographs well when they’re under the weather – from red eyes and snotty noses to flushed or pale skin … it just isn’t pretty. Plus, sharing is NOT caring when it comes to germs!
Tell them you don’t offer body manipulation editing. When they ask if you edit photos – be honest. We always tell our clients that we do minor adjustments to the photos, and if they have a ginormous pimple or fever blister we can remove that – but we don’t manipulate body parts to be bigger, smaller, longer or shorter.
During the Shoot
Give them compliments. Of course your clients look amazing – so tell them that! If you love his jacket – tell him! If you love the jewelry that she’s wearing – tell her! Tell them that their smiles are contagious, that you can just feel the love between them – whatever is genuinely true, tell them. Don’t bullshit people though – if something isn’t genuine, they’ll know it. So speak the truth!
Give them a quick once-over before you start shooting. So many photoshop requests come from easy-to-fix things like boogers in the kid’s nose (seriously), tags sticking out, pants that need to be pulled up, etc. If you see something amiss, speak up!
Watch your angles and posing. I can’t stress this one enough – be on the lookout for things that you know might bother your client (e.g. double chins, bra strap rolls, etc.) and silently adjust your angle or posing as not to prominently showcase what they might perceive as ‘flaws.’
Don’t feed into their insecurities. If they start talking negatively about themselves (or about someone else in the photos), acknowledge that you’ve heard them and then laugh it off. So when they say “watch out for my double chin!” you just laugh and say “oh my gosh, you’re so silly. You look beautiful! Now tilt your shoulder a little down toward the ground, and ……” continue on with the shoot.
Keep the conversation going. Nothing makes a client feel more insecure than a photographer who just … doesn’t talk. Imagine if you’re getting your photo taken, and the photographer takes a photo, looks at the back of the camera and says … nothing. Just looks and has absolutely no reaction (or worse, says nothing but makes a face). Not a confidence booster! So when you’re shooting, keep the conversation going – ask questions, tell stories, and give compliments and subtle (or not so subtle) reassurances that they look amazing.
After the Shoot
If you’ve done everything in your power to prepare and shoot your clients to the best of your ability, and they still aren’t happy with the way they look … it happens! Don’t beat yourself up. Here are a few things you can do after the shoot when they ask to be photoshopped:
Listen to them and remember. Acknowledge what they’ve said, and take note of it for future shoots with them. We once had a groom who was a little self conscious about his hair during his engagement shoot, so we made sure to be ultra conscious about it at their wedding (and he LOVED his wedding photos!).
Offer to do what they want. I know this sounds crazy considering I’ve spent the last 800 words telling you NOT to do this … but sometimes, people just aren’t happy no matter what you do, and are determined to have photoshop surgery on themselves. If a client is insistent on having things nipped and tucked – we offer those services for $10 per image. And then we outsource it! Photoshop manipulation is just not in our wheelhouse, and my time is much better spent doing other things.