How young is too young for retouching their photos? Good question, right? A lot of time we think of retouching our headshots as a way to remove the things we hate about our own faces. Dark circles under our eyes, coffee-stained teeth, blemishes, freckles, scars, or even… wrinkles. Hell, you should see what I do to my own photos.

So what happens when a 12 year old comes into my studio for headshots and she is wowed by the differences in the “before” and “after” photos on my website and wants her own photo retouched? Since we usually think of retouching as a way to make us look younger, prettier, more handsome, and more perfect in our photos; it’s hard to apply that to a photo of a young girl. We want to tell all young people that they’re pretty and perfect the way they are.

But I don’t think of retouching a headshot as a way to disguise our supposed flaws and make us look better than we already look. I think of retouching as a way to maximize the potential of that first-impression-via-photo and to minimize the things that pop out in our photos when they’re not really supposed to. When you take something 3-dimensional like a human face and make it 2-dimensional into a photograph, you’re going to notice things you don’t usually notice when you’re looking at someone in person. Things like shadows, stained teeth, blemishes, hairs out of place, fuzzies on our sweaters… When we’re looking at someone in person our eyes filter through these things to see the person as he or she is: just the person and not the shadows under their eyes.

So there’s nothing wrong with whitening the teeth of a 12 year old in her headshot. Especially when she drank some Kool-aid on her way to the studio.

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