Should corporate headshots be photoshopped? - Dan Cantero Headshots
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Using Photoshop to edit a corporate headshot is a very sensitive topic for a lot of people.  I have worked as corporate headshot photographer in Sydney for many years and in that time, I have photographed hundreds of people and I can tell you that opinions range from one extreme to the other.

There are those that consider using Photoshop cheating and not part of the photography process at all.  On the other hand, you have people that use it to the point where you almost don’t recognize the person in the photo.

The answer is….. there is no answer.  Photography and photo editing are totally subjective.  I would like to address the people that are either end of the extremes.


You Should Never Use Photoshop

These are the purists.  They believe that all images should be captured as they are.  All images are straight out of the camera.  They believe that if you edit your images after you take the photo, it will not be a correct representation of what was actually there.

This sounds logical but there are some issues.  First of all, the camera is an electronic device that captures an image with a sensor (or film) and is not a human eye.  The human eye has a lot more dynamic range than a camera.  Dynamic range is the range between the darkest thing and the brightest thing that the camera can see while still retaining detail.  You might have seen this when you take a picture of something and the sky behind it shows up as white instead of blue.  This means that the camera can’t capture both the sky and everything else and so the sky ends up “clipping” and shows up as white because it is the brightest thing that it can record.  But you were there and you remember the sky being blue.  That is because your eye has a much larger dynamic range and can see darker and brighter things at the same time.  So in this case you could use Photoshop to edit your image to make it look exactly the way it did in real life.

Along with that, the camera also has settings that your eye does not.  White balance is a function of the camera that sets the temperature of the light.  Light comes in all sorts of temperatures and each with its own colour.  If you were to look at a piece of paper out in your back yard it will look white.  If you take that same piece of paper and look at it under a fluorescent tube it will also look white.  A camera does not look that way.  A camera can see that same piece of paper as blue, green, orange, white, or other colours.

In short, a camera doesn’t see life around us the same way that we do so sometimes Photoshop is the only way to correct it.


Photoshop The Heck Out Of It

This is the other extreme.  In this scenario, Photoshop is used to turn skin into a plastic looking substance that looks 100% plastic.  They change colour of eyes and remove body parts.

People like this don’t see anything wrong with this.  This might be acceptable when shooting scenarios or items but when photographing people this can pose an obvious problem.  People tend to end up looking like a different person.

Depending on what you are going to use your photo for, this can backfire drastically.  If you use this image for a dating profile, image the reaction of the other person when they finally meet the real you.

Where I Stand On This

My stance on photo editing is not a static one.  It really depends on the type of photograph.


You are photographing a person so the end product needs to look like them.  In this case, I use Photoshop to make the best photograph of them that I can.  I will soften lines.  I will soften bags under the eyes.  If there is irritation on the skin I will try to remove it altogether.  In fact, anything that is not a permanent feature of that person I will try to remove if I can.  Pimples, shaving cuts, rash, stray hairs, etc.  This enhances the photo and gives the subject a more rested and fresh look.

Anything beyond that I will do at the request of my client.  Every person has something about themselves that they don’t like.  If they trust you they may open up and tell you what this is.  If they request something to be changed or removed I will do my best to do this for them.

Headshot Photographs

In short, yes.  They should be edited.  Corporate headshots or any type of headshot photograph needs to be cropped to the correct ratios.  The background neeeds to be cleaned up in editing to make sure it is perfect.  Sometimes you might even have to create a corporate backdrop with the exact company colours.  This is typically done in editing.  Lint on the clothes, stray hairs, etc.  This is a professional photo used for work and needs to be perfect.  Check out some samples of my editing approach here.

Dan Cantero