Updated: Jan 3
1. My retouched photos won't look like me
The terms 'photoshop' and 'retouch' seem to have become bad words, which is understandable, given their misuse on social media and elsewhere. I think that's why I encounter some clients who don't want their photos retouched at all. Their concern is that they'll end up with an overly airbrushed image that won't look like them. I get it, and it's certainly a possible outcome with a bad retouching job. But a good retouch retains all of your humanity and vibrancy, and includes other elements that don't even have do to with the actor themselves. It's also used to enhance the lighting or punch up color and contrast so that your headshot really pops.
2. Retouching will help me look perfect in my headshot
This myth is basically the inverse of the first myth. Some actors approach Photoshop like it's plastic surgery, which is really not the goal. Retouching isn't meant to make you look younger, or thinner, or change your bone structure. It's meant to make you look like you. Taking away distractions, like blemishes and stray hairs, is helpful retouching. In all likelihood, you won't have that same blemish on the day you go in for an audition, so it makes sense to take it out. But Photoshopping you into some kind of perfect version of yourself will only hurt you, because you aren't going to look like that person when you walk into the casting office, which will only annoy casting directors and make them less likely to call you in! The best way to market yourself is with a headshot that looks like you on your best day.
3. I can do my own retouching – it's just like Instagram!
Using Photoshop or other professional retouching software is not the same as applying a filter on Instagram or using FaceApp. It's detailed work that requires a lot of training, and for a natural look, it's best left to the professionals. Doing your own Photoshop can also frustrate your photographer (ahem), because the headshot is no longer an accurate representation of their work.
So, what's the takeaway? Photoshop can always be misused, but ultimately it's an incredibly helpful tool that can help take your headshots to the next level by removing distractions and making your image pop. At the end of the day, your imperfections are what make you unique, and capturing that uniqueness is what drives me to pick up my camera every day.
Above left is an unretouched headshot, and above right is a retouched headshot. See how the one on the right pops off the screen more?