The Photographer's Retouching Code of Ethics
December 18, 2012
By Iman
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Doctors have a strict code that they follow. Medieval knights had the code of chivalry. I have my very own code of ethics that I hold myself to whenever I'm working on photo. Whether it's in the studio or the digital darkroom, I strive to take these into account. If you're a photographer or an aspiring hobbyist, it's helpful to come up with your own code of conduct because the way people see themselves in your photos is a huge responsibility.

Leave No Evidence
This is fairly self-explanatory, but this is a huge complicated matter. Doing beautiful photography means that the viewer focuses on the subject. The same goes for Photoshop. It's become a tool synonymous with "lies": Oh just Photoshop it out. No. Being a pro means removing distracting elements and getting the light and focus correct IN the camera. Post-processing is polishing, not recreating.

Eyes Are Not White
(This could fall under Leave No Evidence, but I see it so often it deserves it's own mention.) Though they may called "the whites of the eyes" they are not naturally white. Making them bright white only adds a freakish element. Brightening, when used in moderation is great for drawing attention to the eyes. But if you're looking for realistic art, don't whiten until there's no detail left. Leave some veins and beige tones because it tells OUR eyes that the subject's eyes have three dimensions rather than a unnatural cut-out where the whites should be.

Know Your Angles
And understand how a camera can distort them. This does not mean shooting down on someone to make them thinner. The down angle is extremely helpful in very distinct situations like head shots. It's great for separating the head from the shoulders. However, a downward angle on a full body shot has an unflattering foreshortening effect of making the body proportions appear 'smooshed' rather than elongated.

You can never go wrong by trying to show the length of the body or face. Study children, they make themselves as tall as possible to get something they want. And it usually works. ;)

ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS flatter in a professional portrait situation. Try to imagine how YOU would feel if asked to do a pose that you KNOW won't look good. In fact, try it out first! If it feels wrong to you it will probably look wrong.

Most people dread getting in front of the camera more than they hate going to the dentist. Everyone has had more than one unflattering photo. Make it fun, laugh and you'll get photographs of people with their guard down. True beauty.

If you're not learning, you're not growing as an artist. You should look at every shoot with a critical eye. What could you do next time that would have made the photographs even better? Take workshops, read books, get a subscription to the PPA (Professional Photographers of America) and Professional Photographer Magazine. JOIN! They are immensely helpful at challenging yourself to be better. Ask questions. And most of all, try. If you don't try you'll never know if you could have made a dream come to life.

I hope I haven't bored you to death! What is your Code? What are your tricks to make a shoot successful?

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