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I've been editing profile images for a webpage displaying the employees of a company.

The images were not professionally taken, and because of that features like wrinkles and body posture are exaggerated and look bad.

However, it's a sensitive issue, in that some folks may be happy with their image and consider "air-brushing" and heavy edits offensive, and maybe see it as me thinking they're ugly.

I've edited out wrinkles, braces, blemishes, copied left shoulder to the right to improve the slouched and wonky posture and more.

What should I be sensitive to when editing images like this?

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    The first thing I'd consider is whether the time you're spending to fix the photos is really cheaper than having them retaken professionally. – Ilmari Karonen May 3 '16 at 18:36
  • Hey Dom, any chance you could accept Raf's answer? Or mine if you prefer. Was looking at unanswered stuff I could reward existing answers for, but you're still around and could mark one accepted. Feel free to flag this comment once you get it as obsolete – Ryan Jun 21 '16 at 15:56
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Correct skin tones, pimples, scratches, and highlight spots primarily. Beyond the a little light dodging and burning if appropriate on any particularly bad ones.

Basically, correct anything that is either a temporary mark like a pimple or stained shirt. Or anything that was caused by poor lighting and photography.

Do not remove wrinkles, dimples, lines, or retouch the skin. Its not a beauty portrait, and those are the things that give people character. It shows sincerity.

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Interesting question.

You partially answered yourself: "heavy edits offensive". Do not heavily edit anything.

In my experience shooting portraits:

  • 95% (sort of) of clients want "Put some Photoshop on it, Ok?"

  • Woman are worried about weight and wrinkles.

  • Man are more worried about weight.

  • As Ryan commented, a temporary feature like blackheads, some bruises, a cut.

  • A greasy skin look.

I would not touch:

  • Real facial features. Nose shape, head size, eyes size, ears.

  • Skin or hair color.

  • Posture.

  • Body features, some tummy could be, but boobs and back nope.

  • Tatoos or piercing (Unless expressly asked by the client).


But a general recommendation. I do that on portraits.

If the company does not put much effort in taking pictures, leave them as they are.

Just correct:

  • Overall illumination, contrast and color.

  • Framing.


I think that one problem with designers is that they want to solve problems that are out of the scope of the project. :o)

If the photos are important, they should be taken carefully. Yes probably professionally taken if that is part of the public image.

In the photoshoot of course you can say to someone Sit straight, good! now you look much better! That can lead someone to be aware of his bad posture and work on it. But don't artificially correct a posture, it is not your work.

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    Nop, Posture nop. Modifying a posture is a direct "critic" to one part of people personality. – Rafael May 3 '16 at 17:35
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    The point is yes, that is important, so the company NEED to take some good shots from start. Ill put a note on that on the answer. – Rafael May 3 '16 at 17:39
  • Just a note: In case anyone didn't realize it, birthmarks and moles are emphatically not eligible for removal from a portrait photo. Those are real facial features, not temporary. – Wildcard May 4 '16 at 0:45
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In 25+ years doing photography, I've learned that women ALWAYS want to look better.

Make them skinnier, smooth wrinkles, desaturate and lighten yellow teeth and eyes.

And for faces in women over 40, I always add a slightly (2-5%) blurred layer, then erase the eyes, mouth, hair, and jewelry, so those are sharp from the layer below.

Men don't usually ask, but seem to appreciate it when I make them look better weightwise, and maybe the teeth and hair.

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