Retouching School Pictures is Toothless

A recent article in the New York Times discussed the art of retouching school photos. They’re the ones that all parents love to get of their child or children generally posed against some bizarre multi-colored or even a single-colored background. The lighting is perfect and the camera catches the impeccable emotions of the subject(s). This is the day that students get to wear their best clothes that are nowhere what he or she wears on a typical school day. Shortly thereafter, an envelope arrives containing the proofs along with an order form. Typically, an order will include enough wallet, standard, and enlargement prints to cover all the grandparents and relatives.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that the photographer captured it all in assembly line fashion. If you have a black eye you would have pictures showing it larger than life. Braces would be there in all their reflective glory. And, who can forget the pimple? Looking back these were the very things that made our school shots come alive. There were stories and laughs behind each and every one of them. These were our memories and our badges of glory.
Today, it’s not like that so much. It seems that everyone wants the pimples removed. Sometimes braces get digitally erased as if they were never there. Or, if a long sleeve shirt might look better with that tie then that’s not a problem either.
You have to ask yourself what the stories will be behind these altered images. There won’t be the one where Bill’s front tooth was missing as evidenced in the school picture. That’s because he ran into the door. Today, it will be someone telling the story of the how Bill wore braces even though there’s no telltale sign, although no one can speak for the readers. But, for the ones where photos are a true tale of documentary history some retouching can be a blessing. On the flip side, has it gone too far in a search of perfection and realism created by software smoke and mirrors?

New York Times Article