Photoshopping Boudoir - STOP! Nelson, BC Empowerment Photographer

Photoshopping Boudoir Bodies

We all need to stop Photoshopping our boudoir clients bodies.

The further that I drift away from “traditional” boudoir imagery in my work, the more that I realise how toxic the boudoir industry actually can be. I’m going to guess that’s partially because of its close ties to the beauty industry. But let’s be real – it all comes down to the patriarchy.

For some reason, when I look around in the boudoir industry I see so much misrepresentation of what bodies actually look like. We’ve been force-fed this idea of perfection by advertisements and Hollywood movies our whole lives. So much so, that it’s spilled over into this genre which we all claim to be “empowering”. However, if we’re making the skin of our clients look like plastic, how is that supposed to help our clients feel empowered?

Spoiler:

It can have the exact opposite effect and leave a negative impact on our clients.

I’m not here to call any one person out. We have all done it whether we were truly conscious of it or not. I’ve spent much more time than I care to admit, Photoshopping the texture right out of my clients butts. I never really stopped to question why I was doing it. I think it was because I assumed that was what my clients wanted. The truth is, once I started to step back the amount of skin softening I was doing… literally nobody asked for it again.

As a result of this revelation, I started truly exploring what boudoir photography actually meant to me. When I took a step back, I saw a sea of plastic-skinned, nipped and tucked, freckle-less, flawless, “perfect” images. Perfect bodies, just like our conditioning has told us to expect from ourselves. I realised how far I had actually strayed from my original mission – empowering women and helping them to question their body image. As a result, hopefully learn to love themselves a little bit more.

When we spend so much time Photoshopping boudoir clients, we lose sight of why boudoir can be so powerful to begin with. It’s not uncommon in my studio for a client to excitedly exclaim “I can’t believe that’s me!” when viewing their images for the first time. As I do same-day reveals, these clients are seeing their true bodies, no Photoshop, straight out of camera other than basic Lightroom edits.

When we spend so much time Photoshopping boudoir clients bodies, we rob them of the experience of truly seeing their own bodies for what they are – beautiful works of art. No Photoshop needed. Period.

Photoshopping Boudoir Clients Without Consent Can be Damaging

Imagine this scenario. You to receive images back from your photographer. But they don’t show them to you before spending hours removing your freckles. Before removing your stretch marks. You notice that your nose is a different shape, now. You don’t recognise yourself. How would that truly make you feel? Probably like your body isn’t worth viewing unless it’s been highly processed. It will probably make you question whether or not your childhood bullies were right when they made fun of you.

It’s one thing to Photoshop someone’s body because they requested you do it. Even then, I don’t agree with it but I recognise that’s my own artistic choice. It’s an entirely other thing to Photoshop your client to the point that they look like a different person without their consent. Especially without even setting the expectation that their images would be highly processed before delivery.

We all need to stop bringing our own insecurities with us and putting them on our clients through our work. Just because you hate your nose, your fat rolls, your freckles, or your stretch marks… doesn’t mean that your clients do. Lastly, how in the hell can we claim that we’re empowering our clients if we’re using the warp tool to change their bodies and removing permanent marks from their skin?

So, here’s a challenge; next time you find yourself reaching for that Portraiture action, cranked to eleven. Next time you click the shortcut for the warp tool (is there a shortcut for the warp tool? I don’t even know), I want you to stop and ask yourself; “Am I doing this for my client, or am I doing this because the patriarchy has conditioned me to?”

I believe in complete transparency when it comes to how much or little I photoshop my client’s bodies. This is one of the examples I pull up regularly for my clients. The “unphotoshopped” version is on the left, and the “Photoshopped” version is on the right. As you can see, there’s barely any difference – and in my opinion, you shouldn’t be able to immediately tell that an image has been touched up. Typically all that I will do to an image is brighten highlights, darken shadows, and remove bruises or blemishes. My rule is if it’ll be gone within 2 weeks, I will touch it out without question. Stretch marks scars, and anything permanent are a part of YOU, so I will never touch them out.

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