The perfect portrait

I’ve been having a big philosophical discussion with myself lately about portraits. I know this is totally normal, and lots of other people have been talking to themselves about photography lately, as well. It’s been getting a little boring to talk to myself in my head, so I wanted to bring my internal conflict to the blog to find out if maybe, just maybe, anyone else in the blogosphere might happen to have an opinion. (Or not.)
You all know I really love to take photos. I’m trying to teach myself to use my camera and take better photos. And I’m trying to do this without breaking down and actually taking a photography class.
I go on web sites and blogs and Pinterest, and I look at photos taken by professional photographers. I study the angles that they use and the background and the way people pose. And then I practice. I take photos of people and dogs and random animals. I drive my family crazy begging them to let me take just one more photo.

Lately, I decided to just focus on taking close-up portraits. Maybe if I can master this one type of photo, I can move on to shooting the whole body or maybe even shooting two people at once! My 50 mm lens makes it easy to take an amazing close-up shot. But I have not even come close to figuring out how to use it more than three feet away from the subject.
I love looking at wedding photos and graduation photos and baby photos taken by professional photographers. But I’ve always been mystified by how they make the eyes so bright and vibrant.
Well, until a few weeks ago.
I really haven’t spent much time, nor do I know much about photo editing. I usually crop my photos in iPhoto and enhance the color and occasionally add a special effect. Once in a while, I will take the time to edit a photo with Photoshop 5 and really play around with the color, contrast and lighting.
But a few weeks ago, I remembered that I got a free copy of Photoshop Elements with a purchase we made. I loaded it onto my computer, and that is when my complete photo editing obsession began!
While the full version of Photoshop can do so much more than Photoshop Elements, PE makes it so simple to edit your photos step by step. It has a feature called “the perfect portrait.”
With a click of a button, you can smooth out the skin. You can remove blemishes. Add eyelashes. Brighten the eyes. You can even “slim” the subject! My favorite feature is adding a glow. The only way I can describe the glow is that it makes the photo look like it’s in a magazine. Here is a photo of my son with a bit of a glow.

I started going crazy with “the perfect portrait” setting. And that’s when my conflict began. There’s so much controversy right now about models who are airbrushed and Photoshopped in magazines. I started realizing I was doing the same thing.
When people pay someone to take their photo, they do want it to look somewhat “perfect.” But how high should that standard be?
I mainly shoot photos to preserve my family’s memories. I also like to try to take photos that are decent enough I can frame a few of them and save money on going to the portrait studio. But am I really preserving a memory if I have brightened someone’s eyes to the point they are an unnatural color? It’s one thing to remove a blemish on the face, but should I really erase a beauty mark or freckles?
I feel like it’s OK to boost the color or adjust the contrast. But how many extra eyelashes are too many? And do I really want a photo that includes a person who was Photoshopped in later?
I guess part of the answer rests in whether the photo is meant to capture a memory or create a piece of artwork. I do love playing with PE, and I’m hoping to learn a lot more about it this summer. But I promise to go easy on slimming someone’s waistline, altering their eye color and smoothing out the skin.
I would love to hear what you think about this topic! Does anyone else out there practice taking photos? What do you use to edit them? And do you think you can enhance your photos too much?
Here are a few other portraits I’ve taken lately (without much editing).
Our oldest daughter:
My dad:
My super handsome husband:
Our oldest son:


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