It was welcome news that Seventeen Magazine has announced it will do only minor retouching on images of girls in it's popular magazine, as stated in it's "Body Peace Treaty," available in the August issue. This was spurred in part by a campaign created by a Maine 14-year-old girl who felt the depictions of girls were unrealistic. In the past few years, some celebrities (such as Kate Winslet) have criticized retouching and body sculpting. Of course, fashion magazines already choose gorgeous, fit young models to fill its pages; that's pressure enough. But retouching them into alien standards of beauty goes too far.
On the left is an image from a recent photo shoot of our model, Kelly, a naturally pretty young woman. It shows her from candid to over-retouched.
1) Candid--no makeup, as is (photographers should always shoot a quick series of candids before hair/makeup, to refer to)
2) Headshot without any corrections or retouching
3) Image with only minor corrections--removal of a hair on forehead, minor shadow softening under eyes, removal of bra line; her freckles still prominent
4) Evil retouching--skin smoothed over, eyes over-sharpened, teeth over-whitened
Of course in popular fashion magazines, it goes even further--they sculpt bodies, noses, perform digital liposuction and more. I've done over-retouching in the past, I'm sure most photographers have at some time or another--it's incredibly easy to cross that line, especially when you have a client begging for it and they're writing the check. In the world of headshots and model portfolios, retouching must be minimal. When we do pageant headshots or photos, we give a little more "glamour" leeway in retouching.
To see glaring evidence of over-retouching, stand in the grocery store checkout line and look at the covers of the major women's magazines (we're looking at you, Paula Deen and Suze Orman--and Oprah!). Counter that by glancing at the tabloids, which prefer the most unflattering pictures possible (but many of those pictures are, in fact, real).
You can read more about proper retouching standards in The Art of the Headshot.