There are a lot of different photographers and all have a different style – not only for how they shoot their photographs but also for how they choose to edit and retouch their photos. Of course these change based on the image to be edited, but generally they fall into one category or another by the photographers preference.
There are two over-arching categories I like to lump these into: Realistic and Surrealistic.
Realistic editing is what I call editing that allows the photograph to look more…well…realistic. Let’s talk about portrait photographs for an example, shall we? Good. Portrait photos, edited realistically, show flaws. Flaws are what make us human, after all. Real people have scars, moles, pores, asymmetrical features, all that good stuff.
When I edit my photos realistically, I leave in all the perminant marks. And I prefer to edit realistically. Temporary marks, are removed: cuts, bruises, pimples, blemishes, these things aren’t really a part of the person, so they can be removed. While editing in this style, some people do remove the perminant marks. Personally, I only do this upon request. What really separates out the realistic style, however, is the texture of the skin itself. The skin texture is what really defines what it is. This brings us to the Surrealistic style.
Surrealistic editing removes any and all imperfections. It also removes the texture of the skin, effectively giving it the visual texture of plastic. If a persons eyes are non-symmetrical, the editor may even choose to copy one eye, reflect it, and replace the other eye with its exact clone to give the face a more symmetrical look. Veins in the eye are totally removed. This style is generally used in beauty magazines, however sloppily (really, next time you’re in the store and see one, look near the hair line. I guarantee you’ll see a change in texture from smooth to rough) because it’s what they think people want to look like. They use it as the “ideal human” set of features, which always leads to disappointment because, well, no matter how much makeup you use, you’ll never be able to change your body.
Personally, I reserve this editing style only for when it’s requested (typically not for everyday portraits, but for companies) or when I’m working on a project that I intend to look altered and unreal.
So which style do you prefer? There are many opinions on each side. I made my opinion rather clear that I prefer the more realistic style of editing, but that doesn’t mean you have to!