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The Art of Retouching Headshots Part Three

It’s Only Natural


After saying all that, “So then, what’s the rub?”

Great question!  The Art of Retouching Headshots Part Three, will address the answers. To begin, we need to revisit perspective, and how it directly affects both the clients perceptions, as well as how the photographer might allay their concerns.

Firstly, people do NOT actually observe the facial features of those with whom they are speaking while in a conversation. There’s a host of reasons why, but probably most significantly the culprit is the peripheral vision. It’s activated and busy taking in the surroundings. It does not take into account the detailed facial features of the person with whom they’re talking.

Because us humans do not normally examine the facial features of those we’re in conversation, such faces appear soft and imprecise. Thus, when we think of and recall our friends and associates faces, we imagine them being considerably more pleasant than they would actually look in a vanity mirror. Makes sense. Right? It’s a reasonable perspective.

Conversely, when viewing a headshot portrait, the peripheral vision is disengaged. The EXACT OPPOSITE perspective then occurs. Suddenly every line, blemish, and wrinkle becomes a glaring beacon of distraction.

So then, since the faces we see in person (soft/imprecise) are vastly different from the facial features we do observe in a photograph (harsh/detailed), which facial features are natural and which are unnatural?

I would argue that an headshot portrait without the greatest degree of retouching is vastly more unnatural that one where retouching as been superbly and artistically applied.

The Art of Retouching Headshots | Part Three, Orange County Headshots, Mark Jordan Photography

The Art of Retouching Headshots Part Three: Reality on Left, which we really don’t see “Conversationally.” Pro Retouching on Right, which is how we most likely think of him, yielding a natural, fresh look. He’s someone I’d like to know and conduct business.


The Art of Retouching Headshots Part Three: “It’s Only Natural”

The Art of Retouching Headshots | Part One PREVAILING PERSPECTIVE
The Art of Retouching Headshots | Part Two THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
The Art of Retouching Headshots | Part Four CONVERSATIONAL RETOUCHING


Think of friend who you know well. Tell me, how long are their crows-feet? How deep and what color are their eye bags? What’s the uniformity of their complexion? Blemishes? Spider viens? Rosacea? How many, what size and color are the artifacts in their sclera (eye whites)? How about the color, shape and characteristics of their irises?

I can go on, asking about necklines, double chins, facial shine, cracked/dry lips, teeth composition/color/spacing, ear shape/hairs, nose shape and nostril hairs, eyebrow shape/density, and one hundred and one facial details that you’d NEVER to think to observe or consider – that is UNTIL you see their facial features magnified in a photograph…

Not to mention, we have yet to touch upon another multitude of design distractions introduced by clothing, which is uniformly unruly. Whether it be  too loose or too tight ties/jackets/shirts/blouses, or too small/large shirt collars, or misshaped clothing contours, all must be addressed by the educated eye of the Master retoucher.

Again, since we do not pay attention to, nor cite from memory, the exacting facial features of a close friend, what makes us believe that leaving a face in a headshot portrait “natural” is actually “natural”? If ANYTHING, such graphically exposed detail is ANYTHING BUT natural. That is, unless you’re the sort who’s made it a lifelong pursuit of scrutinizing the facial features of those whom you love.

Not likely.

So ends The Art of Retouching Headshots | Part Three. Next up is Part Four, the “Conversational” quotient in creating natural headshots.


Mark Jordan
Master Craftsman Photographer
American Society of Photographers
International Photography Hall of Fame & Museum
Orange County Photographer of the Year
3-Time Honoree -EPCOT’S World’s Greatest Photographers Exhibit


When looking for a professional Orange County Family Portraits photographer, or Orange County Headshots Photographer please call 949-888-8071 or complete our online request form.


The Art of Retouching Headshots Part Three

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