Mother ‘Horrified’ After Studio Photoshops Daughter’s Birthmark

Jul 11, 2015

Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery is a Nationally-published Commercial & Editorial Photographer with over 20 years of experience. He has shot for major brands as well small clients. When not shooting client work or chasing overgrown wildlife from his yard, he loves to capture the stories of the people and culture around him.

Mother ‘Horrified’ After Studio Photoshops Daughter’s Birthmark

Jul 11, 2015

Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery is a Nationally-published Commercial & Editorial Photographer with over 20 years of experience. He has shot for major brands as well small clients. When not shooting client work or chasing overgrown wildlife from his yard, he loves to capture the stories of the people and culture around him.

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Retouching of images has become a widely-debated topic in recent years, especially in the context of advertising.  But even traditional family photographers run into this issue at times.  Some clients want to be made to look like supermodels, others prefer a more accurate representation, and sometimes photographers are left wondering which case a particular shoot may fall into.

Lauren Holsten took her 18-month-old daughter, Lexi, to get her portrait taken by a local studio in the UK.  Nothing out of the ordinary about that.  However, when Lauren went to pick up the photos from the studio, she was “horrified” to see that they had digitally removed her daughter’s birthmark from her face.

“It’s like that photography company was saying she’s not perfect and she is just 18 months old. It needs to change,” says Lauren, expressing concern that such a photo would make her daughter feel self-conscious as she gets older.  When she confronted the studio about it, the studio said that the shop assistant simply thought it was a cut.

I’ve been in this situation before.  I have had parents specifically request that I remove every bit of baby acne from their newborn’s face or eliminate cold sores from their elementary-aged children or digitally patch up wounds that happened the day before the shoot.  After a while, you just start to remove the obvious bits from the faces of everyone’s children to make the parents happy…and, typically, they are.

But, I have then had parents ask why I removed permanent features and request that I revert the images to a pre-‘shopped state.  I’ve simply apologized for the mistake, made the changes, and the parents were happy and understanding about why I did what I did.

I’ve also had repeats of both cases with adult subjects as well.  It’s just the nature of the beast.

In this case, though, Lauren has taken to publicly shaming the photography studio, apparently oblivious to the parental demands that they deal with on a regular basis.  The studio has since apologized to Lauren and issued a public statement changing their policy.

“We did not know it was a birthmark first of all. We airbrush the pictures. Any customers who don’t want their picture airbrushing, they let us know. She should have told the photographer it was a birthmark and she didn’t want it airbrushed.

“We have already changed our policy. We are going to make sure we ask parents about birthmarks.”

Hopefully that will satiate Lauren…

Complexities of People

I’m not going to bother asking how many of you receive request to airbrush or “Photoshop” people, their blemishes, and insecurities.  But, how many of you had ever made an incorrect (yet perfectly understandable) judgement call and had a client request the imperfections remain?

[via ShineOn]

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Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery is a Nationally-published Commercial & Editorial Photographer with over 20 years of experience. He has shot for major brands as well small clients. When not shooting client work or chasing overgrown wildlife from his yard, he loves to capture the stories of the people and culture around him.

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41 responses to “Mother ‘Horrified’ After Studio Photoshops Daughter’s Birthmark”

  1. Jordan Stanhope Dean Avatar
    Jordan Stanhope Dean

    I only see one issue with their new policy: parents will get overly sensitive when you do point out the marks..

  2. Michael Lombardi Avatar
    Michael Lombardi

    I totally get it. I’m not a pro, but understand that studios retouch skin imperfections out.

    If the accompanying picture is the same mother-daughter, I think I would have assumed it was a birthmark. I probably would have called the mom and asked. Which, yeah, is a PITA. The mom could have handled it better though.

  3. Christine Welsh Avatar
    Christine Welsh

    General rule.. if it is noticeable when you meet them.. you leave it in… if not.. it is probably something you can airbrush out.. acne is one thing.. birthmarks completely part of the person… but ya.. with children probably best to inquire how the parents want their photos done.. you will get both demands and you can not please everyone. Parents can be over sensitive.. part of life.

    1. Ryan Taylor Avatar
      Ryan Taylor

      They said they didn’t realize it was a birthmark. I would always ask them anyway beforehand. Everyone is different.

    2. John Wylie Jr Avatar
      John Wylie Jr

      I think horrified is a bit of a stretch here.

    3. Peter Brophy Avatar
      Peter Brophy

      Yeah, “horrified” is a bit over dramatic. There are terrible things going on in the world and a portrait studio airbrushing out a birth mark isn’t one of them.

  4. Rona E Philpott Avatar
    Rona E Philpott

    I always ask – and let them know that permanent marks will stay, but if they want them softened I can do that, but NEVER remove. Temporary marks can, and will usually be removed – but ask first!

  5. Chris Wright Avatar
    Chris Wright

    When this company was notified they imidiately gave the mother the pictures with the birthmark. Since then the mother has been on a social media rampage to ‘Destroy’ that photographers business.

  6. Adriana Diana Durian Avatar
    Adriana Diana Durian

    I’m feeling sorry for the photographer. While there should have been some conversation in advance about the birthmark, the whole interaction didn’t need to hit social media.
    30-years ago I had photo’s taken, and a scar left by scalding water, was removed in the darkroom (no digital at that time) from my chest area. I probably had the same reaction as the mom in this article. In speaking with the photographer, he said most women he shot asked for scars to be removed; I told him the scar was me, and he nicely replaced the image. Not a social media worthy interaction… mom needs to take up a hobby.

    1. Shivanjani Kumar Avatar
      Shivanjani Kumar

      Lol true. And most of the time, if the photographer doesn’t do heaps of post processing to make the client look better, the clients say the photographer is bad. Yes. I have had a few people say that to me. They say a crappy photo is good if they look good in it and if they don’t look good in even the best photo, they will say the photographer lacks skills.

  7. Amy Jones Avatar
    Amy Jones

    The parent should also say that is a mole/ birthmark. Many moles, birthmarks etc can look like an abrasion, fresh scar that had not had time to heal, burn etc. People need to communicate on both sides and not be unnecessarily dramatic.

    1. Robin Avatar
      Robin

      I get your point, but most parents would be used to it and probably wouldn’t even think to say anything. Personally, I feel that any digital enhancements on the pictures should be discussed, or a clause / check box included in the paperwork

  8. Sheri Belanger Avatar
    Sheri Belanger

    My policy is that anything that is permanent I leave alone. I remove temporary blemishes and “imperfections” I bluntly ask my clients how much editing they would like and show them three types of images, from global editing, to moderate, to intensive. In some cases, I will leave the birthmark/scar/wrinkle in but fade it a bit. I have made assumptions before and corrected my approach as I learned. I don’t know of a photographer personally that doesn’t really love people and want them to be happy and confident with themselves and their images. I would be surprised if the photographer (or the retoucher) intended any harm. However, if the photographer did not realize that that was a birthmark — they clearly were new at looking at children.

  9. Michael Goolsby Avatar
    Michael Goolsby

    For godsake, the mother is blowing this totally out of proportion. Yes, the photographer should have asked. But to be “horrified” in response rather than simply saying “That’s not a blemish. It’s a birthmark. Please leave it” is just over the top.

    As a wedding photographer, I encounter this all of the time. I once had a bride call me after she received her entire edited order asking if I could go back and remove her arm tattoo in each of the shots. She was mostly polite, but insinuated that I should have done it without her having to ask. How should I have known? Well, she had clearly applied flesh-toned make-up to hide it! I politely assured her that, whatever the case, such individualized attention came under the auspices of “custom retouching”, and was not part of our normal editing process. I told her the cost and offered to do a few for free. She then picked out a few for the free service and didn’t bother with any others. And afterwards, she was very pleased, and even recommended us.

    This should have been an easily-addressed non-issue. Instead, it ended up being a mom on Facebook looking to be the center of attention with outrage.

  10. Angie Dutton Avatar
    Angie Dutton

    It’s easy to ask the general question beforehand : “Is there anything you would like me to edit out, such as abrasions or acne?” Put the ball in their court. Then you know.
    Having said that, I’m so tired of people resorting to social media to “teach someone a lesson”. Good grief. The photographer did not intend to cause harm, and they corrected the situation when they were made aware of it. Let. It. Go.

  11. John Havord Avatar
    John Havord

    Sadly, another case of someone seeing an opportunity, to have their 15 minutes of internet fame :(

  12. Don Pierson Avatar
    Don Pierson

    Sounds like she wants free photos :)

  13. Shai Yammanee Avatar
    Shai Yammanee

    This is a case of supersensitivity on the mother’s part. Retouching images in the norm. Hopefully there is no damage done to the photographer’s business. This is just irrisponsible behaviour by the parent.

  14. Don Barnard Avatar
    Don Barnard

    so much dumb when everybody wants something to get offended about…. crazy woman, you bring the pics back and ask for a redo explaining what you need. Apparently she needs anger therapy more than she needs a photographer. dumbass.

  15. Alecio P Avatar
    Alecio P

    I really thought she was going to ask for some kind of compensation because she was “horrified”…

  16. George F. Haley Avatar
    George F. Haley

    That “blemish” is an hemangioma. These are fairly common amongst babies and almost always they shrink and disappear as the child grows.

  17. Ralph Hightower Avatar
    Ralph Hightower

    I had a yearbook photo taken when I had a recent wound. It went into the yearbook. But back then, there was no Photoshop. It was all film.

    1. Petar Maksimovic Avatar
      Petar Maksimovic

      Ok

  18. Beverly Malcom Avatar
    Beverly Malcom

    I guess people can’t be upset or mad or frustrated anymore, gotta’ be “Horrified!”. Might want to save your horror for things that are truly horrifying.

  19. Rodney E. Dodson Avatar
    Rodney E. Dodson

    It was the mother’s duty to tell the photographer that this was a birthmark, and not to retouch it. When I was a professional portrait photographer, I would often have to ask, putting myself in a somewhat awkward position. All she had to do is request another set of prints from the original image.

  20. Rick Unsworth Avatar
    Rick Unsworth

    I would have said thank-you. Are you going to make that child go through life like that. She may turn on you later. Watch your back.

  21. Maxim Bulat Avatar
    Maxim Bulat

    Specifically checked her FB profile and it is only selfies, her daughter or both of them. Good to take photos of children, but FB profile says a lot about the person and the lady has to find some other hobbies. Definitely overacting to seek for her moment of fame.

    1. Rick Avatar
      Rick

      What, no man in her life? Go figure.

      1. Matthew Wagg Avatar
        Matthew Wagg

        Thats very sexist.

  22. Durrson Avatar
    Durrson

    Sounds like the company is blaming her for *not* wanting the images airbrushed. Poor communication on both sides. The photographer / photoshop person should not have removed birthmarks like that (It’s obvious it is) without first talking to the client.

    I’m a photographer, and I agree with the parent, not the company on this.

  23. Tom Robson Avatar
    Tom Robson

    Sounds like the company is blaming her for *not* wanting the images airbrushed. Poor communication on both sides. The photographer / photoshop person should not have removed birthmarks like that (It’s obvious it is) without first talking to the client.

    I’m a photographer, and I agree with the parent, not the company on this.

  24. ext237 Avatar
    ext237

    A fellow photog once showed me a pic of a woman with a similarly placed mole and asked if she should photoshop it. I told her it was the clients decision, and since the client hadn’t had the thing removed, they already made their decision clear.

    Nowadays, a mole can be removed with little out of pocket expense. If they want to keep it, it stays in the shots unless requested otherwise.

    1. Elizabeth Urbanowicz Avatar
      Elizabeth Urbanowicz

      I have several moles on my face that I edit out in most of my pictures. I don’t have money to get them removes right now but one day I will remove them. It takes 2 seconds to remove them in PS so I ask photographers to remove the moles from my face.

  25. Amanda Manduh Secord Avatar
    Amanda Manduh Secord

    Shouldn’t photographers ask before removing anything from portraits?

    1. akshayjamwal Avatar
      akshayjamwal

      It’s a fine line, I guess. A birthmark is one thing, but asking whether or not to remove a whitehead is redundant, don’t you think?

  26. Matthew Wagg Avatar
    Matthew Wagg

    So much hating on the poor woman. We as photographers deal with this day in and out. But the general public don’t always know the ins and outs of what we do. Communication between photographer and client is the most important thing. She wouldn’t have been upset if the studio had actually done their jobs properly and consulted with the client.

  27. Demetris C Christodoulides Avatar
    Demetris C Christodoulides

    Going on the social media and web about this? Why didn’t they solve it in private? I suspect she’s generally butthurt much, or the usual case of attention seeker. “Horrified” my ass.

  28. Ilya the Great Avatar
    Ilya the Great

    Why everything is blown out of proportion? The photographer, who is probably making equivalent of $12 an hour, made a poor decision.

  29. Pete Woods Avatar
    Pete Woods

    As much as I can sympathize with both sides, if playing the ‘blame game’ the photographer is to blame as he assumed or presumed the customer would be fine with the adjustment. Should/Would/Could Have, even if the toddler had turd stuck on the face where any reasonable person would think it should be removed via post he nevertheless should have asked the customer for permission. How’s the expression go “Assumption is the mother of all %^$ -ups”

  30. Andrew Ridgway Avatar
    Andrew Ridgway

    This has come up in national newspapers in the uk before and i agree with the mother here, though it should never have been a big story
    The appology is poor, never blame your client for your mistake.
    I always leave things in unless asked to remove them, this has 2 advantages, one you don’t get plastered all over fb for upsetting someone and two if they ask they then know you have done extra work and appreciate your efforts

  31. Andrew Avatar
    Andrew

    Interesting question at the end, i never ps out anything perminant, i rarely remove zits till i have a chat with the client after all that way they would know i have done some extra work.
    I would also never blame the client for not tellinging to not airbrush something… Poor judgement and far worste pr from the company