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Portland Professional Photography | On Captain America and Retouching

I’ve had a pretty exhausting month, but I did find some time over the weekend to catch the new Captain America movie. I do identify as a geek, but comics are my least-explored area of geek culture, so I didn’t know a great deal of the backstory established by the comics, and honestly, I expected to be a little nonplussed by Captain America as a hero. Yeah, I’m one of those people who likes her heroes a bit more complicated. Still, the period setting was compelling, I enjoyed the story they told, and I easily got behind, and may have even identified a little with, Steve Rogers. And, after having seen Thor, Iron Man, and the like, I was hold-your-breath excited about the preview of the upcoming Avengers movie in 2012. Squee noises may have happened. 😉

One of the conversations I had with enthusiastic Portland geek Joe Streckert after seeing the movie, was about the special effects–the most obvious of which was superimposing Chris Evans’ head onto a much-smaller and skinnier body, before Rogers goes through his transformation into the super-ripped protagonist we all recognize. Joe asked what I thought of that, and I did like that the effect was used in a way that contributed to the story, but I wasn’t 100% enthusiastic about it. When Joe mentioned that computer-generated effects were also used to enhance the Red Skull’s face, however, I was immediately impressed by that. The reason for that? If you hadn’t told me there were computer-generated effects involved, I wouldn’t have noticed them.

I wound up telling him that how I feel about special effects in movies is a lot like how I feel about retouching in photos: it’s best when don’t notice it. I use retouching as part of my editing process, but I use a lighter touch when I do it. I can touch up blemishes and flyaway hairs, brighten teeth, or even out skintones, but I want the people I work with to look like themselves after the editing’s done. If I see a photo and notice skin-smoothing or unnatural nips and tucks, I’ll say that the retoucher hasn’t done their job–if they’re doing it right, you won’t know that a retoucher ever went near that photo.

There’s a time and a place for retouching–there can be small details that distract from the overall vision of a photo, and if we can refine it, then why not do it? There’s no reason to replace one distraction with another by using too-obvious retouching, however, and we don’t live in a perfect world. There’s beauty and character in some of those imperfections, and I’d rather embrace the quirks and uniqueness in people than try to rub them out.

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