Photo editing in make-up, is it needed?

Retouching is a touchy subject in the make-up world

For decades, photos in fashion magazines have been edited to remove blemishes, smooth out wrinkles, make models look impossibly perfect. It still happens, although today it’s widely acknowledged that this sets unrealistic standards and encourages body-shaming.

Sure, some photo editing on a make-up shoot might be fine. But it’s a slippery slope from tweaking colours to artificially sucking in tummies. Then on the flip side, apps like FaceTune and YouCam have made retouching easy without any photo editing skills needed.

So why is make-up photo editing so controversial, and where’s the line between touching up and overdoing it?

Why photo editing is a make-up industry no-no

Undervaluing the pros

The biggest reason our make-up trainers are sceptical about editing make-up photos is because it disrespects the talented professionals. Make-up artists build their careers on making people look flawless in the flesh. Aside from a colour tweak here and there, photo editing is like telling a make-up artist you don’t think their work is good enough.

Setting unrealistic expectations

Imagine this situation:

  • You find a make-up artist on Instagram with perfect photos
  • You book them to do your birthday make-up
  • They end up being an amateur with edited photos
  • You’ve just paid a lot of money for a look you could do yourself

If they put effort into their skills instead of photo editing, you could have saved your money!

Not the real deal

Just like shrinking a model’s stomach in a swimwear photo, editing make-up sets unrealistic beauty standards. If we want young girls and guys to feel confident and empowered, it’s important the industry makes a point of representing real people.

The (short) list of reasons to edit a photo


Unless you’re working in a professional studio, lighting is tricky. Sometimes you need an extra boost after the shot to get the right lighting, and that’s fine. With a light touch, it can make the artist’s work look even more vibrant.

(Side note: we wrote a blog to help you get the perfect make-up lighting at home).

Colour balance

A photo shoot won’t always capture the true tint of eye shadow or the full depth of a make-up look. And screens see colour differently to our eyes. That’s when a photographer will tweak the colours a little, to bring out the desired colours and balance an image.

Want to learn how to apply incredible make-up with no photo editing required? Check out our make-up courses and get the skills you need for looks that stand out in real life.

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