Monday, February 22, 2010

Retoucher's eye

I've been horrible about posting lately, in part due to a lot of time spent retouching photo orders. A few days ago I noticed that I was getting a bad case of what I will call "retoucher's eye." It hasn't made its way into the annals of medical nosology . Not yet. But I bet that I am not alone in experiencing this. Can you guess what it is?

Let me digress for a moment and tell you about the worst job of my youth. I couldn't have been much older than 14 when a friend told me about a summer job working for an inventory auditing company. You don't have a lot of options at that age (or at any age in today's economy, but let's not think about that right now), so I took a calculator aptitude test and they signed me up. We worked our way through dozens of Fred Meyer stores. We slept in seedy motels and spent 12 hours a day counting. Most tedious job: counting bins of screws one at a time. Most embarrassing for a teenager: counting feminine hygiene products amidst shopping women. The days were long, but the nights were worse. I don't know who came up with the idea of "counting sheep" as a pleasant sleep-inducing activity, but it sure as hell wasn't me. At night, the numbers marched across my ceiling like those freaky "pink elephants on parade" in Dumbo. About two weeks of that and I quit.

And then there's Tetris. Play it enough and you get "Tetrisitis"—the phenomenon of seeing block formations when you're not actually playing the game.

I bet you are starting to understand "retoucher's eye." Spend enough consecutive hours retouching people's faces and pretty soon the Photoshop tool palette follows you everywhere. I first noticed it when I was having lunch with a friend and in my mind I kept lassoing any oversized pores with the patch tool and doing other touch-ups while we talked. Frightening, isn't it? I found it hard to look at anyone (myself included) without mentally retouching. This is what plastic surgeons must do every day. And dentists. And fashion consultants. And makeup artists. etc. etc.

If you are anything like my wife's friend Jill (hi Jill, if you're reading) and you think that retouching someone's appearance is morally questionable, then this must be a satisfying cautionary tale.

What do you think? Ever had retoucher's eye or something similar?

Obviously, I'm not about to stop retouching people's faces. That's part of why they hire me. I already have my own moral philosophy of retouching, which is to keep it natural. If you look at my tutorials you will see the changes in my "before" and "after" photos tend to be subtle. But then, the more you train yourself to work on subtle details, the more you are going to notice them, so even if you achieve photos that don't look retouched, you can still get retoucher's eye.


4chalseys@blogger said...

Everytime I look in the mirror I am photoshopping my face. Popping my eyes and darkening my lashes. Lassoing my blemishes and liquifying my chubby cheeks. I bet you are right about plastic surgeons. I bet the can't go to the beach without "fixing" everyone in their mind.

michelle said...

Oh no, this definitely sounds worse than Tetrisitis!

I never knew the part about you sleeping in seedy motels for that job -- at 14?? How did that get past your mom?

Nosology, eh? Who knew?

camille said...

aaaah tetrisitis. i know it well.