To Retouch or Not to Retouch: The Ultimate Headshot Question

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Photo Source: Photo by Lilly Rum on Unsplash
Everywhere you look, there’s an invisible facelift, flawless skin, pearly white teeth, and bright expressive eyes. We see the constant bombardment of advertising around us and ponder: Why doesn’t my skin look like that? Why are my eyes not that sparkly?
So it’s no surprise that when it comes to headshots, actors often ask me if retouching is necessary: “I want my headshot to look just like me when I walk into the room. Isn’t retouching kind of like false advertising?”
Well, I’ve got some news for you. As an actor, your headshot is your number one form of advertisement and since retouching is pretty much inevitable these days, we’re more used to retouched images than natural ones. Our eyes have learned to accept that false perfection because it’s what we know and our brains are confused by looking at images with blemishes and stray—we pay more attention to these little things than the overall feel of the picture. Which means casting directors, agents, and the general public may have more trouble looking at and accepting images that aren’t retouched!
Still not convinced? Have you ever seen yourself on film and thought, “wow, I look way better than I thought I did!”? That’s because the camera slightly distorts the way you look, meaning the finished product—whether a film, commercial, or web series—isn’t actually representative of what you truly look like. Your slightly crooked nose or marginally uneven eyes that drive you crazy in unretouched photos are hardly noticeable on screen. Which means that, if done correctly, good retouching can actually make your headshot look more like what you do on screen, providing CDs and producers with a more accurate picture of how castable you are.
Below, we’ll go over the dos and don’ts of headshot retouching so you’ll have all the tools available to get in the room and book. Instead of false advertising, retouching done right is more like your truest form of advertising.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

Author Headshot
Michael Roud
Michael Roud is a Los Angeles-based photographer and writer-director. His photography has been published worldwide and featured in major museums such as the Museum of Contemporary Art. His directorial work has been featured at film festivals around the world and has garnered tens of millions of views on TV and YouTube.
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