Daily Examiner photographer Adam Hourigan found this photo on the web and retouched it, illustrating what can be done in
Daily Examiner photographer Adam Hourigan found this photo on the web and retouched it, illustrating what can be done in

Retouching school photos

TO retouch or to remain natural?

This is the question all school children may be asked on photo day in the imminent future. On Monday this week The Sydney Morning Herald revealed there was a growing trend among school photography companies to offer airbrushing options to children.

Some of these companies claimed it was only done on the basis of temporary wounds or injuries to the face. Understandable, we fathom, in the case of seriously imposing scabs that aren’t normally there.

Other companies, however, were offering to erase things such as “blemishes, scars, lines, acne, etc.”, which are permanent features of a person’s face. Is it right for these characteristics of individuality to be removed?

Yet another segment of the industry offered dramatic retouching services to students who simply wanted to make themselves look better.

Many of the kids who are getting this done have been reported to “look good anyway”, and a rise in vanity among children, particularly teenagers, has been observed.

This comes as little wonder, perhaps, as the pressure for teenagers to meet unrealistic standards of beauty is evident all around in today’s culture.

It is difficult these days to go for long without finding the flawless, Photoshopped face of a model staring out at you from some glossy context of media.

Surprisingly though, this pressure for an appearance of perfection on school photo day is not stemming single-handedly from the media.

In some cases it has been the pride of parents that has decided on the utilisation of airbrush for their child’s school photos.

Messages of inferiority are being transmitted to such children, and feelings of not being glamorous enough are having a degrading effect on many kids’ self worth.

All of this astounding new knowledge aroused local curiosity as to whether school photography companies catering for Clarence Valley schools are included in this Photoshopping trend.

Margaret Carle from Roseneath Master School Portraits, the company that photograph a large percentage of schools in the area, reassured The Daily Examiner that airbrushing was not something the company was offering to children.

“If kids and their parents request it because of an injury or something we are happy to comply, but not for cosmetic reasons, for things like blemishes. It’s not something we initiate,” she said.

Margaret said that in 15 years in the business, she had only received between three and five requests for Photo- shopping, and gave a few examples.

A student from Toormina involved in a seri- ous skateboard accident had major damage to the face, and after requests from the par- ents, Roseneath MSP was able to apply some retouches in order to lessen the temporary disfigurement.

The only other instances where Roseneath MSP used Photoshop was when students’ glasses attract glare.

Two images are taken of the child, one with the glasses on and one without, and the two are combined to ensure that no glare obstructs the view of the eyes.

When asked whether it was possible the company might offer airbrush as an option in the future, perhaps for additional profit, Ms Carle said it was unlikely.

“We don’t want to alter that moment in time in children’s lives,” she said.

“It would also be very time-consuming, and the amount of high school kids who would readily accept it would be vast,” she said.

Whether there are shrugs of indifference, cries of dashed hopes, or sighs of wistfulness from local teens, it is now made known that airbrush is not an option for them in the area, at least not for some time, anyway.

Residents of the Clarence Valley have mixed views on this technology.

One 16-year-old, Kendall Cameron, said she probably wouldn’t mind getting airbrush done to her school photo.

“Sometimes they turn out bad,” she laughed.

Julius Koch, also 16, joked that he would appreciate airbrush “if he had a black eye or something”, but then added his insight: “people are basing things on looks rather than personality”.

Joseph Atkins, 20, acknowledged that he might have chosen to airbrush in high school, “just for something different”.

Julie Graham, 55, said altering appearances was wrong: “it’s not a true story”.

She added that this technology being available to children just proves the vast difference between the current era and times of the past.



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