How would you feel being Photoshopped to look skinnier in your wedding photos?

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How would you feel being Photoshopped to look skinnier in your wedding photos?
Hands off these curves!
Dress by KMKDesigns | Photo by Winterwolf Photography | Makeup: Ruby Randall

About ten years ago, I attended my best friend's wedding as a bridesmaid. I wore a larger size than the other bridesmaids and had to wear a sleeveless dress. Granted, it was not that flattering, but it looked fine, in my opinion. Once the wedding was over and we all got to peek at the photos, I was surprised to see that a photo of me had been obviously Photoshopped to skinny me up, as well as to blur out a tattoo. This wasn't a particularly frame-worthy shot, just a random candid, but it was shocking. I'm sure this photography team thought I'd be pleased to see this version of myself, but I definitely wasn't.

Just this week I spied this post about a photographer doing a similar ‘shop job to a couple's engagement photos. Here's one example:

Via Bored Panda

The photographer posted a fairly mean response to the controversy, using the phrase “chin tuck” to describe Photoshopping the bride's double chin. Mean spirits aside, this was just a terrible encounter overall. As the Senior Editor of Offbeat Bride, I deal primarily with offbeat-friendly photographers, so I'd never encountered this concept of a digital “chin tuck” or heard of many photographers “skinnying up” their clients (or their clients' wedding guests) without the couple specifically asking for it.

So I decided to think it through to see why it might be done, who was requesting it, and ultimately, who owns the likeness? Who owns your body in a photo?

When couples request it

There's something so invasively intimate about thinking of someone spending time carefully trimming off your excess flesh.

If, as the marrying couple, you ask for some Photoshopping for yourself or your guests, I can understand the motivation. There is a lot of social media pressure to have everyone look a certain way, so I get it. Just think about how your choice may be perceived by the people being Photoshopped, if not yourself. In my experience as an unwittingly Photoshopped bridesmaid, it made me feel like I was too damned fat for that photo, and consequently, for the wedding. In my case, it wasn't my friend creating the alienating feeling, it was her photographer.

There's something so invasively intimate about the idea of someone spending time to digitally trim off your excess flesh — flesh that they independently decided wasn't acceptable. It feels like someone raking their eyes over my body and deciding where to trim. If I'd asked for it, that would be something else entirely. But my experience with getting “chin tucked” left me feeling pretty crummy and embarrassed. (And apparently still mulling it over ten years later!)

I imagine there are people who delight in finding that they look different in their photos — certainly it must be common practice in some circles, given the state of social media glamour these days. But I just wasn't one of them, and the reality is that it's hard to know who is and isn't. If the couple owns the photos (or at least the way they want to perceive the day), is it acceptable to let them own how your body looks in their photos? What about the photographer?

A photographer's choice

Ultimately, I think most photographers definitely don't want to Photoshop anyone skinnier and would have some dread in getting the request — it's tedious, time-consuming work! (Plus, I know a ton of awesome, body-positive photographers out there who would cringe.) I'd also guess that most offbeat photographers don't even offer it as a service. But again, social media marketing pressure is high and the quest for likes is a big driver.

How often are photographers being asked to ‘shop couples, wedding parties, or guests? It's within their power to market their photos on their channels, even going so far as to more significantly edit photos for marketing purposes than they may deliver to the couples. Are they doing it and who might it be hurting?

Guests being Photoshopped

Guests and wedding party members aren't paying anyone to take their photo and don't really have a lot of say in where their likeness gets edited and then posted. If a photographer takes it upon themselves to edit the body of a someone who isn't paying for the service, can they complain? Ultimately, I believe the couple should be pretty specific about body modifying Photoshopping if they choose a photographer who includes it as an option.

Watching reality wedding TV will give you the impression that brides are putting all of their bridesmaids on diets and making them get spray-tanned. To me, this is tantamount to Photoshopping bodies. But at least with a diet, you get to have say in it.

Let's hear from you:

Photographers: have you encountered either couples asking to be Photoshopped or being upset by edits you've made?

Couples: are you in the camp that Photoshopping body sizes is cool with you? Or do you think you'd be insulted?

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Comments on How would you feel being Photoshopped to look skinnier in your wedding photos?

  1. Wow, that photographer did a great, high quality Photoshop job. Hope he didn’t invest too much time editing a whole lot of photos before he found out the couple didn’t like the Photoshop version.

    I think it would be nice for a photographer to do one, to see if the customer couple like that option and desire more. God knows my upper arm always looks fat in photos, and I wish I had the skill to Photoshop it in a reasonable, moderate manner like he did.

    • The photographer made her chin look like a ventriloquist’s dummy and her partner’s arm look like it’s made out of bendy rubber – this is seriously not a well-done editing job in any way.

      And that’s aside from her being a complete judgmental jackass afterwards. I’m glad she at least outed herself so no one has to put up with this kind of treatment again. (SO freaking thankful we got a photographer who loves us *as we are*.)

      Honestly, no photographer should be doing this kind of work without express permission in the first place – and it should be spelled out in the contract.

  2. The bride in the above photo never asked to have her images photoshopped. Furthermore, the photographer went on social media making several remarks including calling them morbidly obese as well as saying, ” It is extremely hard to get Pinterest worthy lovey-dovey pics when people can’t even get their heads close to each other.” She fat shamed them not only in the images but also on social media. It’d be a different story if the couple had asked to be trimmed.

    As a plus-sized bride, I would be totally offended if my photographer did this. Thankfully, my photographer is not only a close friend but also a plus sized woman so I don’t have to worry about that! As far as editing guests the only thing that she said she would do is put Hagrid in place of people who were blocking her from getting the shots she needs and I am completely ok with that!

  3. So, as a photographer, I do get people asking me to Photoshop them all the time.

    My policy is that I will always automatically fix small, impermanent things free of charge – flyaway hairs, skin blemishes, etc. I think that’s just fine as it doesn’t make someone look unlike themself. I won’t photoshop someone to be significantly skinnier, especially not without them asking, BUT. Especially in candids where I don’t have control over posing, I will sometimes tuck a chin ever so slightly or take out a clothing wrinkle that’s highlighting something they might not like highlighted – but I won’t shop it more than it looks in their most flattering posed pictures. Does that make sense?

    Everyone takes a few unfortunate pictures here and there, even Beyonce – and if the moment is too good to pass up, I’ll basically try to make someone look like the most photogenic version of themselves, without making them look like a different person. These are verrrry minor alterations we’re talking about here and I certainly try not to alter the actual shape of people’s bodies. If I can fix these things through posing or clothing adjustments in person before the photo is ever taken, I definitely try to do that instead, but sometimes you miss things while you’re shooting.

    I also try to take into account the vibes that people are giving off during the shoot. If they keep saying things that reveal their insecurities, I’ll give them a little extra help in the areas they’re asking for. If they obviously feel fabulous and confident, I’m much more likely to just let the photos be.

    I hope that gives a little insight into my personal thought process on the photoshopping.

    • I totally get this. I don’t want you making me appear slimmer but if the angle of the original photo gives me a weird bump or something, I’m ok with it being fixed.

    • SO interesting to hear that you get asked all the time! I agree, though, as long as you feel like you’re still looking at the same person who looks generally the same (although maybe with less stray hairs!), then it feels fine to me.

    • This is my approach, too. If I can tell that my subject was just holding their arm awkwardly, or the angle was just a little off, I will tweak an image to ensure that it looks as lovely as my subject does in real life.

  4. So, my face does a thing when I smile big. It creates this double line that goes from my chin up to my ears, like this weird crease. It bugs me … but it IS me. No one else who I’ve ever pointed this crease out to ever noticed it. They’re just like “That’s your face.” Going back through old photos it has nothing to do with what I weigh at any given time. The face crease just happens. It literally is just my face. It never dawned on me to ask my photographer to get rid of my face crease. In fact, since the crease only happens when I smile really big, it LIKE seeing it in my wedding photos because it means I was super happy!

    • Some people have very prominent veins in their foreheads pop out when they are very happy. Most poor who get that mention that it happens and they hate it, so I fix it. Occasionally, though, someone will say, “since it only happens when I’m very happy, I want to see my forehead veins in pictures!” I think it’s about knowing your audience, being respectful, and trying to make everyone look as radiantly beautiful and authentic as possible in pictures. I think the photographer’s crucial mistake came in fat shaming them on social media. I personally have a policy that all of my couples are featured on my blog and in sneak peaks/tweets unless they specifically request more privacy. Everyone is awesome. Everyone’s love story deserves to be featured peep. Lots of people choose me because of this. They like that my website features hundreds of different couples looking happy, in love, and gorgeous, but like themselves. That’s kind of my brand. I don’t do styled shoot with models. I don’t aspire for Pinterest perfection in every single photo, although I certainly have plenty of Pinterest-worthy shots. It sounds to me like this photographer went overboard blaming/shaming the subjects for what she saw as images then don’t stand up to her usual quality. In that case, she’s photo shopping them because she’s embarrassed, not because she’s rooting for them and wants them to look their “best.“ I think intention is everything. In 17 years of weddings, plenty of people have asked me to Photoshop them. I only ever had one couple asked me to put the groom’s unibrow back in. They had originally asked me to “de emphasize“ it. They felt like he just didn’t look like himself without it. I had no problem doing that. I think they just didn’t realize what a difference even just a little retouching on the unibrow would make. Our exchange was very respectful though. And I certainly didn’t make any comments on social media about it. I’m a plus size lady, myself though.

  5. I have never done any “weight removal” with Photoshop unless specifically asked to do so by my clients, though I will routinely remove blemishes or fix the random hair flyaways without asking first. I have no problem with slimming someone down if requested, but it has only happened with me a couple of times since we gained the technology to do this kind of digital surgery. I guess I would be worried that the person who I slimmed down might be offended that I would do such a thing without asking first.

  6. I was recently a bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding. The photographer tried to pose my head so my double chin would go away. As we girls were on some steps and he was below us…well…you can imagine that not being a very flattering angle anyway. So of course, my double chin would show. When the guy was done taking pictures he shook his head and laughingly said to me, “Wow, you’re really bad at this.” It was a combination of pure shock over his lack of professionalism and me not wanting to disprupt my friend’s wedding that caused me to not ram his camera up his bony arse.

  7. I definitely think that any photoshopping that changes the person’s appearance should be only by the request of the person being photoshopped. I personally dont have a problem with someone wanting a certain thing that they are self-conscious about to be changed. I know that for our engagement pictures I have already discussed a big change with my photographer for myself BUT that is because we are doing costumed shots as our favorite couples from a few of our favorite fandoms and for one that we picked my character has completely white eyes and that is a rather important feature for her, I cant wear colored contacts so our photographer agreed to recolor my eyes for every shot in that set with my helmet off. I may also ask for some bump smoothing if I need to default to the back up outfit for another of our fandoms because the way that one is cut gives me some bumps I really detest (hence why it is my back up not my main choice). Either way these would be my choice, I dont know what I would think if she took it upon herself to do the changes (she never has before so I cant imagine she would for this.)

  8. My friend who was married a few years ago had minor Photoshopping in her pictures, and I was really surprised that anyone would do that (she had requested it, the photographer didn’t do it without her consent). I thought the point was to have a picture of you as you were on that day, exactly as you were.

    It was only some evening-out of skin tone and removing minor blemishes, so basically doing the same job as make-up, and she told me she was really happy with it. Even though I thought she already looked beautiful and didn’t need to be Photoshopped, she was much happier with the editing out of minor things she didn’t like so I suppose some requested editing can be a good thing. Unrequested editing is definitely insulting and hurtful and implying the person is somehow “not good enough” to be photographed just as they are!

  9. I can’t imagine wanting a photographer to Photoshop images of me or my wedding. I want images of what actually happened, and who was actually there–when I looked for photographers, I looked for ones who seemed adept at capturing moments that were beautiful because they were also AUTHENTIC. The thing I most want to avoid about my wedding is anything feeling artificial. I don’t even want any posed shots. I’m not going to have a “shot list.” I’m not even going to wear foundation. So having a photographer who altered our appearances, or the appearance of any of our guests, would be a nightmare for me.

    I also feel like I want photographers who see the natural, real beauty in who we are and in the wedding we create, even on a tight budget and with all our imperfections. I don’t want to hire someone who feels like “ugh, I have to photograph THESE people?!” I really believe that if the photographer thinks you look fantastic and are wonderful people, this will come across in the images they make and choose.

  10. As a videographer I don’t really get asked to edit my films, mainly because I think people realise its pretty hard to do in video compared to photos. Having said that, I know a lot of photographers who grapple with this all the time.

    The requests can sometimes be impossible to deal with (e.g. I don’t like the left hand side of my face) to simple things like removing wrinkles or lines. For me, I wouldn’t personally photoshop the changes. I would send as they are, and if they request changes, put in a quote to have the changes done by a professional photoshop guru.

    I think couples overestimate the skills of their photographers in photoshop, many do not have the time nor the inclination! So send photos as they were shot (usually lightroom edits aside), and if they are happy with how they look in life they’ll be happy with the photos (bar minor tweaks). If they really have issues with how they look, at least they are bringing it up and not the photographer judging.

  11. Honestly…yes I plan to ask for certain photos of myself to be photoshopped in certain ways. I will be avoiding any photographers who refuse to do any sorts of vanity PS. It may take me longer to find a great photog, but this is one area where I am willing to search longer and pay more. As to photoshopping guests/bridal party? No way. That’s ridiculous, I love these people as they are – unless I was approached by someone requesting it, then I would absolutely accommodate it for them. For the most part, the wedding pictures are for the bride and groom only – why not do what you want, makes you happy and are comfortable with? Not everyone has the luxury of getting married in their prime and may wish to have some tweaks done.

  12. Wedding photographer AND a plus-size girl here, and I am uncomfortable with photoshopping bodies in wedding photos. I believe all bodies are beautiful, and I’d rather spend time finding the most flattering angles and poses for each couple. I don’t have many clients who ask for it, but when they do, I try to restrict it to smoothing unflattering bumps and minor slimming. And if I have a photo that’s otherwise beautiful but the pose caused a major bulge or wrinkle that sticks out or looks unnatural, I’ll smooth that out. I had one bride recently who looked stunning, but the tight cut at the top of her dress caused a big unsightly bulge on her back when she turned her upper body. She probably didn’t even know it was there. I considered leaving it but eventually decided to reduce it just enough to look natural. Hopefully she never knew.

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