When retouching goes horribly wrong


General Photography

A little while ago, I presented some examples from a very old book that explains how photos were retouched before computers were available. One of the things I love about the blog is that many of my posts make readers write in to tell me stories about something I mentioned here. This following one might be one of the best stories I’ve ever heard.

Alan Pillar shared the following story (thank you, Alan! - quoted here with his permission, of course):

“Your blog on retouching before computers brought back memories of when I was a photographer/manager of a small portrait studio here in Columbus, Ohio in the early ‘80’s.

“Our darkroom man was a master retoucher and printer that could coax beautiful images out of the old equipment he had to work with. I was always amazed at how he could retouch a negative.

“We had a couple come in for an engagement portrait. They were probably in their mid-thirties. They dressed well for the portrait; he wore a dark business suit while she wore a stylish v-neck suit. They were a pleasure to photograph. They came in at their appointed time to select their portrait from the proofs. Our receptionist discussed print and retouching options with them. They placed their order and left the studio happy with our work.

“Their joy turned to anger and outrage when they picked up their prints. Our retoucher had removed the chest hair peeking out of the woman’s v-neck suit! It seems they were both very fond of her chest hair and wanted it in the pictures. We were dumbstruck and nothing we offered, including a new portrait session, placated them. They stormed out vowing never to return.

“That was the strangest retouching encounter we ever had, it still makes me chuckle.”