Arlo reacted to something and has had a rash around his mouth for the past week or so.

My first instinct when I looked at the photo was that the rash was too harsh and detracting, so I edited it out. I don’t want to look back at this photo in years to come and the overriding thought be, “Look at Arlo’s rash”. It’s distracting.


This is the image straight out of camera. Yes, it would have helped if I got the framing and exposure right SOOC too. In fact, everything about this image is terrible. 

So, I did what I usually do when I can’t decide, and I edited two versions – rashy and non-rashy.


Sometimes I find it really difficult to resist the urge to ‘perfect’ an image. Especially when I have all the tools right in front of me and I’m used to doing it for client work.

I don’t like to mess around with eyes – if they come out super sharp and crazily vivid straight out of camera, then that’s great. Otherwise I leave them alone. There’s something about the eyes, I feel that if you create that look artificially, you end up making that person look artificial and not like themselves any more.

But with a close up portrait that I know I’m going to print one day, I do like to smooth and even out skin tone. Mainly because a barely noticeable red patch on screen can become a hugely harsh and distracting blotch on a large print. I will see that photo every day on my wall, and it will annoy me.

Sam absolutely hates it. He would prefer if every image was exactly as it was in real life. Whereas I don’t hesitate to edit out snot and food.

So, where do you draw the line? When does an image stop being a true representation of your child?

Until I make up my mind, I’ll just keep on editing two of everything.


  1. I don’t know, it kind of reminds me of the photoshopping that goes on to make models ‘perfect’ – do we want our kids to think that is how life is? But I say this as someone who thinks the best pictures are those of the kids covered in snot and food. One of my favourite ones of Oliver is him mid-wee.

    I guess as long as you are keeping the unedited version too and not overwriting it with the edited one, then it’s probably fine.

    1. There’s definitely something to be said about leaving kids to be kids, snot and food stains and all. I’ve got loads of photos of them both doing very unflattering things that will definitely be brought out to tease them when they are older. But the portrait shots that I might put on the wall… I do like to perfect them. But yes, I do keep ALL the original images alongside them.

    2. Also, I hadn’t thought about it in terms of the children thinking that’s how life is. That’s an interesting point for me to mull over. In a way, I think having an idea of what goes on behind the scenes would make them more aware that it’s NOT real life (Arlo already comments on and watches me work), but would seeing me ‘perfect’ his own images lead to some conflicting thoughts? Maybe. Is there any difference between editing out a rash because you don’t like the way it looks and making a model’s thighs appear thinner for a front cover? I’m finding it really hard to think objectively about this after having worked in the industry for four years!

  2. I feel it was appropriate to edit the images, since your son will probably prefer to see a non-rash face in the future. Your motives are honorable and therefore you did the right thing. Good discussion point.

  3. It’s always a tricky decision to make I think. I work on the basis that I wouldn’t edit something which is permanently them, but anything that is temporary (like a blemish or a bruise or half their lunch) can go. The little man chipped a bit off one of his front teeth and for ages I had to fight the urge to edit it better because seeing it just broke my heart, but that’s him now and it won’t get better so I have to deal with it.

    I think in honesty that if you are in anyway interested in photography then you’re editing all the time. As soon as you change your kids clothes, move their position slightly, tidy up stuff in the background, take several shots and use the best one; then surely you’re editing the reality in some way. Doesn’t mean it isn’t still them at that moment in time.

    1. Yes there’s a difference between reality shots where you snap a candid moment, and shots where you make an effort to create a specific ‘look’ and clear mess out of the background. This image is one of those shots, I threw a sheet over Rory’s cot and was trying to get a ‘clean’ portrait. So as you say, it was never really ‘reality’ in the first place!

  4. I think that’s it, the difference between taking a portrait and snapping a little daily life. The daily life I edit white balance and exposure and general things like that but not the girls themselves but if it’s a portrait then what’s the difference between an editing brush and an artist’s flattery with the paintbrush? The joy of photography is that you get to have both!

  5. i think its the imperfections that make photos real and perfect, i get so bored of seeing absolute perfect skin on adverts and on bill boards when in reality i don’t think anyone could look like that. however, i do think editing and smoothing out skin on some photoshoots is fine.
    these photos came out beautiful!

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