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  • Product Retouching & False Advertising

    I was just wondering if any of you take false advertising into consideration when retouching products for sale or if you just focus on making it look perfect and letting the client worry about any flack they may get? Is it a part of the discussion you have when going over what the client wants?

    For example, if a company is selling rings, it's generally fine to pretty them up for campaigns or even to a degree for their catalog because they're mass manufactured, there shouldn't be many if any differences from one to the next, and the one you're looking at while shopping online isn't the one you're actually getting, it's just meant to give you an idea of it.

    But if someone is selling one of a kind rings on Etsy/Amazon and the actual ring they're selling has a scratch on the band and a piece of the stone is chipped, removing those totally misrepresents the product.

    In that kind of situation, especially if the client says to make it look perfect and remove the flaws, would you bring up the fact that customers might "comment" on what they get not being what was shown or do you just do as asked and make it look flawless because what happens after that isn't your problem anyway?

  • #2
    Re: Product Retouching & False Advertising

    Not strictly retouching, but back during my photo restoration practice I had someone ask me to add points to a hunter's trophy photo of a deer he'd shot. Evidently that's a "thing" in hunting, so I refused the work.
    Learn by teaching
    Take responsibility for learning

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    • #3
      Re: Product Retouching & False Advertising

      It's the other way around. We make it MORE real.

      It's about matching the feel of the product, about emotional impact.

      Do you buy new shoes and then look for excess glue? No, you swirl them to catch the light so that they look just right. Trouble is, heel looks better from one angle, tip from another, laces might be too long once you tighten them etc... you look at these elements individually, but you remember those shoes as if all of them were there at once.

      Same goes for the car... so we match the feel in order to present the product to the consumer.

      Show a red shirt to 5 people and later ask them to pick what color it is from color swatches, they'll all pick different colors, because everyone only saw what they wanted to see.

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      • #4
        Re: Product Retouching & False Advertising

        Thanks for the replies! LOL @ the hunting thing. That's interesting.

        Skoobey, I'm talking about boundaries when retouching products meant to be sold as shown, where the image the customer is looking at is actually the product they're getting versus a representation.

        People shopping online expect retouching for attractiveness to catch their eye, but they also expect the product to be true to life in terms of form and function. No one will overlook receiving something totally different from what was shown, especially if that difference involves damage.

        Do you ever discuss blatant discrepancies with the client or do you let them worry about that and you just worry about making the product look great and following their guidelines?

        I wouldn't shoot in a way that highlights flaws in the first place, but if you're retouching someone else's images and there are glaring problems like in the example I provided where there's something broken or a defect and you're being asked to make it look like there isn't, do you even mention it or just do it?

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        • #5
          Re: Product Retouching & False Advertising

          Probably hard to believe but after decades in both advertising, design and retouching I cannot recall any client who wished to misrepresent their product or service. I assume we are talking about mainstream legit businesses here rather than fly by night outfits where normal rules don't apply.

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          • #6
            Re: Product Retouching & False Advertising

            Retouching is not a free service, especially at that level.

            So, no, I have never worked on a single e-bay image. Sure, I might have "finished" the product that had lettering missing, or buckles missing or something like that, add shimmer, add shine, remove shine, move shine, make it dull, make it polished, make it transparent, make it opaque... because they only had a prototype etc.

            But no one will pay you serious money in order to sell a torn bag or a damaged ring on e bay. We are not "healing brush" guys that work for 1$ an image. You would have to ask them.

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            • #7
              Re: Product Retouching & False Advertising

              Thanks Repairman! Not hard to believe at all! I was a bit surprised by it. It was a high-end jewelry designer in NYC. They don't design for everyone or for mass market, their pieces are regularly pulled for editorials and worn by celebrities at the usual red carpet events, so this wasn't some fishy anonymous creeper trying to pawn off a dud on poor saps on Amazon or anything like that lol

              I was one of the retouchers working on images for a new catalog they're adding that's specifically for selling off their one of a kind used pieces that were donated back by some of the well-knowns to raise money for this non-profit project. Buy they weren't being sold at the insane prices they originally cost since it was being marketed to "regular people" who wanted to have the style of their favorite actresses/singers/etc.

              At any rate, it came up because for the most part, all of the pieces were mint, but a few were damaged. The main discussion by the designer and his team was about the fact that since the selling point was who wore it or owned it or who it was otherwise originally designed for, they were going to leave them as is.

              So then the discussion turned to the retouching and we were asked to make all of the pieces look flawless including the ones with defects. If something was broken or missing, just "make it look like it wasn't". The general attitude was that no one would care if it turned out to be broken because of where the pieces were coming from and them being that particular designer's work.

              Both myself and the other retoucher felt some kind of way about that (we were working on separate catalogs but the same colllection) because while it's true that the people purchasing the pieces were thrilled to have something worn by/at/whatever, they were still buying what they thought was wearable/not damaged.

              And since the catalog and style of retouching presented things in a way that makes it all look "as is", it felt unnecessarily misleading and it got me thinking about the separation between selling unique items in a "here it is" way versus mainstream mass produced goods, the different expectations the customers have and how it all translates into the way we present the product in our images.

              And if the subject of balancing what the client wants with what the public expects is a discussion that's ever had when it's really not our problem at the end of the day if a consumer complains about misrepresentation/false advertising.

              We did what they asked because at the time, the question wasn't a priority and they weren't exactly some nefarious con artists trying to be deceitful or trick anyone, but having it happen once put it in my mind, especially at that level. I think what I'll likely do is consider it when the client brings it up rather than making it a part of the general brief.

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              • #8
                Re: Product Retouching & False Advertising

                Even at knock down prices these items are going to be expensive and/or a significant purchase for many. If buying online or mail order, buyers will expect to receive the item as portrayed and described by the vendor who is, potentially, opening themselves up for some complaints. In fact, they should highlight the damage to enhance the exclusivity; e.g. "for sale, gold ring, small dents due to making contact with a paparrazi chin!"

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                • #9
                  Re: Product Retouching & False Advertising

                  Yes! It could have been used as a pull, even for character, rather than acting like they were all mint. I'm thinking this was one of those one-offs so I don't see myself being in that situation again but it was food for thought. That could be one suggestion I may make if it ever comes up again, though. Thanks again!

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                  • #10
                    Re: Product Retouching & False Advertising

                    There is no moral dilemma. Your job was to make the image look as requested. If they decide not to mention that something is damaged, that is up to them, you are not a seller here.

                    How many times to retouchers make raw food look like delicious ready-to eat meals? We all know meat is shot raw, but it's just the way it's done, and in the end people like the porduct, and even come back to the same joint again.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Product Retouching & False Advertising

                      I don't get paid for my intense moral compass regarding the realness of images. I always try to keep it as photographic as possible, but if the person paying my bill wants hyper-real, or even completely unlike the actual product? That's what I do.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Product Retouching & False Advertising

                        This reminds me of a newspaper photo I was asked to take 30 years ago in the office for the publisher. There was a mail campaign and he wanted to "beef up" the stack of letters to make it look as if more were received than actually were. I was not comfortable about his but did as I was told (I was young then), putting something under the pile of letters on the table to "poof" it up.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Product Retouching & False Advertising

                          I haven't run into that - The deer was very interesting!

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