It's not just Lena Dunham — every photo you see in every magazine and on every billboard has likely had some sort of retouching done. That's common knowledge. But what's actually involved in the process? We talked to a photographer and a couple of retouchers to learn what actually happens behind the scenes.
"Post-production really, really is an amazing and important part of what we do today," says commercial photographer Doug Sonders. In the days of film, post-production changes were prohibitively expensive and the necessary expertise was rare. Nowadays, though, you can shoot a car and driver in a white studio, then drop them into a desert.
It's not necessarily the photographer doing all that work, though. Sonders estimates that he retouches "maybe 75 to 80 percent of my own imagery," but outsources the biggest stuff to a professional retoucher. And it took him a year to find the right one: "The funny thing with Photoshop is, it's not like there's one tool if you want to switch somebody's head out—there's 10 different ways to do it, technologically. and each one has a different visual style." He compares it to the way you can recut the Mrs. Doubtfire into a trailer for a horror movie.