What Should We Do About Facial Hair?

What Should We Do About Facial Hair?

How many times do we have to shoot an epic project and start the post-processing knowing that there will be a considerable amount of time spent removing facial hair? Is this how it should be, or can it be changed?

Facial hair is something every person, man or woman, has. I am not opposed to facial hair, but for the images I create, it is often expected that the client would prefer the hair to be removed and for the skin to look silky smooth, to glow, and to be well-lit. But, I am struggling to come to a conclusion of how to deal with this situation. Should I photograph the person and leave the hair, or should I remove it in post production? Is it ok to discuss it with the model or their agents, and can I ask them to try to remove the hair before coming to the shoot? Is that arrogant?

I don’t want to offend anyone, but I know some models will not eat certain foods that make them feel bloated the day before a shoot, which holds similar reasoning to removing bodily hair, as too does getting a good night’s rest and drinking a lot of water. Everyone being photographed usually wants to give their best performance, and they want to participate with positive energy. 

Another aspect that makes this a difficult argument is that the women are usually also young, and often, it’s their first experience with a photographer. Is this what I want to communicate to them? Should I make them believe that removing hair is what they should be doing to be a model or woman?

On the other hand, maybe it's education, where the models are not told about what preparation to do for a shoot. What are the steps a model should take before going to the shoot, if any? 

Conclusion

I have removed many individual hairs from faces with Photoshop. It’s one of the parts of the process I’d do without any day. I would be able to complete the retouching a lot quicker, which would allow me to focus on the fun stuff or get the images to the client more quickly.

Removing hair has become the norm. Society has projected this idea for the past few centuries, and it will be difficult to change it now, although it’s not impossible. The question is whether it should change? I am an uneducated man in this regard with no sisters to ask, so I need to ask the female models, photographers, and people in the industry what their opinions are and whether it should be their opinion that matters or if the clients who ask and pay for the images will be the deciders in the end. Although photography is going through a trend of being more natural, there is usually a need to remove most facial hair.

If possible, this would be a great place for the female readers to guide the other photographers who would like to deliver work that represents women in the way they would like to be represented. Most of us don’t want to just go with the flow. We want to challenge the status quo and disrupt and affect change like so many photographers and creatives have done in the past. It’s our responsibility to do so. So, please inform us in the comments. 

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8 Comments

Teresa Oldenbourg's picture

It definitely is a tricky thing. Even as a female, I cant say that my personal preferences is what all other females should be comfortable with. I do however think the subject needs to help out the photographer if they dont want hair in their photos. If the model is uncomfortable with something about their body, they should do work on themselves to be happy, and not expect all of it in post production. If they dont care about hair, leave it to the photographer. A rough comparison is, get your nails fixed before a shoot. Dont have the edit fix it and then get upset about images being too edited.

Robert Nurse's picture

Sometimes those hairs are blonde and you'll never see them until post.

Teresa Oldenbourg's picture

I know. I am speaking of that as well. Blonde fuzz can really show up with a beautiful backlit. So, you gotta know how they feel.

Jason Flynn's picture

Simple: ask during booking while discussing the package and costs. “Okay, so you want 20 images indoors in a studio setting with 2 wardrobe changes, great, the base cost for that is $X. Now let’s discuss options, would you like A, B, and C? Ok great. Another option is skin retouching, we can remove any skin blemishes or facial hair for $X or if you don’t want that please come prepared wearing any makeup that you desire and remove any body hair you don’t want visible because we use a high resolution camera system that shows everything.”

Be a professional and show confidence. It’s what your clients want.

Tony Clark's picture

It's a tricky subject like removing moles, birthmarks and lines on a face. I try to ask and gauge a subjects attachment or have a light touch when editing.

Greg Silver's picture

Depends what kind of photography it is. Documentary style - leave it all in. Commercial photography - take it out. (Maybe unless it's about razors).

Ed C's picture

Ask the client and the model if they want the hair, moles or whatever in the end product before you ever do the shot. They either remove it prior to the shot or leave it and tell you to take care of it in post.

Paul Scharff's picture

I don't do a lot of people/portrait shots, but when I do I say something along the lines of, "A lot of my clients like more intense retouching with some pretty significant wrinkle removal and even visible facial hair removal, whereas some others prefer more modest optimization." That allows them to let you know where they fall on the retouching spectrum.