Open Discussion: Would You Have Your Child's School Picture Photoshopped If They Asked For It?

This has been going on for a few years. Every time I get the kids’ picture order form, it offers Photoshopping for an additional fee. While I don’t think this extra service edits down the child’s actual size (at least I hope not), they specifically offer to remove “blemishes” and do other things like edit jacked up hair-do strands.

I never thought too much about this until today when I took Greedy Kid #1 for her senior pictures in cap and gown. She asked me to pay the extra cost to have her pimples Photoshopped out. Without even thinking, I said yes. But now I’m not so sure that was the right answer. Maybe even a quick conversation about body-image before I agreed to it would have been better, but it all happened so fast. Where’s the rewind button?

Senior pictures are obviously a big deal and I already agreed to the pimple erasing, so I’m not going to rescind on it now. Her few little pimples aren’t even that bad. Just the normal teenage stuff. My own teen acne was much worse and my senior photo is kinda bad. I took my pictures immediately following three sweaty hours of summer cheerleading practice in the auditorium. I was literally a hot mess. But at least it’s the real me with zero “airbrushing”, as they would have called it back in 1990. And that makes it perfect.

Aside from senior pictures, would you pay to have your child’s regular school pictures Photoshopped if they asked for it?


  1. Christine says:

    Tough question. If they were younger (middle school or elementary school) I’d say no. But high school can be a very hard time in terms of acceptance from friends, getting teased, blahblah. For something minor like pimples, I think I would do it…but like you said, perhaps with a quick chat about body image first.

  2. FitHungryGurl says:

    Absolutely not. Part of growing up is learning to love yourself and that includes accepting yourself as you are. Photoshopping a child’s photo says to them, yes, you have something you should be hiding. No human being is perfect and photoshopping even the smallest things out is teaching perfection is what we are stiving for, even if it is unrealistic. We all looked like crap in our school photos – even the best looking girls/boys. One of the best parts of being an adult is looking back at those photos is laughing.

  3. I actually have never heard of school photo’s being photoshopped, ever. I guess I am just really blessed to grow up with a healthy body image! I would agree that pimples could be photoshopped, but I wouldn’t go for anything else. That being said, I am not a parent yet and have no idea what it is like to raise children, so I could maybe change my mind!

  4. I think I’m with Christine on this one…

    I seem to recall that when I graduated they were able to “soften” photos and smudge out pimples and such (and this was 1980!) but I don’t remember if you had to pay extra for it…

    If you want to see me in all my 17-year-old glory, check it out :-)

  5. 444 says:

    It depends on how much it costs, but I have no problem with it. Here’s why: The smallest thing can ruin an otherwise good photo (I’ve found through countless photos I have taken or had taken of myself of of one of my kids.) It’s VERY hard to get good photos of some kids (or adults) and then let’s say a strand of hair is ruining the look by falling through the glasses, getting caught in the hinge, and sticking straight out at a right angle. It could happen! And it would get all the attention in an otherwise-flawless portrait.

    Or what if it’s the best pic ever of your kid but there’s a blob of food on their chin. I know this sounds absurd but you can imagine the trouble we’ve had at the photo studio and sometimes I’ve resorted to handing young kids a snack so they can wait, but no one notices the cheez-it on the chin till after the lens has captured it.

    I say brush it out and take home a great photo!

  6. I agree with Christine as well. High school can be a rough time for kids and body image is usually a huge issue. Pimples are one thing, but go beyond that then we have a problem. Its a known thing that school pictures never turn out amazing-model-esque. Senior pics are an exception-younger than that is a no-go for me.

  7. Well . . . Yeah. I have to admit I would. I don’t think I should necessarily. But honestly what if she inherited my deer in the headlights stare to keep her eyes open? Or my gap teeth? Huh?

    It can’t be helped. But then, I would be an enabler, just like I enabled myself not to see that I had indeed gained fifty pounds. She wouldn’t know how bad it looks. I suppose she has to learn.

    But I can do that with our photos at home. For blackmail…

  8. I think senior pictures are OK to “touch up” – like the aforementioned blemish removal.  Back in ’96 when I had mine done, the pimple-removal was automatically included!  But there was no real “photoshopping” done.  I still looked like my “real” self…meaning my eyebrows still had the same bushy arch-like shape, my cheeks were still red & round, and my jaw-line not so defined…etc, etc.  

    Now if true photoshopping/airbrushing is being done so these kids don’t look like themselves, I say NO WAY!  

    Regular school pictures are a whole different story – aren’t we all supposed to be pimple faced and blotchy skinned?  I thought that was a right of passage!  

  9. Eunice says:

    Part of being a teenager is taking really bad pictures! Mine were some of the worst. Pimples, braces and the hair. Oh the hair!

    Like Jessica, I had no idea they were photoshopping school pictures now. That’s very….interesting. If it’s an option and it’s only for blemishes and that sort of thing, I guess there’s nothing wrong with it. I still think it’s kind of sad though.

  10. Eunice says:

    btw, where is this 1990 senior pic you speak of?

  11. I had my senior photos photoshopped, but they called it airbrushing. They just took out pimples and would get rid of strands of hair in your face. I don’t think it’s a big deal. It beats having to pay to get them redone when all photos have wild hair. And when you’re a senior in high school, a pimple is a very, very big deal. It didn’t give me body confidence issues. It just made me be able to trade photos with friends without worrying about how my skin looked.

  12. Alice says:

    I don’t agree with photoshopping kid’s photos.

    I think it sends a bad message to kids. Like to be embarrassed if they don’t live up to some made up “perfect” standards.

  13. Erin says:

    No I will love my Samantha pimples, imperfections and all. I want to raise her to love herself, which is something that I lacked growing up.

  14. Honestly, photoshopping out pimples doesn’t bother me. Reducing size, hiding freckles, or lightening/darkening skin does bother me. I see a line there, but I can also understand those who see things more or less strict than me.

  15. I agree with Steve, I don’t really have a problem with photoshopping pimples so much. I don’t remember having that option for my daughter’s regular school pictures…not THAT long ago!! I swear. Thankfully, she didn’t need it. Though she would love to have had someone else’s hair in 9th grade, do they do that?? 

  16. SkippyMom says:

    A resounding yes – and anyone that says otherwise either hasn’t had a child that suffered from acne or didn’t grow up with a sibling that was abused by classmates because of it. My sister was the oldest in our family of 3 kids and if I could’ve had the option to photoshop her face for ONE DAY so she would feel beautiful I would’ve mowed lawns and shovelled snow for days to make the money to make it so – if you haven’t experienced the pain yourself or loved someone who has don’t hand me the b.s. of “Well this is how they grow and become a better person”. Um, no – kids are mean and those yearbooks last forever.

    They aren’t changing their hair color or their body shape – they are simply attempting to give them the clear skin that so many other kids naturally have. This isn’t about what magazines do to models – this is simply a boost to an already fragile self esteem – don’t you all remember what it is like to be a high schooler. We ALL wanted to be our best in our pics. Don’t regret the decision Yum – i just wish you had the option we did – where you get the pics for approval and then pay for photoshop if you wish.

  17. SkippyMom says:

    PS I didn’t order any of the pics they took of Squirrel because the beginning price for their smallest package was $295 dollars. OUCH. And we had no choice what they picked for the yearbook – and she didn’t like their pick.

  18. depends… is this the senior picture or not. Because everyone knows the senior photo is the one that haunts you down the road! :) hey there old friend just taking some time to pop in and say hi! glad you’re still here and as greedy as ever :)

  19. ZenLizzie says:

    I think having good conversations about loving your body and face regardless of the blemishes is important, BUT pictures last forever, even after the blemishes are gone. Being a teenager is hard enough without having documented proof of the awkwardness with blemishes.

    However… once I had some pictures retouched (this was like, 10 years ago) and it looked like they drew in my eyelashes with a ball point pin. Hopefully, photoshopping techniques are more refined now, but that was such a waste!

  20. Miz says:

    man Ive read this a bazillion times and still come up with IM NOT SURE.
    I know Im a new mama in that she’s FOUR.
    its easy for me to say HELL to the NO ID NEVER EVER DO THAT!!!

    but in the moment.
    in HER PERSONAL scenario.
    I can not yet say.

  21. Pocket says:

    HELL NO. I don’t have any kids but damn I know I will say no. Things may have happened fast and in the moment where you did not really think about things but now you are. I’m feeling queezy inside just reading this, the school is sending the wrong message (I feel)

  22. I think Senior pictures are kind of a big deal and some photoshopping (like pimples or a stray hair) is okay but not for any other pictures. I DO think it sends the wrong message and I think that in a world where self -esteem issues seem to be the underlining cause of a lot of outward porblems…it just adds fuel to that fire.

  23. Tamara says:

    I never had senior photos taken…I didn’t even know I was supposed to until the other girls started coming in with prints to show their friends. The newsfeed to the rock I lived under didn’t include that bit.

    I had horribly awkward years from age 9 to 19. I’ve had the whole gamut of acne, braces, glasses and wild fluctuations in body weight. But for all that, I’m glad my mother never checked the box to “airbrush” my photos. For one thing, I would be so ashamed to feel that my parents needed to lie to Grandma about how pretty I was. For another, if I were to pull out those photos now and post them on Facebook or something, any comment to the effect of “You were so cute!” would prompt the damaging thought of “No, I wasn’t, they touched it up.”

  24. mike says:

    I’m fine with that,its simple things, eeth whitening, blemish removal and only the simplest hair strand removal. I had my senior portrait retouched and I think it was great, a little overdone but great. Its not crazy like defining your jawline, putting different hair on, simple things that a lor of people do with makeup. Its no big deal.

  25. I would let my daughter do it. The memories of senior HS life will be rosy years down the road…I think the pictures should match. :)

  26. Such a hard question!!!!! With all my blabbing about things, I so remember how hard school was, like it was yesterday. Kids can be so mean. I think for minor things like pimples & maybe hair strands.. yes.. but not major change it all up things. Unfortunately not all kids are given that feel that you are just as good as the next learning lesson & grow up with “I am less than” thoughts. I like your idea of talking with your kid first though Josie. I know you did not do it BUT it is hard to think that right when it happens & you were not expecting the question.

  27. Sana says:

    Sure! School pics naturally just turn out AWFUL! A little touch up won’t hurt. I wish I could go back and remove a zit or two..

  28. Debra says:

    I never paid for it and thank heaven’s my high school girl didn’t want her photos Photoshopped. She already hates all the pictures of herself anyway and Photoshopping wouldn’t fix that. The picture of herself in her head just doesn’t match the real her. Kind of like when I look in the mirror and I’m not a size 6 :) Please don’t misunderstand. She’s happy with herself. She’s got a good body image and she doesn’t diet like crazy the way some teenage girls do. She is still staying away from sugary snacks, foods, and treats though :) cause she knows that’s best for her. She just doesn’t like pictures of herself. She prefers the picture in her mind.

  29. haha loved ur comment- ur blog is insanely awesome!! <3

  30. Joe says:

    Most do it w/o asking. My wife is a professional photographer and spends most her time on the computer editing. It’s a little different because her clients lay down about a grand but I don’t see a problem with it. There’s a difference between a little photoshop and a teen begging for plastic surg.

  31. I’d be okay with it. Pimples come and go, you know? Why have a lasting reminder of a zit on your chin for the rest of your life, when that zit is not really a PART OF YOU.

    Photoshopping out a mole or making a nose thinner, etc – a different story.

  32. Erica says:

    I don’t have kids, but I am a photographer. I’ve whitened many teeth and zapped many zits. I never change what the person looks like overall thought, and I haven’t had any dissatisfied customers. I work freelance and just do the casual senior photos though. I just saw my cousin Katie’s senior portrait (poster-style above her parents’ fireplace), and the photoshopper had whitened her teeth to the point that she looks fake – like one of those greeting cards with the animals with the giant smiles, you know what I’m talking about? I think if it’s done well and doesn’t go overboard, it doesn’t hurt to clean up a photo a little bit.

  33. cher says:

    i think when it comes to something being photographed for memories, long term, just like a wedding or graduation, you want to look your best, and remember the event.. not.. OMG! I broke out so bad that day!! We had hard photos, and softened photos for our senior pics. loved the softened one!! lol

  34. ooh this is a tricky question! 
    I would say… go ahead and have that talk with her, just so she understands the issue. But if she wants to get it  photoshopped still, maybe let her do it? 
    I understand wanting to look good in photos haha- I never post unflattering pics of myself…but maybe I should? 
    I guess we are all a little vain..or is it just me!?

  35. Terrie says:

    We went ahead and paid for the blemish-removal (which, sadly, you had to decide if you wanted it WAY before the actual picture day).  Dd didn’t actually have any pimples for picture day.  She does have a sweet little mole between her eyebrows and they decided to “remove” that.  She was TICKED!!!  She already told me that she definitely doesn’t ever want that service again.

  36. merri says:

    For senior photos, we had to go to a photography place a few towns away. You didn’t have to buy their expensive packages, but at least you got a professional photo. I remember we did it at the end of junior year, or maybe that summer. I think that it came with blemish removal or at least some sort of things like that. For regular class photos though, no I never heard of photoshopping those. Wow, I guess I am old now then. I think it would depend on how much the photoshopping cost. If it was a lot, then definitely no. I would be inclined to not do it even if it were cheap, because do they really need it? I guess if their eyes were glowing red, and I can sort of see your daughter’s acne thing. But I think if a photo is too photoshopped it looks silly, and would look even sillier for kids. I prob would only consider it for teens.


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