Jennifer Greene: Maryland mom slams photo company over digital touch-ups on kids' pics
Lifetouch urged parents to pay $12 for portrait 'retouching' services, which included teeth whitening, skin-tone evening, and blemish removal
A Maryland mother was “shocked” after learning that the company in charge of taking her daughter's school pictures was urging parents to pay an extra $12 fee for retouching the photos. Jennifer Greene, 43, a “mom, writer, marketer, small business owner, and social media influencer” who “loves to travel- solo, with her family or with a group of friends,” called the company out on social media.
She tweeted on September 28, “I’m going to need someone to explain to me why @Lifetouch offers PHOTO RETOUCH for KIDS school pics?! What the hell?!” Lifetouch, per its website, is “the professional photography company of choice for schools and families.” The company is headquartered in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
Greene doesn’t want her 12-year-old daughter, Madeline, to feel pressured into looking picture-perfect. She said the seventh grader’s school-picture package from Lifetouch urged parents to lay out an extra $12 for portrait “retouching” services, which included teeth whitening, skin-tone evening, and blemish removal. “I was shocked,” Greene told The New York Post. “I completely disagree with [retouching a child’s school picture], because it’s teaching kids that they need to look perfect all the time and that they can change [a perceived flaw] with the click of a mouse.”
In a statement to The Post, Lifetouch said, “Our goal is always to authentically capture each child we photograph. Photo retouch is an entirely opt-in service that customers choose to add on to photo packages. Most, if not all, school photography companies offer this service and it’s an expectation as an available option for schools.”.
Last November, Tampa, Florida-based mother Kristin Loerns was shocked to find that in her son Kieran’s school photos, his freckles had vanished. “I gave permission for ‘basic retouching,’ which would be removing blemishes, and they removed all of his freckles instead,” the 36-year-old blogger and photographer told The Post. She complained to Lifetouch, which remedied the situation by resending the pictures with Kieran’s adorable freckles returned.
Have you booked your Spring Picture Day yet? Don't worry, It's not too late! Check out the blog for a fun Spring preview and learn how we encourage and inspire kids to be themselves! https://t.co/FYfRUedysR #PictureDay #SchoolPictures pic.twitter.com/p805bau9Cu— Lifetouch (@Lifetouch) November 11, 2020
Whitney Rose, a mother of two hearing-impaired toddlers, told The Post that a photographer from a different company erased her three-year-old son’s hearing aids from his school picture. “These are my son’s hearing aids. They help him hear, they’re a part of who he is and he likes them,” Rose said on her TikTok account. “It’s sending a message to him that part of who he is, his hearing loss, is something he should be ashamed of.”
Heidi Green, an event and professional portrait photographer who has more than ten years of experience in taking school pictures, however, said it is often parents who are pushing for perfection. “The parent feels like they had to get [the flaw] fixed in order to enjoy the school picture, or to make the child look better,” she said.
She said a client once asked her to edit out a life-long scar caused by a birth defect on her daughter’s face. “I felt bad about it,” she said. “I smoothed it out a little bit so that she’d be happy with the picture without changing much. Removing a permanent scar to me would be like saying, ‘Can you make my child’s eyes blue?’ Because why would you want your kid to look in the picture like they don’t look in real life?”
Minor retouching is something children won’t notice, said Yamalis Diaz, a child psychologist at NYU Langone. She however said that when a child learns that their permanent characteristics have been changed in a photo, and no longer reflect what they see in the mirror, that could be concerning.
“Could that start to make them feel inadequate? … Can that lead to some anxiety and depressed mood, eating disorders, body dysmorphia? Absolutely,” Diaz said.
“Instead of accepting your physical characteristics, your disability, your features, your appearance, you’re supposed to be fixing it or hiding it,” Diaz said. “And that is a dangerous message to send.”