As a professional I get this question a lot. Well there is no easy answer and the answer is neither right or wrong. So wait, not right or wrong? What gives Mr. photographer. Photography is subjective and beauty is only in the eye of the beholder. I can not tell you how many times I have had a client come to me and request a touch up after the fact. Many times the touch ups are so minor that no one other than the person asking for it would notice. Then why make any changes right, that is my thought. Well in truth it is for them personally and not any one else,
There are many different styles of editing and each brings with it something unique. As many of you know I am more of a portriat photogtapher because I really like people. My opinion on editing is to keep it simple. I'm more concerned with getting exposure and colors in my photos just right and not over done. I very rarely correct anyones personal features such as eyes, nose, lips, or cheeks. If I ever do, it is usually by request only. It would get noticed, right away by the people you spend the most time with, like family and friends. It works well in magazines because chances are you will never see that person in real life. You can't compare two things without having them right next to each other.
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In this type of editing we are removing elements that don't contribute to the photo as I want. Notice how I said, "As I want". I do like the look of the wall with the green plants covering it. In my opinion it makes for a great backround in a portrait session. That would be the reason for an edit of this kind. As you can see I am not that great at it. If you where not there with us on the shoot, you would never have known it was even there if I didn't point it out. I am prone to do this type of edit if I think I can do it easily. No picture is ever perfect, but with a little editing it can be nice.
Editing is an important step in the total process of photography. There sould be no question at all about the value of a good edit and the time it takes to do it right. Your camera and settings can get you close but editing puts you over the top in my opinion. You really can take a good photo and make it exceptional.