Sophia Elias
May 16, 2014 7:00 am

I’m sure you know by now that Photoshop hasn’t exactly earned the best reputation among consumers. Between alien-like proportions and exaggerated thigh gaps, I think we have a general understanding how misleading some Photoshopped images can be. However, it’s important to note that not everybody uses Photoshop to warp models into unnatural humanoids. While extreme cases of Photoshop have most certainly changed the consumer-producer relationship, I was curious to know how Photoshop affects the artists whose creations are often at risk of being changed at another person’s will. After all, photographers, stylists and makeup artists work hard to make a creative vision come to life. How do they handle the changes to their work? How does it affect the way they operate? I was fortunate enough interview world renowned makeup artist, Pati Dubroff. And, as it turns out, Photoshop is just as capable of doing a few positive things as it is negative.

Having primped and primed the faces of Hollywood heavyweights like Charlize Theron, Naomi Watts and Julianne Moore (just to name a few), Pati Dubroff is one of the most sought after makeup artists in the industry. With a résumé that includes work in American Vogue, Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar, W, InStyle, Galmour, Allure and Elle, the caliber of her work is consistently above and beyond. It’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to change it, but even the world’s best have had to endure some changes made via Photoshop. Pati was kind enough to walk me through the pros, cons and changes that Photoshop has brought to her work as a makeup artist.

First off, how long have you been a makeup artist?

PD: I’ve been doing makeup since I was 10. I was really fortunate to find my passion, and then that passion turned into a career that’s sustained me. I’ve been working as a makeup artist for twenty-something years.

Have you seen a technological shift from the time you started until now?

PD: When I was learning to do makeup and starting, you couldn’t necessarily rely on photo retouching to do your job for you. Now, everything goes back to, “Oh don’t worry we’ll do it in Photoshop,” and I don’t like to leave those things to another person and their device.

Do you feel like photographers are more reliant on Photoshop as well?

PD: Oh yeah, very often the photographer will say, “Don’t put anything on the skin. We’ll do it all in Photoshop.” I don’t like to do that because the skin sometimes needs more than just the zits covered. Sometimes it needs glowing and contouring and things like that. Then there’s the fine line of not doing too much…doing the right amount for what that person needs. Then there are other times – thank god for Photoshop.

When are you most thankful for Photoshop?

PD: Maybe there’s blemishes or a cold sore or something that you don’t want to keep packing makeup on every day. It might irritate it…you don’t want to overdo something to hurt the skin. Then there’s the bad side to Photoshop. It’s not real. For people seeing these images….limbs are elongated and [so much] is taken away, they’re no longer real people. When people see that, it’s hard for them to look in the mirror and accept what they see. They’re judging it by society’s standards, which have been so manipulated.

Obviously makeup artistry involves a bit of alteration and enhancement. How does this differ from the alterations and enhancements made on Photoshop?

PD: That’s the skill and the artistry of seeing the beauty of the face and enhancing everything around that…and that isn’t [through] fake manipulation. There’s also makeup artists who are really into shading and contouring the face, and that’s another form of manipulation. I’m not really into that. I don’t look at a face and think, “This needs to be fixed.” I look at a face and think, “This needs to be brought to the forefront.”

A few years ago I read about how you could apply fake makeup through Photoshop. I’m curious to know what a real makeup artist’s opinion is on that.

PD: Sometimes I’ll look at a photograph where I know I was in the room…I did the makeup. But I have to go back and read the credits because, I think, “Did they re-shoot that? Because I didn’t use that lip color.” It’s happened with covers. Recently, I had to go back and read the credits thinking, “Maybe they re-shot this with another makeup artist. Maybe they didn’t like the makeup…because I used a blue bordeaux-red, and here on the cover it’s an orange-red.” They changed the lip color so that it would be more harmonious with the art direction they were going in. Then there’s other times where you’re doing really tight beauty [shots] where there’s a space between the lashes. You don’t want to add a fake lash in there, so you go and you show the person who’s in charge of the computer [and say], “Break up that clump,” or “Add a lash there.” So, sometimes, if you can be a part of the process of helping things to look their best, it can be a great tool. Then again, it can change up your artistic expression.

What do you have to say to folks who consider makeup the original Photoshop? Do you think the two are comparable at all?

PD: Well that’s the purpose of makeup – to kind of perfect. And that’s the purpose of Photoshop. When you see photographs from the ’30s, they were correcting images. They were doing it more manually, but they were doing it to perfect and correct photographs. So it’s been done for a long time. It’s just now done quick and fast and with the help of a computer.

Lastly, what inspires you as an artist?

PD: Well, it depends on what I’m needing inspiration for. For instance, for the Met Ball, I was looking at a lot of pictures of the Renaissance and Botticelli. And then I went into the Victorian age. There was this theme I was looking for where the skin was really creamy, the cheeks were really flushed and the eye was really soft. So it was helping to give cues to what I would then translate for a red carpet look. Other times I look more specifically at film icons or periods of film – getting the vibe and energy of that and how to translate that into makeup….or very specifically, what an eyebrow shape should look like. Other times…it sounds kinda corny, but seeing a flower and thinking “that pink in that peony would be the most beautiful color on a lip.” But, very often the thing that inspires me the most is the face that’s in front of me. It goes back to: what’s the thing on this face that I want to draw all the attention to? And it should always come back to that. You can’t have those ideas if it doesn’t have anything to do with that person’s structure or coloring.

Thank you, Pati!

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