Photo: @hairbyamandathompson
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Photo: @hairbyamandathompson

Do you filter? The topic of filtering hairstyle photos has become a hot topic with definitive pros and cons on each side of the hot debate.

On the plus side, filtering undeniably enhances the appearance of your work. You can refine a photograph by softening imperfections and give your hair color the tiniest “bump” for the look of a cooler or clearer or warmer tone. With filters and editing, you can create cohesive photos, which unifies your Instagram feed and strengthens your overall brand.

On the downside, filters can lead to confusion. According to a MODERN SALON poll, one hundred percent of the poll participants report clients have come into the salon with filtered photos, requesting the hair color shown. By requesting a shade that doesn’t exist in real life, the client is presenting the stylist with a difficult, or even impossible task.

“When a client comes to me with a photo and I can see a filter, I’ll start by explaining that perhaps the artist was filtering the image or maybe using a cool ring light to give it, say, a silvery hue,” says Sarah McDermott, @sarahdoeshairah. “I tell her in real life the hair might be more of a neutral blonde. We must all understand that different types of lighting—direct, indirect, sunlight, indoor light—can all affect the look of hair color. On a sunny day it will look warmer, on an overcast day it will look cooler. So I always clarify exactly what tone the client is really looking for.”

Sometimes it’s not even a matter of filter or lighting. Various cameras will affect the outcome as well. “I’ve compared various smartphone cameras, taking photos seconds apart,” says Chelsea Zimmerman, @cwrayz5. “Invariably an iPhone will pick up much more warmth than another type of phone.”

When a client requests a result from a photo that you know has been altered, it’s important to first explain how the image was manipulated, and then set realistic expectations. Start by showing them what’s real or what’s not. “I might look for tagged photos to see if I can find images of the client in an unfiltered setting,” says Kristin Grip, @hairbykristingrip. “Then I’ll show the client the difference. I might also photograph my own work in different lighting or with and without filters and show the client a side-by-side to illustrate how much the look of hair color can change.”

Once the client is clear about the photo she grabbed, it’s important to conduct a complete consultation. Based on her texture, porosity, condition and starting level, explain exactly what will be required to get her as close as possible to her desired result. “If someone comes in with Level 5 or lower,” says Sarah, “and she’s looking for a light, pearly blonde, she has to understand that it may take two or three appointments. You have to set realistic expectations and respect the integrity of the hair, both of which will pay off in the long run.”

And finally, how about filtering your own work? Is it necessary to filter in order to create a cohesive, thumb-stopping social media presence? Grip shies away from filters, preferring instead to photograph her clients in natural light, which produces beautiful, cohesive images. She does, however, endorse various editing tools. “There’s a difference,” she explains. “Filtering changes the tone and brightness of an image, while editing removes distractions like people in the background or something on the clothing. You can lightly blur the background or add a bit of contrast to your photo; you can use apps to smooth the model’s skin or whiten her teeth or enhance her eyes. With editing, you can upgrade the quality of your photos, while still staying true to what the hair looks like in real life.”

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