I've been editing profile images for a webpage displaying the employees of a company.
The images were not professionally taken, and because of that features like wrinkles and body posture are exaggerated and look bad.
However, it's a sensitive issue, in that some folks may be happy with their image and consider "air-brushing" and heavy edits offensive, and maybe see it as me thinking they're ugly.
I've edited out wrinkles, braces, blemishes, copied left shoulder to the right to improve the slouched and wonky posture and more.
What should I be sensitive to when editing images like this?
Correct skin tones, pimples, scratches, and highlight spots primarily. Beyond the a little light dodging and burning if appropriate on any particularly bad ones.
Basically, correct anything that is either a temporary mark like a pimple or stained shirt. Or anything that was caused by poor lighting and photography.
Do not remove wrinkles, dimples, lines, or retouch the skin. Its not a beauty portrait, and those are the things that give people character. It shows sincerity.
You partially answered yourself: "heavy edits offensive". Do not heavily edit anything.
In my experience shooting portraits:
95% (sort of) of clients want "Put some Photoshop on it, Ok?"
Woman are worried about weight and wrinkles.
Man are more worried about weight.
As Ryan commented, a temporary feature like blackheads, some bruises, a cut.
A greasy skin look.
I would not touch:
Real facial features. Nose shape, head size, eyes size, ears.
Skin or hair color.
Body features, some tummy could be, but boobs and back nope.
Tatoos or piercing (Unless expressly asked by the client).
But a general recommendation. I do that on portraits.
If the company does not put much effort in taking pictures, leave them as they are.
Overall illumination, contrast and color.
I think that one problem with designers is that they want to solve problems that are out of the scope of the project. :o)
If the photos are important, they should be taken carefully. Yes probably professionally taken if that is part of the public image.
In the photoshoot of course you can say to someone Sit straight, good! now you look much better! That can lead someone to be aware of his bad posture and work on it. But don't artificially correct a posture, it is not your work.