A young mum was horrified when a professional photography company edited out her toddler’s BIRTHMARK without asking her.
Lauren Holsten, 20, took 18 month-old Lexi to have her photo taken wearing vintage clothing after spotting a stand at her local shopping centre.
Two weeks later she picked up the images – a big one and smaller one together costing £46 – and realised they had been altered.
Her daughter’s distinctive blemish – a strawberry naevus mark on her left cheek – had been completely removed.
Lauren returned to the shopping centre with Lexi’s dad Dylan Hudson, 20, a baker, and questioned a woman from Domingo Portrait Services.
She claims the company refused to apologise or give her her money back although she has now been sent the original unaltered photos.
The photography company yesterday tried to blame Lauren – saying she should have pointed out the birthmark and asked for it not to be removed from the photo.
But they admitted they have now changed their policy and will check with all parents what they want to do about any natural marks on their children.
The company meanwhile has been told it can no longer operate from the mall in Sittingbourne, Kent.
Lauren says: “I want people to be aware of strawberry naevus marks so my daughter doesn’t grow up thinking she is different.”
“It’s like that photography company was saying she’s not perfect and she is just 18 months-old. It needs to change.”
She explained: “I often have her pictures taken by another firm so I’ve got photos to look back on of her growing up, but I thought I would give this company ago.
“On the day they were taken nothing was mentioned about her birthmark and I didn’t mention it either because to me its normal.
“When I collected them I was with a friend and Lexi’s dad. The woman was rushing me and Lexi was running around so I only had a quick glimpse at them.
“I was on a train when I looked at the photos and thought ‘where the hell is the birthmark?’
“I could see it had been airbrushed out and it hadn’t been done very well. It was the same colour as her skin but you could still see the outline.
“I was really upset and I cried. I’ve never experienced anything like that. The other company had never asked about it and never offered to airbrush it out.
“Even if they had I wouldn’t have it done because it wouldn’t look like her.”
She added: “When I spoke to the woman I stressed how upset and disgusted I was that a company would do that.
“She basically said she thought it was a ‘cut’ which it quite obviously it isn’t. She said they edit all cuts out. She was very rude and didn’t apologise.
“A couple of weeks later the shopping centre contacted us to say they had some of the originals for us but we didn’t get our money back. We want an apology.”
Lauren, of Sittingbourne, said it was important the birthmark was not hidden because she wants Lexi to feel normal as she grows up.
She said: “It’s not that big to be fair but you can notice it. It’s about the size of a five pence piece and it’s quite raised too. A lot of people look at it.
“Her dad once had someone ask him ‘what’s wrong with her?’ and I had a drunk person tell me I should be ashamed and disgusted of having a child like that. I just bawled my eyes out in front of him.”
Victoria Icuah, an assistant at Domingo Portrait Services Ltd, insisted she had apologised personally to Lauren and said the issue “has been resolved.”
But she added: “We did not know it was a birthmark first of all.
“We airbrush the pictures. Any customers who don’t want their picture airbrushing, they let us know.
“The photographer didn’t know it was a birthmark. If she had told the photographer before he did the picture that it was a birth mark and she didn’t want it removed at all then he wouldn’t have airbrushed it.
“She should have told the photographer it was a birthmark and she didn’t want it airbrushed.
“We sent the original picture to the management and the lady should have received it by now. The issue has been resolved.
“We did apologise to her and said we are really sorry for everything. I then phoned her to apologise.”
She added: “We have already changed our policy. We are going to make sure we ask parent about birthmarks.”
Domingo Portrait Services Ltd, which has recently started, is owned by Dominic Domingo and Ms Icuah said he was out of the country.
A spokesman for The Forum said: “Following an investigation into the discrepancy between one of our shoppers and an external photography concession, I can confirm that the situation has been resolved.
“The business in question did not meet our high standards of customer service and will not be returning to shopping centre.”
A strawberry naevus is a red birthmark which typically fades when a child is around nine years old.