Photo Retouching – How Will My Portrait Be Edited?

Photo Retouching:

When you book a session with me or purchase an additional image from your session, your final files will be retouched. By retouching I don’t mean plastic skin or zero clarity. In the case of headshots and portraiture, the outcome is for you to be recognisable and familiar. A bit of additional retouching is to make sure you look like you, but on your best day.

Simple things like a few cropping adjustments, a bit of contrast added and some colour correction go a long way. Furthermore, we want to remove things like spontaneous skin blemishes that aren’t always there. Additionally, hot spots where you skin may be slightly shiny can also be fixed up in post.

How Far Is Too Far?

Have you ever seen an image of someone whose skin looks too smooth and blurry? We don’t want to achieve this in photo retouching. It just doesn’t look realistic. The key is to keep skin texture, not to blur out all detail. This can be a vital different between professional retouching and amateur retouching. Professional retouching will be achieved with high end programs rather than filters or the clarity slider being set down. The above example shows on the left how having no skin texture looks too soft and unrealistic. In particular, look at her nose, and how it looks blurry. You can see how in the above image on the right, the subject still looks realistic.

It is most important that you look like you. Anyone who meets you in real life, if that be a casting director or a new client, wants to see somebody who looks like their photograph. Removing all wrinkles, changing the face shape or bone structure, and making everything ‘perfect’ isn’t going to impress anyone when they meet someone who looks completely different.

How I Approach Retouching:

Retouching is a really important process for me. I have always found retouching and photo editing enjoyable. I’ve produced several conceptual series of work with a big emphasis on the retouching part of the work – things like compositing, blending, focus stacking and photo restoration.

As for portrait editing, I believe it is important to maintain skin texture and dimension. I make sure I don’t remove every single hair flyaway – things tend to look ‘too perfect’ when this is done, and that’s not what a portrait is about. I don’t want my subjects to look like I have cut them out with scissors and placed them on a background. My subjects need to fit within their environment. That is vital to me.

In my portraiture editing, I don’t change face shapes or liquify any part of the face or body to change its shape or size. I don’t blur out the skin – I only keep the blur from the depth of field as shot, and never add it in myself. On the day of the shoot, I position my subjects and explore a range of angles and poses that feel more flattering for them. In addition, I make sure I get their feedback during the shoot.

Little details like brightening up bags under the eyes are another thing I will adjust. Subtle adjustments to colour and tones, and some light adjustments of the curves for extra clarity in the image. Making sure there are gentle transitions within the skin tones using a Dodge and Burn technique can polish an image off too. I tend to retouch males and females in a very similar way – so that everyone looks their best.

Here is a quick look at my headshot retouching:

Before and After:

Here is an example of some simple portrait retouching. You’ll notice a change in background tone, some fixing of blemishes, and a small change to the contrast. The level of skin smoothing isn’t extreme – there is detail and definition. The hair isn’t cut-out smooth either. It all maintains a natural look, but still allows for the subject to look like her on her best day.

If You’re Unsure, Or Want Something Specific:

If you’re unsure or uneasy about photo editing and retouching or if you have specific ideas, requirements or instructions, just let me know. We can discuss it further to make sure you are happy and comfortable with how I retouch the images I take from you. I always follow the guidance of my subjects if they have specific ideas in mind.

Check out my Headshot Folio and Portrait Folio, to see more examples of my finished, retouched images. Book your session online or contact me for more information.