What is Photo Retouching?

You can call it retouching, photo editing, Photoshop, or a hundred other terms, but for me photo retouching is all about making an image look its best without losing character, texture, or detail.

As a natural portrait photographer and headshot photographer, unless I am specifically asked, I will not alter the features of your face or body because I believe we are all beautiful exactly as we are. However, there are some times when subtle retouching is necessary. Here are some example situations of when I apply edits to an image:

  • Blemish removal
  • Blotchy skin that needs to be smoothed out
  • Clothing repair and lint removal
  • Fly-away hairs that distract from the image
  • Color correction and lighting adjustments
  • Background adjustments and removal of distracting elements

The Retouching Process

My portrait retouching process consists of four primary steps:

  • Image Selection
  • Basic Corrections
  • Basic Retouching
  • Custom Retouching

Image Selection

The image selection process, or culling, is where I take all of the images from our session and find the photographs that best represent who you are and that meet my quality standard for an outstanding image.

I make sure to weed out the duplicate photos, unflattering images, out of focus or blurry pictures, or any photograph where you do not look incredible. Once I have those images selected, I move on to the basic corrections.

Basic Corrections

Basic correction entails looking at each image and balancing the exposure, correcting the white balance, adjusting contrast, and performing any cropping. This allows me to provide a very consistent looking set of images.

On occasion, this is where I may process a few photos as black & white images to give you a feel for how they may look.

Once basic corrections are completed, I will present the photos to you so you can choose your favorites. Once you have chosen your favorite images, I will perform basic retouching. By waiting for you to choose your favorites, I am able to work with you to decide if there is any basic or custom retouching you would like applied.

Basic Retouching

All portraits that become your final selections will receive a basic retouch. 

Basic retouching is mainly applied to your hair and skin to remove blemishes, smooth out blotchy areas, remove reflections or shiny skin, and reduce fly-away hairs. I do not remove any beauty marks, freckles, or moles unless specifically requested.

I will lighten the area underneath the eye, reducing bags, lighten wrinkles, slightly whiten teeth and eyes, and sharpen areas of focus such as the eyes, nostrils, and lips.

Custom Retouching

In some cases, you may request custom retouching. I will be open and honest about what is realistic, what retouching can be done easily, and what will require additional fees. 

Custom retouching examples include actions like body shaping, specific color grading, background removal, changing of hair or eye color, application of digital makeup, skin smoothing, reshaping or removal of significant facial hair, and so on.

All custom retouching is performed on a case-by-case basis and may require additional fees. I will discuss all of this with you during the Reveal and Ordering session.

Basic Retouching Example

In this image, basic retouching was applied. Before is on the right, and After is on the left.

portrait of redheadeded woman before basic retouching BEFORE
portrait of redeheaded woman after basic retouching AFTER

Custom Retouching Example

In this image, I have performed significant retouching, color grading, background extension, and adding textures for a painterly feel. Before is on the right, and After is on the left.

portrait of woman in floral headpiece before retouching BEFORE
portrait woman in floral headpiece after retouching AFTER