Few weeks ago I did my first class on high end retouching at Philippine Center for Creative Imaging. It’s a very challenging course that tests your patience and wakes up the obsessive compulsive nature in you. I’ve been using Photoshop since the mid 90’s and most of the tools used in the course are the same old tools found in the early versions of Photoshop.

In this photo, I was trying to retain the texture of the skin. In my experience shooting different races, European seems to have finer skin texture than South Americans who has more defined skin pores. Retaining skin texture makes the image more real and relatable.

There’s really no secret workflow when doing high end retouching, it’s just a matter of patience and utmost attention to details. A work of art takes time to finish. A proper retouching for me would take about two hours. Sometimes it takes longer especially if I can’t get into a zone. When you’re out of the zone, the details just seem to be homologous.

I was teaching a group of students who has been into photography barely a year and I think I expected too much from them. Retouching is an important part of photography. It takes a lot of practice to see the small details. The more you look at the image, the more you see the things that aren’t there before.

One student asked me why we need to work on the small details that most customers or viewers might not notice anymore. It’s actually true. However, people will experience a certain preference but cannot explain why they choose one from the other. Viewers will see it as a whole and the small details is actually what makes the difference.

When you’re shooting, you don’t have the opportunity to go down the details of the image.

There’s an advantage when you edit your own shots. It allows you to evaluate all the smaller details of your shot. You can then adjust all the different elements of your shot in your next shoot.

The same way you train your eyes to see the different angles of the shot and the play between light and shadows is the same way you do it in retouching. The tonal graduation and the transition between tones whether it’s hard or soft creates a mood and describes the character of the image.

There is a special relationship between shooting it and retouching it. Capturing the right emotions and angle is something you have no control in post processing. The lighting that creates the shadows and highlights is created by natural or ambient light and can only be enhanced in retouching.

Although retouching and shooting is closely related, retouching is a different discipline that needs to be learned and mastered. A particular taste is also developed in this level of process that adds to the distinct result of a photo. Retouching adds to the many variables that allows you to create your own style.

Keep on shooting everyone!

Text and photos by Albert Pedrosa


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