Every time I start my lecture about fashion photography, I almost always get a question if my photos are edited. In the back of my head, this guy probably is in the midst of trying to get his photos to look like the ones in magazine and at some point, he wanted to know if he’s missing something.
I totally understand the question and where it’s coming from. I’ve been there and I can remember it vividly on how I always get frustrated to achieve a commercial grade or at least gallery level quality photo. The answer is yes, they are all edited. However, as much as you want it enhanced in editing, the quality of photography will always draw the limits.
It means that no matter how much editing you do to an image, it will never improve the composition or the projection and the emotion that the image is trying to portray. Editing only works on enhancing on the imperfections and camera limitation as to dynamic range and colors. Garbage in, garbage out.
Photo editing is a generic term used to adjust or correct and image. Retouching is one of the ways of editing but focuses more on fashion and beauty. After a perfect shot, retouching comes in and cleans up the skin, stray hair, blemishes, skin tone and a lot more. It’s a tedious process that take about an hour or more for a single photo.
Typically, this type of editing is done in Photoshop. You can always start in Lightroom and apply general adjustments but when you start working on the skin, you need to bring the image to Photoshop and do the surgical adjustments there. The process is really not complex, it’s just the tools that allows you to do it is only found in Photoshop.
The most critical part of retouching is not the tools, it’s more on the art of shaping the face and how much shadow you should retain and where to make it heavier. It makes is a bit more complicated knowing that you’re connecting to an image that the photographer created based in his artistic taste and you should not only preserve it but also add on it.
That’s one of the reason why photographers should edit their own photos especially if its editorial based. There’s a possibility that the image would come out differently than how the photographer would have wanted it after retouching. However, the time of the photographer is often very hectic that outsourcing it would be sensible.
Another terminology you’d hear is High End Retouching. It simply refers to the type of editing done for fashion and beauty by on a more detailed level. This is where you go as deep as pixel level or managing the placement and shapes of skin pores. Often, this type of editing is used for headshot images used for beauty product advertisement.
There are a lot of tools and many different techniques that are used in Photoshop and most of them are no secret. Most of the procedures are in the internet but what makes the difference is how you see it artistically and how you want to present it.
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Text and photos by Albert Pedrosa