Photo Retouching Guide
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Photo Retouching | A Complete Guide For Professional Retoucher

Table of Contents

Photo Retouching

What is Photo Retouching?

In most simple terms, retouching is improving the overall look of an image. But to fully understand the concept of retouching, you have to know that in post-production, Photo Retouching refers to the removal of unwanted and unnecessary elements and defects from an image. Aside from getting rid of the smaller elements like dust or tree branches in the background, retouching can also help you fix skin imperfection for fashion and beauty photography.

Image Retouching is responsible for the minor details of the image. And this is the reason most businesses want image retouching services so that they can get the final touch to polish off the image.

All the imperfections that photo retouching takes care of include: colour correction, tone correction, under-eye circles, blemishes, change of saturation, brightness and contrast. But that is not all as Airbrushing is also a major aspect of Photo Retouching. Airbrushing basically refers to removing some elements from the background of the image as well as adding some that were not initially there.

Retouching is one of the processes that can not be timed as it can be completed in a matter of minutes and it can also take hours. Image Retouching is the last stage of post-production and hence it is also considered to be the final touch to the images.

In Retouching, we try and make several different alterations in the image that simply no camera settings or extra effort could make up for.

Usually, Photo Retouching is used for Body Shaping, Removal of Skin and Clothing Wrinkles, Digital Make-Up, Changing Background and last but not least, removing and adding elements and people.

ALSO READ: Photo Editing Tips to Make Your Photos Look More Professional

Do Professional Photographers Retouch their Photos?

The answer to this is simply, yes. If there are people who retouch their images it is the professionals. Recouching is an essential aspect of a professional photographer’s workflow. And this is due to the fact that professionals want their photo to look the best. We all know that cameras can only do so much and this is the reason 70% of the people edit their pictures before using them for any purpose.

Professional photography is always done with RAW format and RAW images have to be retouched and edited before they can be used and this is because:

1. RAW images are not compatible with most platforms

2. RAW images are very unflattering and flat when takes straight out of the camera


Why Professional Photographers Always Shoot in RAW?

The reason all professional photographers work with and click all their photos in RAW format is that RAW format gives photographers much more freedom and flexibility at the time of editing and retouching the images.


What is the Difference Between Photo Retouching and Photo Editing?

Most of the time, the terms, “Editing” and “Retouching” are used interchangeably by people, and that is a problem as both of these terms despite being related to post-production, can mean 2 very different things.

So to understand what both of these terms mean and how they are different from one another, we here at Spyne have brought you a quick step by step guide to post-production, that will help you understand how editing and retouching are 2 different things.


A Step-By-Step Process of Post Production

Like any other process, post-production also contains many steps and levels, but as we are here to distinguish retouching from editing, we will be only looking at the steps that will help us with the same. Hence the first step to post-production is…


Culling is the first and foremost step of post-production. It refers to the selection of the images that will be delivered to the clients. And the reason culling is one of the most important steps is that after a wedding or any other event, a photographer literally has thousands of images. And as we do not live in a perfect world, not all of those images are great. So in culling, the photographer selects the best photos and discards all the rest. The photos that a photographer selects move on to the next step.


Editing is again a really essential step of the process. All the images that the photographer selected in the Culling Step go through editing. Another thing that you have to keep in mind is that out of all the images that are delivered to the client, each and every one of them is edited by the photographer/editor. Editing a photo might take up from 30 seconds to several minutes. We know that 30 seconds to a few minutes does not sound like a big deal, but remember that the photographer, for every event, has at least 500 to 800 photos. Photo Editing mainly involves:

1. Adding Signature Adjustments.

2. Fixing Lighting

3. Fixing Exposure

4. Fixing Colour Temperature, and

5. Cropping



One of the most crucial points that you need to know is that it is necessary for each and every photo to be edited before the delivery, but it is not necessary for each and every photo to be retouched. Most of the time photographer/editors only retouch the photos when:

A. The photo is brilliant and it requires a final touch to look flawless, or

B. The client asks them to.

And this is due to the fact that retouching is a much more complex process than editing. Retouching a photo may take 10-15 minutes to several hours depending upon the desire and requirements of the clients. Photo Retouching mainly involves:

1. Removing Blemishes

2. Brightening Teeth

3. Eyes Enhancement

4. Smoothing Skin

5. Under-Eye Circles Removal

6. Digital MakeUp 

7. Body Shaping 

8. Changing the Background

9. Colour and Tone Correction and Much More

These were some of the adjustments that are applied to make the final image more alluring and enticing to customers.


Why Is Photo Retouching Important?

Photo Retouching proves to be very essential when we talk about portrait photography. Image Retouching can be used to hide blemishes, make the skin smooth and also whiten the teeth. But that is not all, in product photography, photo retouching is used to remove fingerprint marks from the project and also to make the product look smoother. You can also add depth to the product images so that they look more lifelike and more attractive. Photo Retouching can be used for a lot of things but most of the time it is used for getting rid of all those bad looking scratches and imperfections.

Retouching is also very useful for jewellery photography. It can help you enhance the gemstones. The same way it can also be used to treat gold and silver photography to make them look smooth and shiny.

What are the benefits of Photo Retouching?

What we saw earlier were the reasons why photo retouching is important and the various ways through which it makes our photos look much better, but here is the bigger picture concerning why we should retouch our photos. Hence the following are the benefits of photo retouching:

Better Photos mean Better Sale: According to a survey, 75% of consumers believe that product photo quality is something really crucial. Good images always help businesses increase sales. You must have seen restaurants getting all popular just because they use some amazing food photos for their branding. And the same goes for other genres of businesses. For Example, people only decide to see the estate in person when they are impressed with its pictures.

Build a Brand Image: Good Images are a great way to make a brand image for your business or company in the market. The photos that you viewed by thousands of people, and you can see these images as the first impression that you make on those thousands of people. Hence, rather than using stock images, always go for your own edited and retouched images as they are way more impactful and attractive.

Stand Out Among Competition: With Photo Retouching, you can establish a whole new style for photos of your brand. This will help you distinguish yourself from all the other competition. And when your company eventually discovers its very own visual content style, you start to become credible.

Marketing: When you are planning to bring your company to the people, always remember that the people who are about to witness your marketing campaign will always have a better opinion of you if you have great looking high-quality images. Photos that are edited and retouched by professional image editing services are always pleasing to the eye and they also have a greater chance of going viral.

Branding: When a company is new, it has to work on Marketing, Communication and most importantly branding so that more and more people get to know about the business. And these retouched images help you a lot in branding. Not just online ads campaigns, these images can also prove to be useful for flyers and catalogues.


Some Common Photo Retouching Techniques

So as you are someone who is new to photo retouching and wants to get started, then you are at the right place, as we at Spyne are here to tell you some of the most basic and common Image Retouching Techniques that even beginners can try and make their photos look amazing.

Once you are done with the basic editing of all the images, then you have to select the images that you want to retouch. Remember that you can not retouch all the photos as retouching is a much more complicated task than editing. Hence you have to select a couple of images that you find best and start with them. So here are some of the most common yet essential photo retouching tips and ideas:


You might already be familiar with the healing tool. This tool comes in handy when you have to get rid of blemishes and other unwanted spots in the body. This is one of the most used tools as this is required almost every time to remove the skin imperfections for beauty and fashion photography.

Frequency Tweaks

This is also a tool that is very useful for fashion and beauty photography. With this, you can make the skin of the model look perfect. In most cases, either the skin of the model looks too sharp or too blurred in the images, but with a little frequency adjustment, you can make the texture of the skin just perfect.

Eye Enhancement

When it comes to model photography, the photographer/editors are always working with images that capture models. And as we have already talked about the removal of blemishes and skin imperfections, another essential aspect of model photography that is left, are the eyes. The eyes are an important element of such photos and this is due to the fact that when we all see a model photo, the first detail that we pay attention to are the eyes of the model. So it automatically becomes necessary for the editor to work on the model’s eyes. This process includes removal of the eye bags, changing the colour of the eye and also adjusting the shadows and any reflections in the eyes.

Adjusting Colour Tones, Colour Balance and Saturation

These are some of the most important aspects of an image who are responsible for the overall look of the image. Once you can master these tools, it will be easier for you to find your own editing and retouching style that will help you stand out among competitors.

Cropping and Resizing

As people are already quite familiar with cropping and resizing, they might not understand the necessity of these tools. With the help of 2-3 composition rules, you can use these tools to get rid of all the empty and unnecessary spaces in the image.

So as you have made it this far in the blog, you all must have the impression that photo retouching is a must for every image, and that is true for most of the images. But let us take a deep look in the ethics of photo retouching.


The Great and Not-So-Great Aspects of Photo Retouching

As a Professional Photographer, you need to understand that just like any other thing, photo retouching also has some pros and cons. And we here at Spyne are going to talk about both so that you can clearly understand the ethical side of photo retouching.

Reasons to go for Photo Retouching:


1. Getting Rid Of Unwanted and Random Defects

Most commonly, Photo Retouching is used by photographers and editors so that they can remove the unwanted and unnecessary elements from the image. The subtraction of all such elements instantly makes the image look better and more professional. This also covers up for the efforts that a photographer fails to put in at the time of clicking the picture. And even the photographer can do much about all the unwanted elements in the frame, so airbrush is really a tool that proves to be useful at such times.

2. Helps You Gain Confidence

ALSO READ: Online Businesses: High-End Image Editing Tips For Stunning Results

As this is an era that is dominated by social media, good pictures always make us feel good and confident ourselves. These Photo Retouching tools can really help you transform and mould your average looking photo the way you want them to look on social media sites and many other platforms.

3. Lets You Convey Artistic Expression

Photo Editing and Retouching is a great way to make other people aware of your artistic abilities. There are no rules or barriers holding you down, so you can freely express your perspective through photo editing styles.

And as we talked about the bright side of Photo Retouching, here are some of the not so great aspects of the same:


1. Makes The Images Lose Their Authenticity

This is one of the major arguments that conclude that photos should not be edited and retouched. And this is also true to some point. We all can agree that cameras can take some really unflattering and flat images, and to make them look better and close to what we saw originally, we have to edit and retouch them. And as long as you do not over-edit the images to make them look unrealistic, you are fine.

2. Hides The True Form Of The Image

This is another matter of concern that with the power of editing and retouching, we make a lot of adjustments and tweaks which eventually leads to us hiding all the original elements of the image.



Photo Retouching is a part of the whole post-processing. And it helps us fine-tune our images. For Businesses and Brands, Photo Retouching is a necessity, and they Outsourcing Photo Editing and retouching to professionals. The difference between Editing and Retouching is simple, they are two different steps of the same process. Editing is somewhat simple and Retouching is a rather complex step. Photo Editing mainly involves Fixing Lighting, Exposure, Colour Temperature, Cropping, and Adding Signature Adjustments. However, Photo Retouching involves Removing Blemishes, Brightening Teeth, Eyes Enhancement, Smoothing of Skin, Under-Eye Circles Removal and Much More.

Photo Editing can help us fill all the defects in a photo to make it look flawless. It helps a lot of businesses for all their visual requirements for Branding, Marketing and Communication. Just like any other thing, photo retouching also has good and bad aspects, but as long as you do not overdo things to make your images look unnatural and strange, you are good to go.

NEXT: Black and White Photography Editing Tips for Stand-Out Images


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Team Spyne

Young, enthusiastic, and curious are the three words that describe Spyne’s content team perfectly. We take pride in our work - doing extensive research, engaging with industry experts, burning the midnight oil, etc. Every word we write is aimed at solving our readers’ problems.

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