Accurate Photo Retouching

29 Oct


Everyone out there who has kids knows the pain of dealing with Senior Portraits.  

Here’s a few tips from a buddy of mine over at Zone13 Photographics. 

First things first… get your exposures right.  Separate the main focus of the picture from the background (Photoshop is my preferred tool – but these tips apply to most tools). 


Next – reduce the saturation levels in the back – and boost them in the front.  We don’t want to wash out the picture – we just want it to have a nice over all tone to it. 

You’ll note my daughters a bit dark in the pic, and as with everyone (including most name actresses) her skin has some blemishes.  A touch of blur here, a bit of dodging tool there… now we can actually see her face, and the hives from holding an animal in the picture they took earlier are now… gone. 


When retouching it’s important to remember that you’re not there to make them perfect.  As much work as this may seem it’s mostly a bit of lighting.  Where I did over do it – I cut out the section as a layer, and then used Opacity to let her natural skin to actually show through the blurs.  And this is the difference between a retouched photo and an “accurate” retouched photo.  Yes, my daughter no longer has the eyes of a raccoon, and her skin is clearer.  Even though this does give her a very different appearance – it’s actually what she looks like when she’s not standing under a tree that casts shadows and uneven lighting.

Then we went through and did contrast and saturation adjustments on the fore image and the back image.  Play around – and make sure you work on a copy of the original image.  It’s easy to make a mistake and not all software will let you go back and fix things.

Now, if you’re time strapped – there are if you have Photoshop (and some other tools which also accept these plug-ins) some very nice plug-ins from a great company called Topaz.  These can do a lot of the work for you, and my personal favorite is one called “Topaz Vivacity”.   I’m a huge fan of these for the cost.  I’ve probably spent enough on plug-ins for AE, Photoshop, etc., over the years to buy a small car – and hands down I go to the stuff from Topaz over and over for almost everything. 

If you’re tight on time – and tight on cash they really make you look like a rock star.  So – if you have Photoshop, and you have Senior Portraits coming – ask for a copy of the pics in raw format if possible from the photographer.  I understand a lot of photographers now just include them as they did back in the days of “negatives”, so they shouldn’t look at you too funny if you ask. 

It’s a lot cheaper for you – if you have a little artist in you – to do photo retouchings than having them do it.  But try to remember these simple rules when you do photo retouching for people:

1) It’s not about cool.  It’s about making someone look good. 
2) Never make it too obvious it’s been retouched.  Always leave a little imperfection to it. 
3) Color, Contrast, details are important.  Try to keep these at all costs on the main subject.
4) Remember it’s for them – not you.  If they want something you really don’t like… tell them why you don’t like it nicely, but always yield to the person who has to live with the end product.

When you’re done… you may want to try several looks – each only slightly different to see what plays well with people.  Each of the images below is slightly different – I’m going to let my daughter choose which one we go with.  That is always the telling sign for any Accurate Retouching – if the person you’re doing the retouching for likes it. 


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Posted by on October 29, 2008 in Design, media


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