Image editing or photo retouching, or what some may call image editing and retouching; is an umbrella term and can be categorized in subject specific areas such as Portrait, Editorial, Commercial, Beauty and Creative retouching. Each of these segments has its own set of considerations about what retouching is when editing any particular image. Simply put – actions and decisions undertaken while editing in the area of Portrait will differ from those undertaken while editing “Beauty” images.
So how do professional image editing experts determine the category, implicit techniques and time allocations, applicable to any image? Enlisted are some of the questions which likely come in handy while deciding which category the image falls under and how much time is required to retouch one image.
- Who is the client, and what is his intent to use the image for? It may be a famous brand or a private client. The image may be used for a magazine, posters, exclusively online or otherwise.
- What is the stipulated count of images that are required to be retouched and delivered? It may be an image per week, or may be a couple of dozens in a day.
Answering both the aforesaid questions, before incepting the retouching task, will give you a fair idea as to what exactly is required; is it print or online. It will also help you assess how long you can afford spending on each such image. Apart from these, each individual category will still have its own set of considerations to be adhered to, in order to attain desired results.
1. Portrait retouching
Keeping intact the personal qualities and characteristics of a person, is the best thing that can be done in portrait retouching. The image should be made to appear as if no retouching has been done to it. Model tests and headshots usually form a part of this category, as these require depicting the subject as naturally as possible. This is done to help them get potential work based on their actual appearance.
- The aim here should be to leave scars, freckles, and moles etc., all the permanent features as is. Yes, the intensity of these features can be increased or decreased depending on the image. Non-permanent features such as redness of skin, bruises, and pimples etc., can and should be removed.
- Keeping the skin intact, and removing aforementioned non-permanent details.
- Just in case if it is client requirement and you are supposed to improve skin texture, adjust color correction, add contrast and sharpen the image try and keep things really subtle. Getting distracted from the original image or depiction of the subject; usually does not help.
2. Editorial retouching
Here as well, all efforts are made to keep the image as natural as possible, and remove distracting elements. This type of retouching helps in promoting products, brands or services. With images that are usually used for look books/editorials/advertising in magazines or publications; this form of retouching typically needs to promote a product, brand or service.
- Clients typically want the permanent features like moles and scars to be removed, reduce the intensity of wrinkles and adjustment of skin discolorations. The skin is required to be cleaned up- but not polished excessively.
- Editorials are a series of images of the subject, and hence; adjustments of contrast, color corrections and chosen grade of images all need to match and are required to be consistent across all the images in a particular series.
3. Commercial retouching
This category of photo retouching, alike editorial retouching, is put at task to advertise and sell products and services. It covers a wide array of subjects such as clothes, cars, jewelry, food, airlines, cosmetics etc. These images are used to typical sell products as close the deal as me may call them. It is so because these images enable viewers to relate to the subject on a personal level and at times even provoke them to feel the need to possess the product or services, in the image.
- Here as well, photo editing and retouching experts are expected to use their skills and take care of all distracting elements. Depending on the image it may take a few hours to complete the task, however; is usually more time consuming if compared to previous two categories.
- The most common thing that is required to be done is to change parts of the image in order to beautify the surroundings and create a pleasant atmosphere in the entire image.
- Apart from considerations that every individual image will have, the client will have their own set of requirements about the how the final image should look which is mandatory to be met.
- The most important aspect here is to maintain a visual consistency across the collection of images.
4. Beauty retouching
Beauty photography stands slightly apart with handful subcategories as against simple beauty portraits, as some clients would want to go a step ahead with some more retouching than what regular portraits need. More attention is required to be paid to skin retouching than all previous categories when it comes to hair-styling photography, celebrity photography, fashion beauty etc.
- The skin is the focus of attention and attraction when it comes to makeup beauty photography, as eats up to 90% of the image. This makes it one of the most time consuming types of photo or image retouching, which requires high level of skills and experience.
- Removal of all permanent and temporary imperfections in the image is the main task here.
- In order to clean out the skin and make it flawlessly clean and even it out, high end retouching techniques including frequency separation and dodge and burn are put at task.
- The second aspect which requires immense amount of expertise and experience is hair, in hair-styling photography.
- Upon answering the question what exactly is required for the image decides whether it will eat up from 3 hours to a couple of hours to complete the task.
5. Creative retouching
This form, unlike other categories, is looked up to as an artwork or a creative vision, where the truth about a subject is not depicted. Image stitching or compositing multiple images or elements are what makes it fall under this category. It is really helpful in creating different realities or imaginative realms, and attaining them from a single image is nearly impossible. This also makes this category very important, work very intensive and the photo editing and retouching experts working for this category are in huge demand.