image retouching | before and after

I’ve always wanted to do a ‘before and after’ post to try and demystify image retouching a bit. I’m enjoying a lazy Saturday editing today (one of my last before this year’s shooting season picks up!) and I thought, ‘why not’. so here goes!

When I’m meeting with prospective clients to discuss wedding or portrait photography, they are often totally confused about image retouching. I get asked things like “do you retouch every image” and “how do you get your photos to look like that?!”. Every photographer is different, but for me, there are three different “stages” of image retouching. There’s straight-out-of-camera, which is just what sounds like. The next level is what I call the ‘proof stage’. This is basic adjustments for color, density, and contrast. I shoot a RAW file, so every single image you see is processed at least to the proof stage. Often times, that’s enough! I pride myself on getting my images right in-camera, so really, they don’t need much. But sometimes I want to create something special, and that’s where photoshop comes in. The “art level” is the final stage of retouching, and this includes things like skin smoothing, beauty retouching, and custom toning and other creative effects.

Here’s a few examples from the session I’m working on right now. The images on the left are straight-out-of-camera. On the right they are “art processed”

now obviously, Catherine doesn’t need much 😉 here you can see I’ve removed some distracting elements in the foreground, warmed the white balance, brightened up her eyes a bit, used some very basic beauty retouching and applied a custom color tone.

same thing here – warmer tone, custom color

and a black-and-white example, too. straight-out-of-camera on the left, art processed on the right

Hopefully this was somewhat illuminating!  Of course, it would be pretty impossible to do complete art retouching on every single one of your wedding images (that is, if you wanted to get your proofs back anytime this decade!).  But every image that goes into your album is given this treatment as needed.  And with portrait sessions, every single image you order is always art processed.  I do like to ‘keep it real’ in my image processing, avoiding super-trendy looks and plastic-looking skin. But I also appreciate a little photoshop magic here and there 😉

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