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Considerations and Guidelines for Image Retouching

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Retouching is a general term that can be categorized under areas like editorial, beauty, portrait, creative, and commercial retouching. All these areas have their own group of considerations around retouching while editing an image. For instance, the actions and decisions that are taken while editing in “portrait” will be much different from those taken while editing in “beauty”.

It is important to find the category, time allocations, and techniques to be applied to the image before retouching it. The questions shared below can help you find the category that the image falls into and the time required to retouch an image.

  • What is the image to be used for and who is the client?
  • How many images you need to retouch and deliver?

The above questions can help you find the category and the time required to edit and retouch the image. As said, each of the retouching categories will have its own set of guidelines and reference points that the editor has to follow. Below is a quick look at the basic criteria for different categories.

Portrait Retouching

In portrait retouching, the editor needs to keep all the characteristics and qualities of the appearance of the person intact. It will be good if the image appears as if it is not retouched. Image of models and headshots falls in this category, as it is needed in this category to show the subject as naturally as possible. Following are some important considerations in portrait retouching.

  • Try to leave all the permanent features like freckles, scars, and miles as they are. Depending on the image under consideration, you may reduce or emphasize the intensity of the features. However, temporary features like bruises, pimples, skin redness, etc., can be cleaned up or removed completely.
  • Leave the skin intact, apart from removing the non-permanent details that are mentioned above. While editing female beauty portraits, the texture of the skin is evened out to make it flattering. However, the skin should not be polished out to perfection.
  • If improving skin texture is necessary, you can color correct, add contrast, and then sharpen the image. However, you need to keep it subtle, so that the edited image does not detract from the original one.

Commercial Retouching

This is the type of retouching, that is used to sell or advertise a service or product and therefore covers a much wide range of subjects like clothes, food, cars, cosmetics, airlines, etc. These images should help the client to close the deal, meaning that the prospective buyer should be able to relate to the subject of the image on a personal level or should feel the need necessity to buy the service or the product shown in the image. The important considerations in commercial retouching are discussed below.

  • It is important to get rid of all the distracting elements in the image. Depending on the image under consideration, it might need many hours to edit and retouch the image.
  • You might need to change part of the image to beautify the background and provide a pleasant look to it.
  • Each image has its own considerations in commercial retouching and the client might also have their own necessities and requirements about the look of the retouched image.
  • It is important that the images that are retouched should have a level of visual consistency.

Editorial Retouching

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In this type of retouching also, it is important to keep the natural look of the image, though the distracting elements can be removed. Editorial retouching is generally used to promote a brand, service, or product, as these images will be commonly used for editorials, look books, and advertising publications and magazines. Below are some important considerations in editorial retouching.

  • It is expected to get rid of permanent features like moles and scars, decrease the intensity of wrinkles and get rid of discolorations in the image. It is important to clean up the skin, but do not polish it excessively.
  • Usually, editorials are a story, meaning that they are a series of images of the subject. Therefore, it is important to adjust the color, contrast, and grade of the image to match and be consistent among all the images in the series.

Creative Retouching

This type of retouching is mostly considered an artwork or a creative vision and usually does not depict the truth about the subject under consideration. Combining various elements or images falls under this category, as these images can offer different creative realms or realities, which a single image cannot offer. This type of retouching is very time consuming, and demanding as it is necessary to ensure that the retouched image maintains integrity as an image. There are not any specific considerations in creative retouching, as it is dependent on the creativity of the editor and the requirement of the client.