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Jan 2014

Photographic Retouching – a step by step example

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Photographic Retouching – from Capture to Publishing

Photographic retouching is the stage of the photograpic process which is about cleaning, adjusting, and enhancing a captured image.

In the digital world, these adjustments and enhancements are done using a number of software programs. Depending upon the needs of the image, and the end result desired, there can be single or multiple stages to these edits.

The purpose for this is to end up with a final image that is much more eye-catching than the initial capture.

Why is Photographic Retouching an important step in creating good images?

The main reasons;

  1. There are limits to the current capture technology. Retouching allows us to repair or integrate these limits. Good photographers will understand the limits of their technology, and how far they can be pushed.
  2. A camera is not capable of knowing the purpose of an image. It cannot make decisions based upon that end purpose.
  3. Viewing any given scene, the human eye and brain are very good at unconsciously focusing on key elements. Cameras only capture what is in front of them, without interpretation. Retouching lets us add focus back to these key areas.
  4. Cameras are only tools. Creative input comes from the photographers choice of capture and the treatment of the image in post-production.
  5. A camera cannot enhance an image beyond the point of capture.

As you can see, photographic retouching is about making decisions. Decisions on what the original scene or subject looked like, and how to make the image look similar. Decisions on how to best retouch the image for its’ intended purpose. Decisions perhaps, for pure aesthetics and making an image look “beautiful”.

Combining all these elements is how photographers create not only “good” images, but “great” images.

A Step Through Example

Following is a step by step example of an image which has had fairly comprehensive photographic retouching applied.

Stage 1 – unedited capture

Great care was taken with capture timing and settings. This was to ensure a suitable amount of information was available in all regions of the image for manipulation in post-production.

Photographic retouching unedited initial capture

Stage 1 – out of camera image. No adjustments.

Stage 2 – exposure adjustments

Raising the overall exposure to an optimum level. Keep control of highlights.

Photographic retouching example exposure adjustment

Stage 2 – exposure adjustments to desired base exposure level for the image.

Stage 3 – colour adjustments

A series of selective colour adjustment. Intent is to separate and lift key regions of the image.

Photographic retouching example colour adjustments

Stage 3 – colour adjustments separate and enhance selective regions of the image.

Stage 4 – general enhancements and adjustments

Selective dodging and burning, contrast, and saturation adjustments.

Photographic retouching example general enhancements

Stage 4 – general image enhancements and adjustments.

Stage 5 – creating balance

Creating overall balance across image elements.

Photographic retouching example modify balance

Stage 5 – Balance image elements.

Final Stage – detail enhancement

Final increase in contrast. Removal of distortion. Detail enhancement and sharpening.

Photographic retouching example detail enhancement

Final Stage – detail enhancement and sharpening.

 

Conclusion

As you can see, applying skilled photographic retouching can deliver incredible impact to an image.

Whilst this photograph received a considerable amount of retouching, even a moderate amount can provide substantial benefits in visibility for the final image.

If you would like to see the benefits we can provide for your business, please contact us.

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