Retouching - The Good & The Bad
When photographers edit their photos there is a specific workflow and style they use to make their photos stand out. However, when it comes to retouching sometimes people get a little nuts. Now because I don't want to call any one photographer out, I am going to show you a photo without retouching, with good retouching, and with bad or too much retouching.
The below photo is one I recently took of a mother and daughter that I have already converted to black and white (b&w), but have done little else. As you can see, their skin looks blotchy and too dark. When converting color to b&w this tends to happen with people who may have a reddish tone to their skin, blemishes, or even freckles. So before you do any retouching you should always first determine if your photo will be in b&w, or you'll end up doing extra work.
Next, I took the same image and applied over-the-top retouching effects. As you can see below the skin looks too soft and almost cartoonish; the features have been drastically diminished, making their faces look fake compared to the rest of the photo. Another one of the mistakes many people make when softening skin is using the same level of softness for multiple people in the photo.
In general you wouldn't want to use the same amount of skin softening on a baby that you would use on someone who is 75; it just doesn't make sense. For this example I did exactly that, yet I see this all the time in other work where the photographer gets crazy with the skin softening and dodging (to dodge is to lighten). But dodging and burning is blog post for another time.
In the final image below, you can see both mother and daughter look more natural. I used different levels of skin softening for each, did some light dodging, and brightened the photo a bit. I also used the spot removal tool to cut down on some of the blotchiness that was still showing after I softened the skin.
Many times photographers get lazy and don't want to have to work on a photo. I understand when you have 100s of photos to edit it can be daunting. However, you should never compromise the quality of your final product and take shortcuts that don't work. As I mentioned I used the spot removal tool to reduce some of the leftover blotchiness, which doesn't always work when using programs like Adobe Lightroom. Sometimes you have to start the photo in Lightroom and finish it in Photoshop. Especially for fixing skin issues, and some photographers don't want to take that time.
When paying for a photographer the customer usually thinks that they are paying for the images to be taken. Often times customers don't realize how much editing goes into making their pictures look great. So before you book your next photographer for a portrait session make sure they have the editing style your are looking for.
If there are not a lot of samples on their site, ask for more to see. Ask them their process. Also, check out their Facebook or Instagram to see what images they may have posted that are not on their website. This should help you narrow down a photographer that not only cares about taking photos but cares about the product he or she is giving you.
Remember photographs are our legacy to pass down, do we really want to look silly in photographs we paid to be done?