Editions by Frederick News

Retouching: the path to perfection

One of the biggest concerns our clients have is about the scars, tattoos, stretch marks and other little imperfections that they would like to have hidden in the final glamour photo. But is this the only purpose of retouching?


Many will be surprised to find out that everyone ca benefit from photo image retouching, regardless of how perfect their skin or features may be. It is rare to see a magazine cover where the image has not been massaged to a certain extent with the help of computer retouching. Even the world's top models have had hours of retouching done on the final images before they are published.
One of the biggest concerns our clients have is about the scars, tattoos, stretch marks and other little imperfections that they would like to have hidden in the final glamour photo. But is this the only purpose of retouching?

Many will be surprised to find out that everyone ca benefit from photo image retouching, regardless of how perfect their skin or features may be. It is rare to see a magazine cover where the image has not been massaged to a certain extent with the help of computer retouching. Even the world's top models have had hours of retouching done on the final images before they are published.

Here we will talk about what retouching is, what is the history, and what is the difference between good and bad retouching. When is it too much? What are the biggest retouching blunders?


The history of image retouching:
While many people are familiar with the use of computers to do image retouching, but most do no realize that image retouching has been around a lot longer than computers have.

Traditionally, image retouchers used fine tipped brushes and dyes to retouch either directly on the negative or on the final print. Retouching was limited to the removal of spots and blemishes on the subject or to try and correct damage to the original. Retouchers were a singular profession that took years of study to master. A top retoucher was always in demand and commanded top dollar for their skill. This process was very time consuming and could take days to retouch an image.

When new tools, such as the airbrush, came on the scene, they began to be used extensively on models and magazine cover work. The airbrush was a perfect tool to make the skin look smooth and to eliminate distracting elements in the image. While the airbrush accelerated the image retouching process, if it was not used skillfully, the image frequently looked artificial and had a painted feel.

The computer age
In the last decade, major advances have been made in computer retouching software. Now it is common to retouch and alter images in ways that was previously impossible to do. However, the frequent misconception is that it requires no skill to achieve good results. Using a power tool on wood does not make one a craftsman. It may remove wood faster and more efficiently than a hand tool, but used ineptly, the only result is that it will take much less time to ruin a perfectly good piece of wood! It's the same thing with computer retouching. While the computer may have provided many great tools for quickly altering an image, it still requires a great deal of skill in order to make the image look natural and not over done.

The Barbie Doll problem.
It used to be that professional glamour photographers used "soft focus" filters on their cameras or in the darkroom to give images that "dreamy" appearance. But often, if this technique is over used, the image simply looks degraded and out of focus. Similarly, many people who attempt to do retouching on the computer do not understand what is required. I have seen several images from boudoir photographers who claim to offer computer retouching, but who do not understand how to use these tools. The skin is so smooth and lacking in shape and texture that their subjects look as though they were made of plastic. I call this the "Barbie Doll Factor" and the final result usually looks so unnatural as to be actually disturbing to look at.

Making the skin smooth does not mean making it look like plastic. Skin has texture. It is natural to see pores, shadows and shape. A skilled retoucher knows how to retain the natural texture of the skin while eliminating blemishes, scars or other unwanted elements. When finished, the skin should look smoot, but it should still look like skin, not plastic.

Scars, cellulite, stretch marks and tattoos.
We cannot go through life without life leaving little reminders on our bodies. While this is normal, many would rather not have these reminders being recorded on film. The removal of these blemishes is certainly possible. But before we take it upon ourselves to do this, we need to know if this is what you really want. Some people are very proud of their tatoo art and many also want to keep some of the small scars or other birth marks they might have for they feel that to take them out would be to alter who they really are. We will only retouch those elements that you want to have removed.

Forever young.
Can a skilled retouch artist make you look younger? Of course. But like the other retouching techniques, there is a limit to what can, or should, be done. Reducing "crows feet", sags under theyes, wrinkles or other signs of aging can be done in the retouching stage. However, if it is taken too far, the subject will not look young, they will look artificial. To take a person who is over seventy years old and completely elliminate all wrinkles, saggy skin and blemishes in an effort to make them look young would only result in an image of a person that looked like a computer generated mannequin. The proportions and features of a younger person are markedly different from those of an elder person. As we grow older, the actual shape of our features also change. There must be a balance between looking younger and also looking natural. While we will reduce age marks to some degree, we would be careful not to make the image look artificial or unnatural. It is not reasonable for a person of fifty years old to expect to look like they are twenty.

Can computer retouching make you look slimmer?
Certain types of "cosmetic surgery" can be done on the computer to reduce some of the unwanted weight. We make every effort to pose our subjects in such a way as to show them in the best light. But occassionally, a fold of skin here or a little droopiness there can creep in and many of our clients would prefer to have these areas retouched. As always, there is a limit to what can be done without making the image look artificial. We frequently do body sculpting, but we would never attempt to do anything that would be considered unnatural. This being said, we also know that we are our own worst enemy when it comes to our body image. For more on this topic, please click here.

Our guarantee.
If you are still hesitant about having glamour or boudoir photography done, let us reassure you with this promise: If, after viewing your final prints, you are not completely thrilled with the results and do not want the prints, we will refund you the full cost of the photo session with no hard feelings. We offer this guarantee with confidence because we know that we can bring out the very best in you.