I have been working as a professional photographer and retoucher for over 8 years and it is an industry that is forever changing and developing. I find it fascinating that retouching and editing, like the fashion industry itself, is an endless cycle of change whether technological or creative and trend driven, you never stop learning!
This is my first blog post, so I wanted to start by sharing some tips on how I approach an image, specifically fashion editorial and commercial, and create the best of the photograph being very careful to not take it too far.
I believe many commercial photographers and retouchers today push images too far in post production and end up with unnatural, over-processed images. You want to see a difference in the retouched image from the original, but it still wants to look natural.
The first things I look at when I open a RAW photograph are: Exposure, Light, Colour. In my opinion, these 3 things should be corrected before altering any other part of an image.
The best way to improve your skills as a commercial retoucher is to create a strict approach to your 'way of working'. We now have the luxury of working with amazing software like Adobe Photoshop, allowing us to go back on ourselves if we make a mistake. However, when working on images, such as the one above, that require a large amount of work, the 'remembered history' of Photoshop won't go back as far as the start of opening the image - this is why you must work with layers in Photoshop. It's good to start working this way and then any mistakes you make or alterations that you don't like can be deleted and you then won't have to start the whole image from scratch. Most people learn this layering process the hard way, including myself!
Personally, when opening a RAW image, I would adjust the colour settings first. Sometimes clients will provide a colour profile or a desired colouring of an image which makes it easier to work to. If not, it will take time and experience to understand if an image is too yellow (like the RAW image above) or if there is too much Cyan in an image. It will also depend on what light has been used in shooting the image. For instance, photographs taken using daylight will tend to be quite cold/blue so you will need to add yellow and make the image warmer. The opposite is usually the case when images have been photographed using artificial light. I usually make adjustments to colour in an image using the 'Colour Balance' alteration and sometimes the 'Hue' - again always making sure I am making adjustments in a new layer or using a layer mask.
Once I have achieved the colour I want and that is most realistic or is what the client wants from their image, I will move onto altering the Exposure and Lighting within the image. This can be done in a number of ways. Ideally, a commercial photographer will shoot the photographs with the correct exposure and the desired lighting effects, but this is not always possible. I do a lot of retouching for clients on photographs that I have not shot myself, therefore sometimes you just have to work with what you've been given. Again, make adjustments in a new layer either using masks or small alterations using 'Curves' or 'Levels' to achieve your desired Exposure.
Once you have made these changes, your image should instantly start to look better. I would then start to look at the content of the image, for instance skin, make up, hair and background. These will take more time depending on what your client has asked for or what your desired final image will look like. I am going to go into skin retouching further in another blogpost as there are so many different ways you can approach this.
If you would like to know more, I am available for one to one tutoring on retouching, whether you want to learn how to retouch fashion images or simple product images. You can get in touch here or alternatively, I will be posting regular updates on tips for retouching photographs fro the most basic to high end commercial photography.