There’s a lot of debate on the subject of retouching, there are some photographers who don’t (or won’t or can’t) retouch at all, some who do a bit and then there are some who do loads.
I think I’m somewhere in the middle.
For certain work, I do very little. For instance, for the recent Charlotte series, the model is superb and the make-up artist – Ciara Allen – is the best there is, so I have very little retouch left to do. Looking at the pictures really blown up, Charlie has a few blemishes like anyone, so I’ve cloned these out and maybe helped round the eyes with some of the late nights but that’s about it. I like a bit of texture in the end result, I like that we’re mammals, we’re hairy and our skin is not as smooth as a millpond.
Speaking of millponds, I’m not a fan of over-processed, over-smoothed beauty shots. The shot from earlier this year is about as softened as I go, and that was for a particular look. But if you look closely enough above you’ll still see texture after the retouch. Mostly I’m using Imagenomic’s Portraiture plugin to achieve the look, but I always dial it back to 50% or less on a fairly subtle setting. Occasionally I’ll crank clarity down on Lightroom to about -15 too.
I’ve been asked to do some extreme retouch stuff in my time: change hair colour, eye colour, clothes, increase/decrease bust, nose, hands (!), eyes, lips and ears. Liquify is your friend. All in a day’s work. I hate having to remove strap marks and stray hairs as these can mostly be avoided by preparation before, or attention to detail during the shoot. Don’t get me started on fake tan …
OK so I know this is a 4th degree but for student mua portfolio work, I’ve been instructed by the client not to retouch at all because if I do, the student’s work is misrepresented and not a reflection of their abilities. It’s a bit of a dilemma because my name often goes out on that work and I’m not keen for sub-standard results to be out there. It’s difficult for me to leave well enough alone, this no re-touch zone is an uncomfortable place for me to be in.
My normal workflow is to ingest the images into Lightroom, open selected shots in Photoshop, do basic removal of spots, zits, stray hair, lint and anomalies using the clone and stamp tools, duplicate this layer and run Imagenomic’s Portraiture plugin in a fairly non-aggressive mode, dial back this layer to about 50% and run a Levels adjustment above all of this (I try various modes – mono/per channel/dark & light depending on content) save it off and then make final contrast/colour/vignette tweaks back in Lightroom. If all this seems like gibberish then I’ll get round to doing an in-depth post at some stage in the future.
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