10 tips to better photography & retouching

10. October 2010

Retouching is difficult discipline. If you work with bad images you tend to spend a lot of time on fixing what’s wrong. After all you spend all your energy on fixing something instead of enhancing what is already good and you will not reach the perfect image anyway. Perhaps it is good to think a little before you start retouching.

It’s almost impossible to get 30 good photos out of serie of 150 images with the same light, location, setup and everything. I wish I could tell everyone to do just really good images from the beggining to the end. You are an artist and you decide what is good and what is not. But for sure it’s better to produce one perfect picture than dozen of similar boring ones. Here are few tips to any retoucher and photographer that may help you to realize what to do.

Work with the best possible resource!

If you choose image that is not perfect, you gotta have the reason why you do it and have the skill to fix it. If you don’t have these skills, forget about unperfect resources and practice only with good ones. Keep your energy for better use. Don’t waste it otherwise you will reach the dead end soon.

You can’t fix everything

Sense of retouching is to enhance what is good in image, not to take a bad photo and completely re-build it in PS. It’s good to take a special care about images but do not over do it. Hair is a perfect example. Fixing hair seems to be neverending, stray hair, flyaways,… How to prevent this? Do everything to make your image look as good as possible while shooting. You won’t regret it later when you open your RAW in PS.

Get as much as possible out if you resource

It means using RAW – well exposed RAW. You can enhance exposure, colors, W/B and plenty of other things here. But the same principle as earlier, overdoing means ruining. For example sharpness in RAW is fine but oversharpened image from the very beginning means you will not be able to fix your image later. So try to think of your following workflow and the possibility of need to go few steps back.

Lens matters

There are photographers who have like 3 cameras and 6 or 7 lenses but their gear sucks and they keep taking same bad images. If you buy lens, buy a good one. It is always inspiring to have a new lens. It spreads your “visual fantasy”. Well, body is important too but lens matters more and it´s what gives your image most of the quality. Your body can suck but if your lens is good your work will look more professional. But to be honest, besides gear, you gotta have an eye for photography too.

When it comes to fashion retouching there is nothing like 5 minutes job to make an image outstanding

Let’s face it, these images you see in magazines aren’t bad images retouched by half amateurs. Skilled people took them and spent hours and hours with editing to make them look perfect.Long ago when I started taking pictures (yeah, these images sucked really bad compared to what I do now) I spent like 2 hours on editing each picture and these images had all imaginable mistakes (taken with wrong exposure, bad angle, bad set lens and my editing skills were like zero). Now, when I am taking images with great gear, accurate exposure and my skills gained I am spending 4x more time on every picture. Why? Because details make whole image. I want to keep them because if you loose them, you loose all image. It will never look natural again. Do you think spending 8hours per image is not worth it? I don’t tell you to do it, you don’t have to, but you can’t really compare images retouched by pro retoucher and 10minutes edit. You also can’t compare great RAW taken on middle format and some cheap DSLR JPEG. Everything matters but what’s the most important is your own input.

Practice makes perfection

You can have amazing talent but if you won’t practice, you will not get better. Experience changes your view. Realizing what you do and why is sort of “training your brain”. Then you combine it with your taste and that’s it. Practicing is same like playing a violing. You need it to artistically grow.

Learn to use your tools

There are many photographers in this world who have the money to buy but not skills to use. Why to have a Phase One mid format camera and Photoshop if you never use it. Of course, you don’t have to use every single photography or retouching technique but it’s good to know them. Educate yourself. Try a new things, master your techniques.

Make a decision

When making images you are responsible for the process. Decisions lays on you. Some clients gives you a specific guideline but since you touch up own images it’s up to you what technique is the best. If you are not willing to take this responsibility, you’ll be only repeating techniques after people who made up their mins. Having own opinion is essential for your creativity. I saw many great artists who reached amazing results with basic tools. It’s not a coincidence, magic lies in you and your ability to combine.


An every eye works like a lens, you simply focus on something. Give an image sense. Respect this principle. Some people tend to oversharpen images to relieve details but effect becomes opposite. Too many details may distract watchers eyes. Train your taste. It is neverending. Gain skills, watch great artworks, think why you like one image more than another. As you learn your taste may change. It’s a part of improovement. Learn and use these informations.

Anyone can be mistaken

We all do better and worse images. Keep it in mind. Too big ego won’t help you. Listen to reasonable critique. There are people who will always flatter you and who will always think you suck. Listen to people who are able to tell you bit more about what they like/dislike and why.

Hope some of these tips were useful for you!

Lucie Kout

Leave a Comment