Edit vs. Retouch - what is the difference?

April 16, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Edited vs. A Retouched Photo - What is the Difference?

"One photographer says they will edit my photos and another one says retouch - what is the difference, I am confused!"

 

Let me try and help.

 

The difference is just a few minutes of time - or way more than you could ever imagine. 

 

You see, a professional photographer will take pictures using a RAW format. RAW means, in simple terms, all the data was captured by the camera sensor when you take a photo, giving you the highest of highest quality images. If you shoot in jpeg format, like on most cell phones and smaller point and shoots, the information gets squashed and lost. Think of a slice of bread - you can make an awesome and big sandwich with the slice all in tact, just how it was designed to be. If your toddler squishes part of the slice of bread...you can tell it's still bread AND you can make a sandwich with the same savory flavor...but it isn't the same. It's smaller and you cannot recover the smashed parts. 

Editing your photos is the flare and spin you put on the slice of bread to make it your own. Do you use butter? Add a little cinnamon & sugar to it? Jelly? Mayonnaise? You get the concept. You can even take it a step further by saying you spread HOMEMADE butter or jelly on the bread.

 

Your photographer has to take the flour and water that is a RAW file and create the most delicious bread and finish with a custom sandwich you can't get anywhere else. (Are you hungry yet? 🥪 🤤) Or in essence, the image needs to be developed like in the film days.

 

SO, BACK TO EDIT VS. RETOUCH

In a perfect world with perfect lighting conditions and perfect weather and perfect...well, everything - photographers can create a fabulous and perfect photograph. 

But. We don't live in a perfect world. Think - an old beautiful, but dark church that doesn't let you use a flash at a wedding. Your human eye can see just fine, but a camera cannot. Your photographer has to make several decisions on how they are going to capture the image, take the shot they best they can and makes a mental note on how they are going to correct it with some editing later. 

 

When your photographer is editing a photograph, they are making adjustments to it like brightness, color correcting, cropping and straightening, etc. They are optimizing the picture for the conditions it was taken in...especially if it was less than perfect conditions. A professional photographer will understand and work with the conditions presented and have knowledge, skill and the equipment to still take a solid photograph and not have to rely on "fixing it in post" in the Photoshop Darkroom. 

Edit vs retouch blog post The photo on the left is unedited, straight out of the camera. The photo on the right was lightened, color corrected and exposure corrected. Edited, not retouched

 

RETOUCHING

As you are looking through your gallery with your photographer...you have the. best. picture. ever! and you want to hang it in a prominent place in your home - LARGE! (bigger IS better!) so you can gaze at it lovingly every day. 

 

You could take the edited photograph and print that. Sometimes it's fine, especially if it is small like a 5x7. Retouching an image involves much more editing and requires more work such as:

  • Brightening the eyes of the subject.
  • Fixing discolored or damaged teeth in a smile if the client wishes
  • Minimizing acne or scars.
  • Softening the bags under eyes and wrinkles - especially if the subject was photographed in harder lighting conditions
  • Removing a shirt wrinkle, a bra strap, stray hairs, darkening eye lashes, smoothing out skin coloring, removing a sunburn...etc.
  • Removing distractions, such as the gum wrapper you didn't see at the session or that power line in the background.

In all honesty, if you were made up beautifully for picture day and then there was heat and humidity or wind or suddenly got an acne flareup -- your foundation could be cakey, you would have perspiration shine, your skin would be blotchy red...etc. If you are going to hang your photo up on the wall, whether it be your living room or Facebook's Wall...you will want your photographer to take the extra time to retouch it for you. 

 

Plus when you enlarge a photograph -- a pill on your sweater is not noticeable on a smaller picture...but blown up to couch size it will be as noticeable as a wolf in sheep's clothing. And believe me, you will see it every time you look at the picture. 

Comparison photo portrait of retouching a photo mjcollins photography * The purpose of retouching isn't to change your appearance. My policy is: if it wasn't there 2 weeks ago and it won't be there 2 weeks from now, we will remove it. Retouching also is like applying foundation, and other make-up techniques intended to bring out your best features. Like all things, retouching can be very light handed, or can go full-on, high end / fashion retouch. Talk to your photographer for what meets your retouching needs!

 

OF COURSE, THE MORE ARTISTIC THE PHOTOGRAPH, THE MORE TIME EDITING AND RETOUCHING TAKES

It can take me up to 20 hours to create a piece like this:

Ephesians 6:16 - custom family art portrait



CAN PHOTOSHOP FIX EVERYTHING?

No, and frankly it shouldn't. We've all seen horribly executed skin smoothing and body shaping or forgetting to remove a phantom hand or arm. It is important to have good communication with your photographer on how much Photoshop will be used. For me, I want to get it right in camera the best I can - unless we are creating a complex art piece. Myself and other photographers consider ourselves artists, but should also provide excellent customer service as well. 

                                                                                              ***

Please know, as photographers, we do more than smash a shutter button. 

You see, behind every image are hours of practice, expensive gear and software, attending conferences, long conversations with our colleagues, membership in professional guilds, etc.  For me, I put a lot of myself in the pictures I take - why wouldn't I want them to look their best for the people that will see them?

Got a question?  It costs nothing to ask - send me an email and I will be glad to answer it.

Shine on, friends 🌟
 


 

 



 


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