Editing versus Retouching

November 18, 2020  •  6 Comments

suggs_headshot_photographybytrishalegresmith_2020-5611suggs_headshot_photographybytrishalegresmith_2020-5611 Professional photographers are employed for many reasons. The most obvious reason being for their skill with a camera, but other common reasons include knowledge of lighting and angles, styles, color,  good background locations, and professional editing. So how does Trish approach editing and retouching? Editing is an important part of the photography process that brings the whole image together.

As an intern I wondered (along with some of our clients) why photos are edited in the first place. And what is the definition of editing? From my understanding, any change to an image taken straight-out-of-camera (SOOC) is editing--whether that be cropping, resizing, or changing the appearance of the picture. Clients require edited photos so that the final product can fit its intended uses. Editing brings out the best in a photo if the limitations of a shoot location prohibited apt lighting or backgrounds. Retouching is a more specific type of editing. Retouching involves the process of manipulating an image to achieve a certain look. Some common uses of this can be removing a temporary scar or acne breakout in "post" if a makeup artist was not available for the photoshoot.

Harrison (Me): What is the editing process like for you? In what order do you go about fixing up the images?

Trish: Before I do anything else, I back up every image—to both my hard drive and a secure offsite location (unless requested otherwise by a client). My initial culling starts with throwing out any photo where the face looks distorted, eyes are closed (and not for emotional effect), and where there are inappropriate photobombs in the background (and the foreground isn’t worth keeping). Sometimes I’ll keep a few “bloopers” to tell the full story of a session.

Then I pick the top 25%. I usually know which ones these are right away as I view a gallery of my images on the monitor. From these I start with my initial edits, correcting for color and adjusting to keep a consistent look--then cut this selection by half.

In my final selections, I go through each one, retouching as required and putting in artistic edits that bring out the subject. 

Me: This simple process can take a long time but it’s good to have a set process every time you edit to quickly narrow down the images. This minimizes the amount of pictures that require extra attention for editing or retouching if needed. Do you have a limit on how much retouching you will do?

Trish: I try to keep retouching on people as natural as possible. I retouch anything that is a temporary change/condition (i.e.blemishes, errant hairs, frizzing, small marks, speck on clothing, etc). I work to avoid the “photoshop fail” where you retouch so much that a face or body becomes unrecognizable or unbelievable. You are your brand and we see the beauty in everyone’s uniqueness. Hence our mantra: “So Your Life”.

Me: Everyone has bad days and one day of bad acne or a scab from a minor injury isn’t a permanent feature of you. This retouching helps show the real you and allows you to be proud of your look and what you represent. For a photo of yourself, how much, if any, editing and retouching would you do?

Trish: The same amount of editing and retouching that’s done for our clients. If  I had a bad makeup day (because I couldn’t get my makeup artist to retouch me), I fix any mistakes that I made. In summer, I retouch my mosquito bites--especially the ones that inevitably end up in the middle of my forehead.

Me: It’s good to see the same rules apply to you. The power of editing is shown less in the retouching ability, but is more seen in fixing the image to highlight the person of interest and their actions. How much time does it generally take to edit headshots and profile pictures?

Trish: 10-15 minutes per photo, including time to step away and come back to it so as to not overcorrect the image. If backgrounds need to be changed, it takes longer since there’s more to look at to make any changes look seamless. I make sure that private information (e.g. license plates or house numbers) or anything that would flag as inappropriate gets removed.

Me: What is your proudest editing work?

Trish: Retouching photos of loved ones used during memorials or funerals because it means so much to the loved ones who are grieving. Most of the time I’m taking candid photos originally shot on someone’s phone—often extracting only part of an image and replacing a background. None of these photos were ever intended to be enlarged.

Me: These kinds of photos are on display for everyone attending the funeral or memorial and it is the first image friends and families see when they walk in. Grieving for a loved one is a very tough time and it means so much to have a high quality picture of the deceased to be remembered by all. When hiring a third party to edit, how do you decide who to contract the work to?

Trish: I always want a personal referral and a portfolio of their work, so I pay to have them do a few sample images to check if they’re editing the way I edit. I normally use another editor for bulk editing the hundreds of photos we take of events.  I do select 25 “hero shots” that I do the final editing for the event.


These additional editors aren’t used too often but they seem to be vetted carefully to match the style and produce similar final products that match the quality of images that Trish produces. 

When it comes to editing, we want to represent your personal brand as well as your personality in its own unique way. The final image conveys a connection to your work and demonstrates the look that you desire and it will be something you are proud of. Schedule a consult with us to learn how you can be the recipient of a final product that portrays the best you through our hard work and dedication to the perfect images.



Minimalist Makeup Tips(non-registered)
I found the tips and best practices shared in this post to be incredibly useful and relevant to my work.
Great interview! It is always good to learn new things, especially when it comes to photography and editing.
Alisa Lira(non-registered)
Photo retouching is the expert level of photo editing. Thanks for this informative blog. You perfectly describe the difference.
Emma Watson(non-registered)
Great elaboration about image editing vs <a href="https://www.infotecsourz.com/">photo retouching</a>. I was searching for it on google and found the best answer to discuss with my friend about this. Thanks
I have always liked this type of question-answering blog. This helps the reader to find out their problem's solution easily.
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