Retouching for True-to-Life Appearing Photos

Even the best photographer faces limitations due to unsightly backgrounds, locations, weather conditions and other issues that lead to imperfections. Such conditions can destroy the value of an otherwise fantastic shot.

Use of a digital editor for retouching an existing photograph improves its composition, allowing the photo to provide a clearer vision and the photographer to deliver the product the client wants.

While many consumers consider retouching as only useful for removing minor imperfections from a model’s skin so there is a perfect face on an ad, the process includes much more.

Outdoor Photos

When a photographer takes a few photos of a fashion model in an outdoor location during the daytime, he makes use of natural light. Throughout the day, the sun traverses across the sky the lighting levels change. Clouds can also affect the amount of natural lighting. During the session, the photographer will reposition the camera and change locations for the model to take advantage of the best natural light, but, in the end, there are limits to what he is able to accomplish.

Improving the Clarity of Outdoor Shots With Retouching

A skilled photographer can use retouching to eliminate unwanted reflections that appear in the glass walls of an office building in the background behind the model. If the light levels are too low, he can retouch them to increase the light levels and bring the fashion model out of the background. He adjusts the luminance of each photo with a black and white layer so the soft light balance increases, a technique that allows him to change the appearance of the background.

Improving the Model Image From the Photograph

Blemishes, ranging from skin wrinkles to damage due to storing photos can be removed using tools included in software, like those found in Adobe Photoshop. The photographer can alter the hair color, brighten the skin, remove freckles, slim down faces and even add reflections to the model’s sunglasses with ease.

He might add a discrete tattoo to the skin, apply a different makeup or take steps to bring out more color in the model’s cheeks as he enhances his final photo so it is available for publications on the web or print.


Photorealism is important in that final shot. Enhancing using retouching techniques can give the model the perfect look and clean up the background, but the finished product must look real. If there is something that does not appear right, it becomes obvious quickly, ruining the overall impression. While the photo might be better than the original, it must appear natural to the human eye. If the photo does not have a natural look, it fails the true-to-life test.