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Fashion Photo Retouching Tips for Photographers and Editors

Capturing stunning high-end fashion images requires skill from talented photographers. When high fashion can be vibrant and extravagant one day and then cool and understated the next, it’s up to a photographer to have a good eye for fashion and the creativity to put it on display through their images. But just like the different types of photography, photos in this category often need fashion photo retouching to achieve the best possible image before publishing.

At Paper Boat Creative, our picture retouching services include fashion photography that ranges from high-fashion spreads, to commercial fashion photos for retail, to the portfolios of up-and-coming models. Our experienced team has picked up a number of hard do’s and don’ts when it comes to fashion photo retouching, and here are some of our fashion photo retouching tips that both photographers and editors should follow to achieve stunning results during their post-production retouches.

How Do You Retouch in Fashion Photography?

Fashion photography comes in many forms. On one end, you can have the editorial spreads in high-end fashion magazines. Then, there are the commercial fashion shoots used for ads, promotions, catalogs, and product pages in online stores. You may also have clients consisting of models looking to create a professional portfolio and want their creative shots professionally retouched. And then there are the photographers who want to showcase their skills and establish themselves as skilled fashion photographers.

Retouching in fashion photography means understanding what you or your client want to express within an image. At Paper Boat Creative, our fashion photography retouching services adapt to our client’s goals and creative vision, and we work closely with our clients to ensure their idea comes to life and isn’t lost in the process of achieving exceptional results. Simply put: think of retouching in fashion photography as the final touch to ensure the image’s purpose is getting through.

With that in mind, here are the fashion photo retouching tips we recommend:

Know What to Crop Out

Unless your client specifically asks for a whole-body shot or a specific image size, you should be aware of what you should and shouldn’t crop out in a photo. Ideally, the photographer should already crop the subject during shooting, but it’s normal to discover a much better result during post-production.

Don’t underestimate the importance of the Crop Tool when retouching your image. If done right, you can take away unnecessary elements in your image that don’t do much or take away the focus from the visual appeal of the subject. If your image’s subject is a person, keep in mind the following when cropping or resizing the image:

  • Don’t crop at the joints. Cropping this way can give your model the illusion of an unflattering stumpy appearance.
  • For headshots and photos that zoom closely on the model’s face, avoid cropping at the chin. This will give them the appearance of a wider squarish chin. Instead, crop just below the collar bone and keep the eye line within the upper third of the image.

Unless specified by your client, remove needless elements. For example, if there isn’t any fashion piece worth showing below the knees of the model, consider cropping the image mid-thigh.

Recolor to a Natural Skin Tone

Unless the aesthetic calls for black-and-white or a monochromatic aesthetic, the best images call for a natural skin tone. This means setting factors like brightness, sharpness, and contrast at a good medium. Too much smoothening can make your model’s skin look unnatural, while too much sharpness can highlight all the blemishes on the model and take the focus away from the actual fashion photography.

Ideally, you should recolor the skin just enough to minimize the appearance of blemishes, but not to the point that you’ve excessively removed things like texture and fine lines. Tools like the Clone Stamp and Healing Tools can help, but too much and you could take the attention away from the actual fashion. Also, make sure that if you’re going to recolor a certain part of the model, make sure the rest of their visible skin matches.

Use Frequency Separation

Frequency Separation is a technique often used in retouching for fashion photography for editorial campaigns. It can be difficult and, when used incorrectly can come across as unnatural and overly edited. But once you’ve mastered the ability to use this method, you can easily blend layers to fix lighting issues for different areas of one image;

Using this method, you can edit colors, objects, and shadings in certain areas of an image without affecting the other areas. This is essential for when a) the lighting and other elements during the shooting weren’t ideal, and b) if there are many elements in an image that require different levels of lighting.

For example. certain types of metal jewelry and precious stones like diamonds can be very reflective and affect the lighting in an image. So, if a model is wearing jewelry, it’s possible for automatic settings to adjust to the reflective light of the jewelry. But this can translate to a darker image overall that affects the quality. This can be repaired in post-production using Frequency Separation.

Avoid Unnaturally Perfect Beauty

Fashion photography is meant to highlight clothing and the lifestyle it fits. In this case, retouching models are more about highlighting their best features and minimizing distracting blemishes and less about trying to make them look perfectly flawless. Beauty trends are constantly changing, and more and more viewers have realistic expectations about the types of models they see in fashion photography.

When learning how to retouch in fashion photography, you may be tempted to go all-out with the editing. However, having a heavy hand in retouching can do the opposite of what you want to achieve. Instead of a perfectly beautiful model, you could end up with a dull, doll-like, unnaturally flawless result. Some of the things you should avoid include:

  • Making teeth unnaturally white. You can lighten or recolor teeth that are naturally discolored, but a bright-white set of teeth can come off as unnatural. Instead, go for a natural off-white that isn’t too bright.
  • Use tools like the airbrush tool and healing tool to smooth out and minimize the appearance of blemishes. However, avoid erasing skin texture entirely, as this can give your model an unrealistic edited appearance.
  • Skin creasing around the face is natural when doing certain facial expressions. Instead of removing all lines, focus on retouching the distracting lines and leaving in the fine lines and natural creases, as it can remove the character and affect the overall expression on your model’s face.
  • Avoid heavy retouches to the under-eye area and around the eyes.

Use Liquify to Retouch Your Clothes

Our fashion photo retouching tips also extend to the clothes that are either worn by models or displayed creatively in your images. Ideally, it’s best to set your clothes’ appearance using an iron, steamer, or different types of props during your photoshoot to get the best results. This is to avoid heavily leaning on retouching, which can result in an unnatural appearance.

But if you really have to make edits to the clothes, the best tool you can use is the Liquify tool. This can help you smooth out creases and folds in your clothes and get rid of other distracting elements.

Stay Fashion Forward with Paper Boat Creative’s Retouching Services

Photographing in the fashion industry requires an eye for style, creativity, and a clear vision of what you want to achieve. While this can translate to good photos, even the best photographers require photo manipulation services to achieve their vision and create the best possible output that showcases their fashion.

Follow these tips to improve your images, or get in touch with Paper Boat Creative today to learn more about our high-end fashion photo retouching services that can help you achieve the images you or your clients need.

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