portrait photography

An Essential Portrait Photo Retouching Guide for Beginners

As a beginner, engaging in portrait photography projects usually comes with the misconception that it ends with the click of the camera. However, the actual final step in photography is editing your raw photos. And if you’re new to the process, this portrait photo retouching guide can help you understand the steps in editing your images!

Learning about the editing process of photography is a great skill set to have. Whether you’re a novice starting out or a business owner looking to understand more about what goes on in your photos, you can never go wrong with studying portrait editing.

Typically, there are professional photo retouching services that can provide you with captivating images. However, knowing the work that goes into it can help you gain a basic idea of what needs to be done throughout your projects.

So, What is Portrait Photography and Photo Retouching?

To put it simply, portrait photography is a branch of photography that focuses on taking pictures of people or animals as subjects. It’s an art form that has been utilized throughout the years to immortalize the essence of an individual, used throughout history. The goal is to capture the subject’s personality through a single image in hopes of understanding who they are and what they represent to the viewer.

And while taking photos is the initial idea of portrait photography, enhancing the images through photo retouching is what really gives it its personality. This step in the process elevates the image to become the alluring portrait that it wants to be.

Creative editing can add a story, remove imperfections, and overall bring the idea you have for the photo together.

How to Enhance Portraits with Photo Retouching

There are several photo editing styles you can try out as a beginner. Various professional portrait retouching services usually combine various processes and techniques to work efficiently and achieve their desired outcome.

Most editors use a mix and match of different photo editing programs, while some go above and beyond in composing their set for photoshoots to limit the time needed for editing, and others heavily rely on editing programs to showcase their concepts.

Nonetheless, here are some of the basic portrait photo retouching techniques that most experts use and follow:

portrait photo retouching

Utilize Different Programs

When you edit images, you can use a range of programs to enhance your photos. One of the more popular software that professionals use include Adobe’s Lightroom and Photoshop.

Usually, Lightroom is used to edit the raw properties of the images, like the color, light, and sharpness of the photo. You can even create presets for your favorite settings so that you can easily adjust the same types of images in bulk.

On the other hand, Photoshop can create more manipulations that you can use to retouch or apply other creative editing concepts. So, if you want to edit the background of your images or smoothen the texture of your subject’s skin, Photoshop is a great tool to use.

Create Layers for Editing and Save Multiple Files

Before you start any of your editing projects, it’s good practice to save new files of the raw images you want to adjust. This is so that if there are any changes you want to make after the editing process, you still have the original image and start over.

It’s also good to save “checkpoints” as you modify your photo in parts. Make Control or Command + S your best friend and take the extra precaution of saving your files. You never know when your computer programs will crash and delete all your work. And while this is unseemly with new computers, it can still happen.

Another good practice to remember is to create layers of your edits. Whether you’re adjusting the color or the light, utilize the layering feature of editing programs. This is so that if you need to make modifications to a specific edit, you can do so without accidentally adjusting other elements.

You can create separate layers for highlights, shadows, the various colors you will add, background edits, texture edits, and other adjustments you may want or need to do.

Start with Light and Color Corrections

Looking at your raw photos, there can be parts of the image that appear either too dark or too bright. It’s important that you create a balance between the shadows and highlights of your images so that you can get accurate colors.

You can start adjusting the exposure by using the dodge or burn tool on the whole image. Then, make more specific edits to the clothes or the skin of the model by zooming into specific parts.

And while adjusting the light is a necessary first step, you can also interchange this with color correction. Sometimes, the color can come out weird from the photoshoot because of how the lights hit the model’s skin. Other times, you just want to accentuate parts of the photo so that the vision of the viewer goes straight to the model.

You can toggle the brightness, exposure, hue, and saturation tools to start your image editing. You can use Adobe Lightroom to start modifying these parts of your photo and further fine-tune them in Photoshop.

Remove Background Imperfections

Now that you have the general light and color settings that you want, you can now edit more specific parts of the image. From Lightroom, you can export your picture and open them in Photoshop.

Once you’ve opened the program, you can clean out the background of your images by using a combination of the select tool, the spot healing brush, and the clone stamp tool. You can even use the content-aware fill for a more automated way to remove background imperfections.

Retouching Your Subject’s Skin

When taking portrait photos, it’s unavoidable that you will get stray hairs, blemishes, and clothing wrinkles. Don’t be alarmed as this is normal when taking portraits of models. It’s unavoidable since we’re only human and models typically go through several poses when in photoshoots.

To get a smoother texture, you can still utilize the spot healing tool combined with the smudge tool to blend your model’s skin texture seamlessly. You can even use the brush tool to correct the color of some parts of the skin while keeping its natural look.

Final Touches

Once you’re through with the initial edits, go through your image to check whether your concept has been well executed. Usually, because there are changes in the texture, you may have to color-correct and adjust the exposure of your photos again.

Taking a “last look” at your edited image will help you identify whether you can finally save them and share them with your clients or viewers.

When you edit your images, you can change the order in how you make adjustments depending on your style and the changes you want to make. And if you have more mastery over other tools, you can also add them to your process. Just make sure that you double-check the details of your portrait photo before you send it over for posting.

Professional Portrait Editing with Paper Boat Creative

portrait retouching

Now that you have an insight into the essential portrait photo retouching tips, you can try modifying your images on your own! And if you’re a business owner, you can use your knowledge of image editing to create marketing strategies around the processes in photography.

Learning the process of portrait photo retouching is a useful skill all around. However, if you don’t have time to engage in image adjustments on your own, you can always invest in photo editing services by experienced professionals.

Here at Paper Boat Creative, we have a team of experts that can give you end-to-end services for your photography needs. From conceptualization to execution, we can help you realize the photo you want to showcase through creative editing.

Check out our portfolio to learn more about our experience or get in touch with us today!

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We’re here to edit any kind of image you have. Big or small, short or tall, a few images or ALL, we’re the team that you can call.
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