Why retouching is important and not just a small “detail”?
Retouching is a big part of my job (even if our smartphone apps make us think that it is a very easy and quick job). For one day shooting, it is almost one week of post productions (which counts for the half of the retouching)!
Retouching a picture is very subjective and can completely change the aspect of an image. Ask two photographers to retouch the same image, and you will have to different results.
What kind of retouch?
I make color and quality enhancement retouch. It means I work on exposure, contrast, high and low light. I adjust the white balance and the skin color. I also work on the image clarity, improve the sharpness, reduce the noise, the chromatic aberrations and optical distortions. I also crop the frame if needed.
Sometimes I will « paint » some part of the image lighter or darker, in order to lead the eyes on important areas of the image. I could also erase something in the background.
Nevertheless, I always look for a natural result. For me, a good retouch is a retouch you don’t notice.
What kind of retouch I don’t do
I will not created HDR pictures where everything looks fake.
I will not do beauty retouch. Beauty retouch is very used in the advertising world and the result is so perfect that it looks weird. Beauty retouch consist of changing the texture of the skin, or make you look taller, thiner, etc. I don’t do that.
Do you do all the retouch by yourself or do you outsource it?
This past year many new companies offer to photographers to outsource their post-production (thanks to Lightroom cc). Of course I took a few minutes to learn more about the trick behind their very cheap service! No surprise, cheap price means very bad quality results.
So, no, I do every retouch by myself to guarantee you good quality.
Moreover, when I take a picture I already know how I will retouch it. Sometimes, I will even voluntarily set a “wrong” setting to my camera, because I know it will give me the material I need to retouch the picture in a particular way.
Do you use automatic treatment?
I don’t use automatic adjustment, never! No!
Today, you can easily use some software (like Lightroom), that will automatically treat all pictures. The results will be more or less OK, but not great. Their algorithm uses a mathematical method to calibrate the picture, based on statistics. They cannot do a great job (yet). They don’t understand when the photographer makes a very light or dark picture on purpose. They don’t understand that it is more beautiful, they would simply destroy my pictures.
For all those reasons, I treat all pictures by myself, one by one for the best result.
Can you make my eyes lighter, my smile whiter, and my skin perfect and make me look slimmer?
Technically, I could do it, but it is not the kind of style I like. I don’t like fake faces looking like plastic dolls. I don’t like over-saturated colors, fake blue sky or HDR effect.
I do enhance picture by making your eyes just a little bit lighter, skin a little bit softer, but I don’t do majors changes, I don’t do plastic surgery.
So basically, the answer is No.