Retouching. What an ugly word, right? It seems that every time a question about retouching skin for weddings comes up on Facebook there are a million different opinions of what we should do and why. So to fuel the debate even more I’ve decided to write this months post on retouching skin for weddings.
Let me start by saying I am a firm believer when it comes to retouching skin! I believe, that as a wedding photographer, clients come to me for a number of reasons. The big reasons are because they love my photos and believe that I am the right person to capture such a momentous occasion. But another, more subtle, reason I believe clients come to me is because all of the people they see featured on my website, blog, social media, marketing materials and albums all look really good. And while I wish I could sit here and say it’s because all of my clients have flawless skin and we are always shooting in perfect light, that’s just not the truth. The truth is it’s because I take a little bit of extra time retouching skin.
While culling in Photo Mechanic I divide my keeper photos into two separate categories. The largest set receives a general edit and are the images I spend the least amount of time on. The second set are my feature images that will receive the full Jamie Ivins Photography treatment. These feature images may be used in a number of different ways but mostly are images that will either go on to represent my brand or will end up in a client album, slideshow, or as proof prints.
Once I have finished culling in Photo Mechanic I upload my photos into Lightroom and apply a custom preset while uploading to give my photos the pop that I like. I do a general quick edit on the lot of them to color correct, make sure horizon lines are straight, and get the overall look I want for the set.
After the general edit is finished I then move on to my feature images. These are the images I spend a little extra time on to make sure that everything is exactly the way I want it. Sometimes that just means extra dodging and burning or simple cloning in Lightroom…but…whenever skin is present in one of these images, it is then taken into Photoshop for retouching.
Once open in Photoshop I start with blemish removal via the healing brush. I know some users like the spot healing brush tool but I’m old school and still prefer to sample an area of skin before working on an affected area. 🙂 After I am finished removing blemishes I move on to softening skin using Mama Shan’s retouching actions.
The Mama Shan’s actions I use most often are the “Original Powder” and “Mama’s Lite Powder” because I feel that these give me the most natural results on my images without looking fake or overly processed. When using these powder brushes I like to use a Wacom tablet making sure the pressure setting is turned on and my opacity is set between 40-50% for the fellas and 60-70% for the ladies with a flow of 30%. It’s important to note that a tablet is not necessary to use these actions but I prefer the control I have with a tablet over my mouse. Once the skin is finished I then move on to other areas like eyes and teeth to also give them a little pop.
After the retouching is complete I save the file in Photoshop and bring it back into Lightroom to make any final adjustments I may have missed prior before exporting these files for use in a slideshow, album, blog post, etc.
So now that you know the “how” in my process I want to talk a little bit about the “why”, which is two-fold.
First, our clients invest a lot of money in our services and while they want pretty pictures that show their wedding day, they also want to look and feel their best and I believe that as photographers it is our job to give that to them. To be 100% honest with you, I feel that if we aren’t taking the time to remove blemishes and do some light skin softening we are being lazy and not providing a full service to our clients. Now, you might be all, “but Jamie…I want my clients to look natural.” Well, guess what? Me too. And there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do a light edit on skin, removing blemishes, hot spots, or sweaty foreheads and still retain the natural look. Most people are very self-conscious and I, for one, don’t ever want to be responsible for one of my clients looking self-consciously at themselves. It is my goal to make them feel their best when they’re viewing their images so they are proud to show them off to people and are happy looking back at their wedding day years down the road.
Secondly, I’m doing this because I’m always trying to attract a higher end clientele. And in my experience, people with higher budgets also have higher expectations. And along with higher expectations they are going to want to feel like they are hiring someone who can give them a boutique experience they would be hard pressed to find elsewhere. When looking at their photos they are going to want to feel that I put all of myself into the work and they are getting a one of a kind product and if you, as the photographer, aren’t paying attention to the details, you’re falling short. So to appeal to the next tier of clients I want a body of work that is able to stand up to their expectation.
Some of you may agree. Some may disagree. Such is life. I’m just here to tell you what is working for me and to speculate as to why. Ultimately it is up to each of you to decide what is best for your images. But I urge you to stop being lazy and to start creating an experience your clients deserve. And if you don’t believe you can retouch while still ending up with the natural look, check out the examples below. Face!
See you all next month Awesomesaucers!