Off-topic: I think that it is somehow unfair to promote so actively Adobe products in the web design blogosphere, but the “cruel reality” is that, in the most cases, Adobe created some software that simply don’t have rivals. In conclusion, you may use other software to enhance your pictures but definitely, Adobe Photoshop is the best tool. At least, in my humble opinion…
Retouching photos is one of the most interesting works for a designer or for a Photoshop user. Usually, the powerful effects of Photoshop make miracles and really enhance a picture, but the final result must satisfy the tastes of viewers. Of course, every time a part of them will be satisfied while others wouldn’t fully appreciate the work done. Briefly, it’s impossible to content everyone. In fact, it is the particularity of retouching photos: it’s a science, the designer uses techniques and software to do his work, but in the same time it’s art because the inspiration and the personal contribution of the designer plays the most important role. I think that there is no doubt about the complexity and the difficulty of retouching photos. Besides that, the field of retouching is impressive. Usually people refer to retouching when dealing with improving the look of human subjects but also refers to any modification of a picture in order to enhance it.
No matter if you are an experienced and creative specialist in retouching or a simple beginner, the tips below are very useful. A very common mistake in retouching photos is the negligence of the basic principles, therefore pay tenfold attention to these. The interesting side is that in retouching images the most important quality of a designer isn’t the talent, it’s the patience. Yep, no matter how talented you are, if you don’t have enough patience to work in small steps then you should rethink your strategy.
#1. Start with a clear idea, set up a framework
In retouching photos it can’t be an absolute scale to may say, i.e., it’s 90% wonderful and 10% decent, everything is relative. In spite of this complete relativism, no one should abandon the idea of having a clear plan to follow when modifying an image. A professional designer that retouches photos before starting the effective work creates a complete plan to follow and have in his mind a clear idea about how the final result should look. It shouldn’t be complicated, but it must exist. Instead of writing some words on a plain paper I prefer to make a copy of the images to modify and effectively note on it what should be corrected. The images bellow is suffice to better understand my viewpoint.
#2. Be very organized
Another mandatory condition to create interesting projects is to be perfectly organized. There is nothing wrong to have more than 100 layers for a single project; imagine how long it will take to find a specific layer when you have to search from “layer 1” to “layer 123”? A better approach is to name them accordingly as “eyes”, “upper lips” etc…
A professional photo retouch requires much time and it would be highly recommended to reduce the wasted time. It’s simple, you should be more efficient! A great way to save time is to adapt the workplace to your preferences, so start working on it!
#3. Don’t be hasty- use small steps to achieve a great result
As I previously mentioned, the “huge leaps” don’t exist in retouching photos. Every pixel is important and a good project doesn’t contain “ignored” pixels. Using big brushes, powerful blur effects and large selections are the perfect recipe to fail. It’s true, these save time but the quality will suffer considerably. In conclusion, if you indeed care about your projects don’t hurry to finish them; work on a small scale, zoom in and out until you are convinced that it’s OK then go to the next step.
#4. Don’t use your favorite tool, use the suitable one
Every one of us has a favorite technique or tool and it’s quite probable for a designer to use intensively in his projects the respective one. It’s quite normal, isn’t it? Well, in retouching images this fact isn’t a useful approach.
No matter by preferences, in retouching images it is mandatory to use the proper tools and not the preferred ones. This situation is obvious when dealing with cloning and sampling tools, you should make a clear difference between them even if you are more accommodated to a single type. By the way, we are on the way of writing a complete guide of explaining each tool from Adobe Photoshop, what do you think, would be it useful to you? Please use the comment form to let us know your ideas.
#5. The final image should look nice at both 33% or 330% size
Usually, to modify efficiently a picture it is required to work almost at the level of pixel, zooming in very much. This is a good habit, but lots of designers simply ignore that. In fact, what people really see is the image at its natural size. Many designers didn’t care too much to refine details and the big picture is awful.
The conclusion is simple: the final image must look perfect no matter the scale of zoom used!
#6. And one more thing…don’t forget to save
It sounds as a silly advice but I am pretty sure that lots of hours were lost just because the user forgets to save his work. Don’t forget…!
On the other hand, being a subjective job, I strongly recommend to merely judge your work as objectively as you can. It may happen that you may not to be satisfied with what you have done at the moment and delete all the layers used. This is a grave mistake, the best mentality is to save everything you do and let some time before judging…maybe tomorrow you will have a different idea! Believe me, it really works!
I hope the above tips to help everyone interested in retouching photos; it’s only the basis of this difficult job, therefore don’t expect to do miracles if you respect them. The success is dependent of the talent and experience and both of them will continue to develop only when working! You got the point, nothing is achieved without work!
– Written by Daniel –