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Image Retouching: The Complete Guide

There are numerous tutorials and articles present on the internet regarding image retouching. However, hunting down the complete guide regarding this topic can be a challenge for many.

Furthermore, there isn’t a single article that teaches the entire method of retouching an image. So, the article we all be seeing now contains years of research and briefing as a whole about Image retouching.

So, let us not wait any longer and dive into how we can make an ordinary photo into an excellent one. 

What is Photo Retouching?

In most simple words, retouching is actually the improvement of the overall look of a photo. But to entirely get the concept, we first need to know in post-production that Image retouching means removing unnecessary and irrelevant elements from an image.

Apart from discarding the more minor elements such as tree branches or dust from the background, portrait retouching can even help us fix skin imperfections in a photograph.

It’s also responsible for the small details of an image. Moreover, this is one of the primary reasons why most businesses desire these retouching services so much.

Retouching takes care of:

  • Tone correction
  • Color correction
  • Blemishes
  • Under-eye circles
  • Changes of saturation
  • Contrast and brightness

But that’s not everything, since airbrushing is even an essential characteristic of portrait retouching. Although, airbrushing basically means the removal of irrelevant elements from an image’s background, and also adding some essential elements that were not there in the first place.

Retouching is actually one of the procedures that we can not time because the entire process can be accomplished in just a matter of a few minutes and it can also take long tiring hours.

Typically, this retouching procedure is done for:

  • Removal of skin
  • Body Shaping,
  • Digital Make-Up
  • Clothing Wrinkles
  • Changing background
  • Adding and removing people and irrelevant elements

Procedure to Post Production: A Step-by-Step Guide

1. Culling

Culling any image is very simple. But the importance of this is often overlooked. Even with the best kinds of retouching methods in our arsenal, if the perfect type of photo is not chosen, our retouching outcomes won’t be appealing to the human eyes.

Selecting 3 to 5 photos out of 1000 images can indeed be a pain in the bone! Moreover, it’s an actual art to capture the best and natural kind of photographs. So, an essential thing that we need to remember is to try to take images that have a more natural kind of pose.

Furthermore, creativity is essential but overdoing it can make us feel quite demotivated with the work we are doing.

Honestly, there’s no particular technique of culling, it’s all about capturing images that have a better and natural pose to make the entire image very aesthetic and soothing to the eye.

2. Camera Raw

We usually perplex Camera Raw as the position where filters and special effects adjustments are created.

However, CR (Camera Raw) guides to create a particular foundation for which to carry on with the editing on Photoshop.

CR is actually not the place where excellent results take place. Instead, it’s used to create RAW adjustments such as:

  • Adjusting the image’s white balance
  • Bringing in back some of the essential details in highlights

Keeping that in mind, it’s vital to keep away from engaging in overall adjustments like using the contrast slider and the exposure.

The Addition in contrast is entirely something that can be concluded manually in the image editing procedure, if we include contrast in CR, we’ll definitely observe toning problems on the skin and the eyes turning dark.

If there are some small bothers, for instance, the skin is residing on the darker side of the image, then there are techniques to brighten that without even using the exposure slider which might over brightens the entire background in the editing process.

Instead, we can actually hit the luminosity slider, which can help to brighten the complete skin and leaving everything else unattended.

3. Photoshop

Spot Healing

It’s one of the essential aspects of Image retouching. Here, we have to point out and remove blemishes and various other imperfections that are present in the photos.

Moreover, the spot healing brush can actually work as the healing brush: it actually paints with the sampled pixels from the image and patterns and truly matches up with the lighting, transparency, texture, and shading that heals the entire picture.

Frequency Separation

The primary purpose of this frequency separation is actually to embed varying skin tones. Here are the following steps that we need to follow to accomplish a perfect frequency separation:

  • Duplicate the background layer twice.
  • Put in Gaussian blur at the bottom layer
  • Select the top layer of the image
  • Open the apply image dialog box
  • Enter the image’s bottom layer and then subtract the blending mode, 2 for the scale and 128 for the offset
  • Click Ok
  • Then finally vary the blending mode at the top layer to Linear Light

And this is how we can make a smooth image through frequency separation in Photoshop.

Dodge & Burn

Dodging and burning are likely essential parts of our workflow.

It’s the most challenging to accomplish but even the most rewarding. Here, we have to use the Burn and Dodge tool to darken or lighten particular areas in the image.

These tools are just like the traditional darkroom methods used for the regulation exposure on particular areas of a print.

Photographers tend to lighten a specific area on the print by dodging or even increase exposure to the dark areas by burning.

This is the reason why Dodge and Burn play such a vital role in giving an image an aesthetic look!


Honestly, there are no other articles that talk about the sharpening of the eyes in such detail. So, here in this section, we’ll know about it!

To sharpen the eyes in an image, we have to duplicate the layers first. So, to do this, go to Filter > Other > High Pass and then set it to a perfect 30.

After that, set the layer from Blend mode to Soft Light. Ensure to add a black mask as well. Then take a white brush at 50% opacity and start brushing the eyes.

Lastly, we need to keep in mind selecting the mask when we’re painting to avoid flaws in the final editing.


Before we move on any further, let us take note:

If we aren’t content with our portrait at this point, then this toning part will not change how we feel about the photo.

Toning will no way change a photo, no matter how much we try. Many people blame their lack of skill on the toning part for a satisfying image.

Remember this; toning will just add a little to a solid image. So, before we get into toning, the primary thing that we need to keep in our mind is toning is not at all about just throwing on random filters and colors.

Therefore, if we want to nail toning, we need a crystal clear understanding of the complementary colors!

Why Image Retouching is so important?

Image retouching indeed demonstrates to be necessary, especially when we speak about any type of portrait photography.

It can also be used to conceal blemishes, whiten the teeth, and even smoothen the skin.

And that’s not all; it’s also seed to eliminate fingerprint marks and even make the images look smoother.

We can even add depth to the images of the product so that these look more attractive and lifelike.

Retouching is even very useful for any type of jewelry photography. This is because it can assist us in enhancing gemstones. That‘s not all; it can even make gold and silver jewelry appear smoother and shinier.

Final Thoughts

Image retouching is an essential part of the entire post-processing procedure.

And it even helps us to fine-tune our amazing images. So, for brands and businesses, image retouching is a must!

So, if we want to give our images unique and professional looks, retouching them is extremely necessary.

In summary, this retouching involves:

  • Brightening teeth
  • Removing blemishes,
  • Enhancement of the eyes
  • Removal of the under-eye circles
  • Skin smoothing and many more

That’s all that we need to know about image retouching to give our images one of the most aesthetic and professional looks of all time!

So, if you need any kind of Image Retouching services you can have a free trial to Best Image Edit.

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