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My Retouching philosophy

IF I WERE DRAWING THIS SCENE HOW WOULD I DRAW IT?

Just as a makeup artist, a hair stylist, a bra, a plastic surgeon or even simple lighting modifiers all work towards making a scene flawlessly rendered, a photographer has the digital job of putting the final touches of perfection into the photography.

I do not see it as my job to show reality in my photography, but photographic perfection. 

As such my digital processing starts in Adobe Lightroom where I address the following:

  • White balance  – get accuracy with a WhiBal Grey Card.
  • I adjust the histogram to bring out highlights, deepen shadows and brighten details.
  • At least a small adjustment to clarity, vibrance and saturation.

I export final selections into Adobe Photoshop for digital retouching and address the following:

  • Remove skin blemishes and/or imperfections using the heal or clone tool.
  • Skin color uniformity – many people are purple in their hands for instance, I use a Layer and set the style to Color and paint
  • Hair styling – remove frizzles, stray hairs and perfect the color.
  • Digital Makeup – Yes, study makeup books and become a digital makeup artist.
  • Eyebrow and eyelash styling, forget micro-blading, I use the brush tool!
  • Dodging and Burning – Whether manually using the dodge and burn tool or using a curves/levels adjustment layer and manually brushing in the layer masks.


You’ll notice in images like these where I work with talented styling teams there aren’t any real large changes that need to be made, the focus is on the smallest of details especially since they will be printed large.

This post features interactive images that can be swapped between the before and after images.  Use the play button or the arrows that appear when hovering over the image, or simply click on the thumbnails to swap back and forth.

Commercial Beauty Project – Image One

Image One – Lips Detail

Lip sparkles can be nearly impossible to apply perfectly since they pretty much start falling off a second after they’re applied.  Using Adobe Photoshop I perfected the lip line and created a more sparkly shine throughout, the clone tool is key here as well as dodging and burning 

Image One – eyelash Detail

Eyelashes are digitally combed and the complexity of her iris is enhanced and emphasized.

Image Two

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Before

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After

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Hair blonder, eyes brighter

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Smoothed and Lightened Neck

image three

Image Three – eye Detail

Using a custom brush shape, one at a time the eyelashes are filled out.  The center of the eye is manually dodged and burned to create a more striking contrast.

Dodge and burn tool Tip!  Whenever you select the dodge or burn tool you can also set the target of what gets dodged or burned on the top tool bar.  Setting it to highlights, midtones, or shadows allows you to isolate the tonal range you want to dodge or burn… a very hand tool!


Image four

Image Four – Hair detail

Using the clone tool as scissors to trim off hair that has gone awry… notice the edge of the retouched hair still has tiny fly-aways?  That is one of the ways I disguise my photoshop work.

Image Four – neck detail

Paying attention to small details are important, tiny neck lines, dodging the highlight across the collar bone.  I don’t use any filters or actions to smooth the skin, I find manual dodging and cloning along with dodge and burn is best.

Image Four – eye detail

Notice the slight darkening around her eyes.  A subtle emphasis I like to add to eye makeup underneath very bright lights.

Image five

The original image cropped off the top of her hair, which is why there is a gray bar at the top, the client requested an image without a visible crop so I recreated the top of her head using a composite of another image from the shoot.

Image five – lip detail

Image five – eye detail


Image six

Image six – eye detail

On the set the client mentioned how much they loved the model’s freckles, so I made sure I enhanced and added to them across the bridge of her nose.

Image six – hairline detail

I think a clean hair line adds so much to the overall perception of perfection in a beauty shot!

Image six – armpit detail

Perfecting the armpits is so important! I get rid of stubble, reduce the appearance of skin lines, and do dodging and burning to emphasize the curves.

Image seven

Image seven – Freckles Detail


image eight

Image eight – Flower Detail

Using the simple clone tool I remove all plastic artifacts and perfect the edges.

Image Nine

Image nine – neck Detail

I think the shirt makes her neck look too short, so I lengthened it using some layer compositing and cloning in Adobe Photoshop

Image ten

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Image Ten – lip Detail

The top of the lip line is key, and for this image the pose of her tongue flattened the  top tips of her lips, I brought them back.

Image Ten – eye Detail

Equipment Used

Client Details

Lash Bomb needed photography they would be reproducing as large prints in trade-shows and in advertisements within trade-magazines.