When Should You Retouch Your Photos?

People are not as beautiful as they are made out to be in magazines. The truth is all published pictures are retouched. Some have small modifications like red eye removal or cropping out the background. Other photos are manipulated much more – editors retouch blemishes, skin tone, or even whiten teeth.Although I do not like my images to appear fake, I do like to make subtle changes that do not take away from the picture’s reality. If there is redness in a subjects’ eye I will remove it; if their teeth appear yellow I will also fix it. But if someone’s nose is a little pointy I will not fix it – although digital nose jobs are easy I believe they are going too far.

So when should you retouch your photos?

Look at your photo

Print out the photograph in question and look it over – printing it helps you take a critical look at it. Does anything initially jump out at you? Are there any people in the background that distract from the subject? Are there a few stray hairs on your subject’s face? Did you take a picture of your significant other sans make up? Survey your picture and see if you can spot anything that needs to be retouched. If you are a Photoshop wizard you know how easy these changes are.

Looking at the picture below you can instantly tell that the subject’s face was a little too shinny and obvious blemishes stood out. The picture has been taken from pumpkincat210’s Flickr page located here.


After identifying the issue you will need to come up with a solution. That solution can be anything from Photoshop to a specialty application. The photographer went on to retouch the image and remove the blemishes and shiny skin. Take a look at the retouched product below:


That is a much better picture. The subject could have probably this same look with a proper make-up artist and better lighting. The finished product that was created above does not look “fake.” This is a very important aspect of photo retouching.

Determining what to do with your photo

After you determine what is wrong with your image you will need to decide how, you want to handle the issue. In the case of an image being too dark or too bright, you can play with auto-levels, brightness or contrast. I recommend saving a copy of your image and working on that.

If your subject has a few stray hairs on her forehead you can fix it by simply using the clone tool in Photoshop. The clone tool is a photo re-toucher’s dream. You can effectively use the clone tool to copy a region of your image to another region. In essence you will be copying another piece of the subjects forehead and pasting it over the troubled spot.

Removing a cluttered or ugly background can do wonders for your image. Take a look at the before and after photos from


You can remove a background in Photoshop by using the magic lasso tool to trace around your image. You can then use the menu item select –> inverse. This will highlight everything you did not select. You can then hit the delete key and you should have only the subject you traced using the magic lasso left. A blank background makes an image look more professional.

If you have other people in the background of your favorite beach shot you can always use the Photoshop blur tool to blur them out. This will force the human eye to see your subject at first glance and not its background. An expensive camera might have the ability to blur your background when taken from the proper angle. We cannot all afford expensive cameras or photography lessons so sometimes Photoshop has to help us compensate. By following the tutorial at you can replicate the blurred effect rather easily.

You can see an example of a before and after shot that JunsPhoto blurred the background on.

Where can I find retouching tutorials online?

You have figured out what your images need. The question is, how do you find out what needs to be done to retouch your image(s)? I have found an invaluable resource for retouching tutorials at Using Tutorialized’s website you can find tutorials for pretty much anything you are looking to do in Photoshop. When you first arrive at the site, you will see a list of recent tutorials that look something like this:


Clicking on any of the tutorials will bring you to a page telling you about the tutorial. Then by clicking on view tutorial you will be taken to the website that the tutorial is hosted on. A Tutorialized header will follow you around. You will then see a detailed step by step tutorial. These tutorials are normally very easy to follow and are accompanied by images to guide you.


If you cannot find a tutorial on exactly what you are looking for then you should hit up Google. Google is your friend. Simply type in your search query and start looking. If you are clever with your search terms you can almost always find what you need.

Always remember, the more natural the picture looks the better. That is unless you are looking for the sci-fi or cyborg look. Then by all means go for it!

If you have any interesting methods for retouching images or you have a good tutorial website please leave them in the comments below.

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