Processing vs Retouching

The one question I get asked more than any other is “… do you retouch your images?” And is usually followed with “because I’d hate to look like a plastic Barbie Doll in my photos”. It’s an understandable question … especially if it’s from a groom.


The simple answer is ‘no’, I don’t retouch photos unless I can’t absolutely help it. But all the images that I take get edited and processed. I don’t just take images straight out of the camera and post them in a gallery. If only, I’d have a very happy life if I did! Editing is the tricky bit where I take out all the blinks, the misfires, the duplicates and the down-right rubbish shots and leave the rest. Processing is where every image is tweaked, colour balanced, saturation, contrast, density, dodging/burning, given a good tonal look, polished and generally made to look clean, bright and appealing. This takes time and lot of effort – for instance, for every day’s shooting, I would expect to do two days editing and processing.

I may do a little retouching – removing No Smoking signs, smooth over that awkward spot that appeared just on the wrong day or tidy up telephone wires that may otherwise distract from the image. But as far as retouching goes, I don’t any of that unless you specifically ask me too.


The other question or phrase I hear more than any other is “…you can just airbrush that, right?” or “…you’ll just fix that in the computer, right?” Errrr ….sort of. I try my hardest to get everything right in camera when I’ve taken the photograph because it makes sense to get it right! Relying on fixing things afterwards means making huge amounts of unnecessary work that may not actually look any good.


You can of course, retouch pretty much any image, make it anything you want




When photos come straight out of a camera, they are usually quite ‘flat’, can have a strange hue and need to be ‘processed’. Processing is where each image is individually tuned to make it look brighter, cleaner and make sure all the colours look great. There may also be some ‘dodging and burning’ where parts of the image are made deliberately lighter or darker. Every image is individually processed to bring it up to scratch. Once processed, the image is considered “print ready” and the final digital file is usuable to print, use in albums, canvases, frames etc


The trick to decent processing is to make the images look great without looking fake.

Black & White


Another stage of the processing is black and white. Converting colour images into black and white is an art form in it’s own right and not just a case of clicking a button. Good black and whites will have a good range of tones and contrast and when processing these images, they may need more dodging and burning to bring these tones out.


I prefer strong, clean black and whites which tend to last the test of time.



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