How to Handle Portrait Retouching

Hey, do you all have any protocol you follow for retouching portraits? Specifically, I’m referring to things like cleaning complexion (zits), smoothing out wrinkles, whitening teeth. Do you do this without asking to make the person look as good as possible or do you wait until it’s requested? Thanks.

I think there’s a middle ground that generally works. Nobody wants a zit on their face, a bit of ooze in the corner of their mouth or a scabbed-over cold sore, so I just get rid of these kinds of temporary things. Hardly anyone wants yellow teeth, so I brighten them a bit as needed. If there are other obvious temporary flaws or odd shadows that make things look worse than they really are, I’ll clean them up a little. I’ll also tone things, dodge and burn some, adjust the contrast, and sharpen a bit when needed.

What I won’t do is attempt to erase wrinkles that would be there if I saw them in person. I’m not going to trim their sagging jowls, remove bags from under their eyes, restore their high school hairline or do much of anything else that will make them look other than who they are. Now if they request that I shave off the large wart on the end of their nose or clone out that ill-conceived face tattoo that appeared the morning after their last drunken binge, they need to ask for that sort of thing.

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Do you mean portraits you’ve taken recently, or retouching photos they already have?

I usually lighten and de-yellow teeth and eyes for no extra charge, that’s pretty fast to do.

If I can make some fast changes that will make them happy, I usually will do that.

After that, it really depends on how they feel about paying for additional Photoshop work, and just how much work the portrait needs. Women and teen girls usually care a lot about weight and blemishes, wrinkles. Men usually don’t care too much, although sometimes they do.

I’m pretty careful about how I approach it. “Are there any little tweaks you want me to make?” They’ll probably tell you if they want specific retouching.

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Oh heck, I’ll do it. :wink: I’ll even take off some weight for them!

Most of the photos of people I deal with aren’t really portraits and aren’t good photographs. I spend a lot of time bringing faces out of shadow, correcting for indoor lighting, that kind of thing.

With a blemish or a zit, yes those will be taken off and making the eyes and teeth a bit brighter can help bring the face to life.

I did have one pic of a woman with tanlines from shoulder straps and was asked to take those off. This gave me an idea so I found a nice pic of Lady Diana and added fake tan with straplines and some tattoos, just as an exercise of course. It came out really well.

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I did some work on someone’s wedding shoot a while back. The shoot was outdoor and in some of the images, the light caught her face in a way that accentuated certain features in a bad way. I fixed those.

My very first graphic design task at my first design job was photoshopping out the cleavage of a lady whose button came undone.

I’m personally more hesitant to make major changes because I wouldn’t want to offend the person in the image, if they were to ask, I wouldn’t have any moral problems with it.

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Thanks, all, for the input.

DocPixel, the question applies to both images I’ve taken and images that are supplied.

The image that I’m working on and prompted the question was supplied. It’s not a super high res image, and there is one mark that’s a bit tough to tell if it’s a birth mark or a pimple. I’ll probably leave that alone at the risk of offending by removing a birth mark.

Yes, that’s a touchy area, and where I’d delicately ask them if they want any tweaking.

Because if you leave a pimple, they may feel unhappy and complain that they don’t like the retouching. Most people would prefer that a pimple or skin blemish be removed.

But if you remove a birthmark, yes, that might upset them too.

That’s why I ask them if they’d like any areas tweaked. Let them tell you. :wink:

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